Sunday, 1 July 2018


THIS IS THE FIRST PART of a series of features, focusing on THE MAKING OF THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF. This is quite a different series, compared to our usual theme of features on the work of PETER CUSHING. Each of our six parts will not just be looking at Cushing, the cast and a critque of the finished film, but we will also spend time hearing from the production crew, lighting, set design and the diector and producer.  TYBURN FILMS were quite an unusual production company. At the time studios and companies were struggling to finance and make features, Tyburn approached the problem with a different concept, which makes this series all the more interesting. Peter Cushing appeared in four productions with Tyburn over the years. Three films, THE GHOUL (1975) THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF and THE MASKS OF DEATH, also a biographical tv programme called ONE WAY TICKET TO HOLLYWOOD. Tyburn's CEO Kevin Francis, first met Peter Cushing when he was working and finding his feet, for Hammer films. Both he and Cushing became friends, as Francis was such a fan of his work and Hammer films. The friendship helped too when Francis was looking for a top name, when casting his first Tyburn productions, it was a friendship that would grow even closer during and after Cushing's last few years. 


OBVIOUSLY, film acting has never been just a simply 'act' of learning your lines and saying them with as much conviction as you can! There are various technical things to think about, like keeping in frame, leaving seconds at the beginning of takes, so the editor can get in, and keeping enegies the same in the master shot, close ups and cut aways. The script for THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF was like many scripts that director FREDDIE FRANCIS worked with for another film production company to, AMICUS FILMS. LEGEND had a script where actors were given a certain amount of freedom in interpreting the script! Peter Cushing played the role of Paul Cataflanque, a skilled forensic surgeon. Here he explains his methods of performance for camera, and preparing for a role.


PETER CUSHING: 'I DO THE SAME THING on all film scripts. A play that's written for the theatre, it's altered sometimes but it's done in a very different way. A film script is such a technical thing, it's altered so much during the original writing that sometimes the dialogue does get a little out of hand. They've been concentrating on something else so much that in the end they can't see the wood for the trees, but when an actor sees the script for the first time he is able to see these little problems . Then there are also certain ways of making exactely the same sense but saying the line in a way that is better for the character. But one never alters the gist of what is being said because obviously if you alter that you alter the whole script. And then, a script is over written, becauseit's much better to cut out, if you are over time, than to try and add on if you are under, because it's when you add on, that begins gto show a little, unless you have given it great thought to it. So scripts are usually overwritten to about ten minutes so that you can cut ten minutes offand come down to the required hour or hour and a half, or whatever you want'.


PETER CUSHING: 'I ALWAYS DO a tremendous amount of this, it's purely my way of working, particularly in films, which is my favourite medium, But the actors get very little rehearsal time, you see, so you must do your homework. I naturally always ask the director, but the director has many things to think of, not just me or the other actors, he got technical things, lighting and so on, and what he's doing next week or next month. So whatever you can do to help is good for everyone concerned. And instinctively he knows immediately : it's marvelous and we'll add to it or no, because I always do a little sketch of the clothes I want, costume, because I think that is important. It helps with the character to know, what you are goping to wear. This again is purely my 'method', if you want to call it that. I think the more preparation you do the better. I don't like the phrase 'technique of acting' because I don;t think there is such a thing, but film making is very technical in as much as you have to remember your 'marks', remember your 'key lights' all sorts of things like that, and at the same time, you have to make it all look as though, it's all just happening, when the camera films it.

"I DO A LOT OF WORK long before I start in the production and the shooting begins. i know the whole script, because you never know what scene they are going to do some days. They might suddenly change their minds, like yesterday when we were a day and a half ahead of schedule. Well, had I not known the scene, I couldn't have done that. But you see, when I get home after  a da's shooting there's not really time. I just check through, and look at all my notes. By the time you get home it's seven or eight o'clock and by the time you've had a meal and written a couple of letters it's time to get to bed for half past five in the morning. So that's why it's important to me at any rate, to do a great deal of work before shooting starts".


PETER CUSHING : "EVERYBODY IS DIFFERENT, though I must say, I have been exceptionally lucky, with all the directors I have worked for. Freddie has his way of doing things. What I admire apart from his tremendous knowledge of the buisness is Freddie's wonderful insight and instinct for how to treat every indivdual on the studio floor. He knows those ones to lark with, those not to lark with, he giot great kindness and yet absolutely the correct kind of authority. The behaviour of everyone, obviously in almost every industry, does stem from the top and go right the way down through. If you get someone who's not very nice at the top it does tend to inflitrate through the unit".


