Sunday, 4 March 2018

NOT ALL THE PC VAMPIRE SUPPORT WAS NICE! CALLUM MCKELVIE LOOKS BEYOND ROLES THAT WERE VAN HELSING NICE TIMES!


WHEN ONE THINKS of Cushing and Vampires, inevitably are minds are drawn to his excellent portrayal of Van Helsing in several of Hammers Dracula films. For many fans it’s one of his best roles and (if we count the two generations as one) a part he would return to four times. However, as defining as his portrayal as Van Helsing is, it somewhat over shadows that fact that he was in roughly four other vampire films (excluding Dr Terrors House of Horrors and The House that Dripped Blood simply as he does not appear in the segments featuring bloodsuckers). 



THIS WEEK AND THE NEXT I’ll be examining these ‘Other Vampire films’, starting with his two entries into the Karstein trilogy 'The Vampire Lovers' and 'Twins of Evil'. I’ve joined these two together, not only because they book ending entries in a trilogy, but also because they both feature Cushing as a sort of Pseudo-Vampire Hunter. Both roles are worlds away from a Van Helsing stereotype and at least one is remembered amongst his finest work.



THE 'KARNSTEIN TRILIOGY'  stands as one of Hammers finest achievements simply for the fact that it marks one of the few occasions, as the studio moved into the 1970’s that one it’s attempts to try something bold and new with its formula worked. Now in terms of some of the attempts that would be made later (Kung-Fu vampires anyone?) the changes here are not that extreme and merely reflect the studios reaction to an allowance of more extreme content.




MOST OBVIOUSLY it is the films explicit portrayal of Lesbianism that gained it a certain level of attention. The film is stolen by Ingrid Pitt’s first performance for the studio and first major role in a horror movie (though she was in 1966’s Sound of Horror). Whilst not her greatest work for Hammer (that would come later in Countess Dracula) it’s a strong start and one can easily see why she became a horror icon and early scream queen.




ABOVE: PETER CUSHING and INGRID PITT together in HAMMER FILMS 'THE VAMPIRE LOVERS'. BOTH look comfortable in the roles. BOTH had also become great friends, along with Peter Cushing's wife, HELEN . . . 


PETER CUSHING'S ROLE in the film on the other hand is somewhat small, though integral and although he looks superb in his military uniform, it’s not usually counted amongst his best roles. None the less it’s an interesting take on the role of the Vampire hunter within a hammer film and the quest is made deeply personal to the General, whose niece is a victim of Carmilla. 



THUS THE GENERAL is the character who puts an end to Camilla’s bloodsucking ways and in perhaps the most famous scene in the film, decapitates her. It’s a great moment and Cushing imbues it with a sort of grim satisfaction, we may have seen the gentle side of the General to begin with but we now understand why he’s a war hero.


BELOW: JUST weeks after the tragic death of his wife, HELEN, PETER CUSHING plays a NEW HAMMER VAMPIRE FILM role. GUSTAV WEIL, the savior and helper? OR is he just as EVIL as the VAMPIRE COUNT? 



THE FINAL FILM in the Karstein series, 'Twins of Evil', sees Cushing in a role far removed from that in 'The Vampire Lovers'. Here he plays Gustav Weil, a vicious religious fanatic who prowls the local countryside in search of witches to burn. Clearly inspired by 1968’s Witchfinder General and many films that followed in its wake including 'Mark of the Devil' and 'Blood on Satan’s Claw', it’s a rare chance to see Cushing being genuinely terrifying.



EVEN IN FILMS where Cushing plays a villain, there’s usually an element of charm in his performance (his earliest portrayals of Baron Frankenstein) that have his character play out more as an anti-hero. Indeed only Hammer films, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed in 1969, shows him in a position where he plays a character so utterly ruthless as to be genuinely frightening.




OF COURSE as his two young nieces find themselves under the sway of the evil Count Karstein, like the General Weil finds himself turning to the Vampire Hunting trade. In this film’s final moments, Cushing finds himself once again decapitating a vampire and it’s equally spectacular.




PETER CUSHING'S TWO non-Dracula vampire films for Hammer stand among some of the studios most interesting work. Cushing gives great performances in both and though one is clearly superior to the other, are interesting portrayals of Vampire hunters not in the Van Helsing mode.

WRITTEN by CALLUM MCKELVIE
TECH DEVELOPMENT: JAMIE SUMERVILLE
EDITED: MARCUS BROOKS
THE VAMPIRE LOVERS TRAILER: UvaSEP  HERE!


REMINDER OF TUESDAYS TOUGHIE : ANSWER TUESDAY 6TH MARCH!
 


REMEMBER! IF YOU LIKE what you see here at our website, you'll  love our daily themed posts at our PCAS FACEBOOK FAN PAGE.  Just click that blue LINK and click LIKE when you get there, and help us . . Keep The Memory Alive!. The Peter Cushing Appreciation Society website, facebook fan page and youtube channel are managed, edited and written by Marcus Brooks, PCAS coordinator since 1979. PCAS is based in the UK and USA

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