In the late 19th century, scientist Emmanuel Hildern (Peter Cushing) returns home to London with a prehistoric skeleton that he acquired in Papua New Guinea. While cleaning the skeleton, he learns that water triggers a horrific reaction - reanimation. He slices off the finger, now covered in flesh, and preserves it for later experiments.
While having breakfast with his daughter, Penelope (the breathtaking Lorna Heilbron), Emmanuel reads a letter informing him of his wife's death. Unbeknowst to Penelope, her mother has been in an insane asylum since she was a little girl. Fearful that his wife's mental illness may be hereditary, Emmanuel has sheltered his daughter at their estate with only the servants to keep her company. She's not allowed outside, except for short walks within the gated premises.
Emmanuel travels to the institution where his wife died. He meets up with his half-brother, James (Christopher Lee), who happens to be the insane asylum's director and a competing scientist. Emmanuel was always the favorite of the two siblings, the one destined to achieve greatness, so it's with great pleasure that James tells him that he is in the running for the prestigious Richter Award. In addition, he will no longer fund Emmanuel's transcontinental trips.
I'm not familiar with most horror predating 1980. I rate this somewhere between 60%-70% (about a 6.5/10). I've never watched a movie, horror or other genre, with so much anticipation and dread for what may come. The climax is truly a frightening one. The suspense is nail-biting! Lee and Cushing are great but it's the beautiful Heilbron who steals the show. I want to watch more films she stars in.
I recommend this to horror fans who want to explore the classics. No gore, torture, or loud music cues to instill a false sense of fear. I liked it!