PETER CUSHING : "HE IS A PATHOLOGIST, except that they weren't called pathologists in those days, they were called judicial surgeons. But there's quite a lot of humour this time, which is nice and makes a lovely balance to the mayhem that goes on. But with any role you play your personality must come across. From that you try to make something of the character, the author has written into the part. This script was written by John Elder, he was one of the directors at Hammer films. He wrote many of their early ones and for eighteen years these Hammer films have been popular and the mass of people who go to them, it's rather like those people who buy their favourite chocolates; they know when they open the box, they'll find the coconut cream and the truffles and that sort of thing, and they know when they see this kind of film, they'll get what they are kooking for. And so, they're catered for, by the scriptwriters". 


PETER CUSHING : "WHEN I RECEIVE THE SCRIPT it is never a treament or second draft, it's the final script, nearly always and it is something I have to insist upon, because I know me, I know my limitations. I must have the script. It's no good saying will you do it and you'll have the script the day you arrive, I couln't accept because I know I couldn't do it. That's the only reason, I am not being troublesome, it's just because I can't workthe way I do unless I have it well ahead, to study and learn and make what alterations I want to suggest. As soon as the script arrives, I go right through it and if needed I make my suggestions which are then sent through to the director and producer, they amalgamate them, when they all get together. By the time I arrive to shoot, all the talking's finished!!" 

FOR DAVID RINTOUL 'The Legend of the Werewolf' was something quite different, it was his first film role. Although by this point he had played many theatrical roles, working in film was very much learning while working . . .

DAVID RINTOUL : "FILM IS TOTALLY different! The first couple of weeks I was just trying to sus it all out! I was a bit lost, I think. I'm beginning to get more confident now. The technique is quite different. Hopefully with time you get the technical side of it, so it becomes an instinctive thing and all your concentraition goes on the acting. What I've found so far, is especially at the beginning of the film, was that, I had to concentrate on the tech things and tended to forget about the acting! But it's a question of experience, I guess. The first couple of days I seemed to have a problem hitting my marks, where to stop when walking, not to lean. I missed my walking marks because I was trying to do it without looking down!" 

"YOU SEE WHEN  a director says, could you move a little bit to the left, often he's talking about an inch or so. Whereas in the theatre when they say move a bit more to the left they mean FOUR FOOT! Even doing telly there's not the same precision of moves, as there is in film. Here lighting is so important. With telly, you do look for the lamps and that sort of thing, but it's not so central".

"WORKING WITH ALL the werewolf make up, is alright. I have found it helps me. Different actors work differently. I like working off , without the costume or make up, so there's that boost for me when I go into make up. For example, in the theatre I don't like trying on bits of costume, until a day or two before we open the show, though some directors want you to rehearse in costume quite early. I always leave itthe end, because it gives you that extra boost, that extra charge."

"THE ROLE OF Etoile is pretty much an instintive type of part. Some parts you have to think about a lot, and others you say, yes, that' what the role is about. I talked with director Freddie a bit about the script, but it isn't all sacred and you can change it as you go along. I  am lucky I haven't had to really change very much, because . . . he doesn't say that much! I've made it a bit more colloquial. It came across, in the reading, as not stilted, but a bit formal. So I changed little things, like 'you will' to 'you'll'. But you have to be mindfull that Freddie doesn't want it too colloquial, because it has to have a nineteenth century feel. It's a delicate balance bewteen the two. Etoile is described as a country lad. I'm not doing a country accent or anything like that, just making it a bit less formal...."  

"WHEN CASTING STARTED for this film, I was busy auditioning for a theatrical play, I had already done two or three auditions for it, and was just about to go to the last one, when my agent rang and and said, go out to Pinewood studios tomorrow! So I did, nit really knowing much about it at all. I saw Freddie the director, talked for five minutes or so, met Kevin Francis the producer, talked to him for a couple of minutes and then went back to my flat in London not really knowing or having much idea of how I got on. The phone rang a couple of hours later and the agent said, you've got the part, That was that! We started about four weeks later. Though I was here at the studio, about a week before we started shooting, just to try out the Werewolf make up, and that turned out fine. A couple of minor adjustments when we began shooting, and that was that. As I remember there was just one make up test where they actually filmed it."


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