Captain Clegg (Night Creatures) Reviews
This is Hammer's take on the Dr Syn story, but seeing that did not have the rights, there are some radical changes. The location is the same, as is the basic story about smugglers. Dr Syn now becomes Dr Bliss with a completely different back story, and the Scarecrow character is hardly there. So, in all this is a completely different movie from it's Disney counterpart and has a slightly more adult feel. The acting is top notch, but Peter Cushing is a little less believable in the lead role. The story meanders a little and ends up being more of a love story with Hammer's signature gothic feel. All in all this is a fun movie to watch, but is not a patch on the Disney version.
The whole thing starts with a very effective scene of a crewman on the ship of the feared Captain Clegg. The crewman is being punished for apparent wrongdoings. His ears are slit, his tongue is cut out and he's left on an island to die. This set up really engages you and starts the movie off on a high note. Next, we see visions of skeletons on horses who scare an old man to death in the marshes surrounding the town.
After that strong opening, we meet up with Peter Cushing as the spiritual leader and minister of a local church. From that point on, the movie belongs to Cushing. His performance is as good if not better than anything else I've seen him in. His role here is totally different than his horror performances. Here, he is practically a secret agent, as he plots and carries out masterful schemes to thwart the King's army. Eventally we are treated to Cushing in a fight that is worth the price of admission. There is much else to like here. Oliver Reed as Harry Crabtree and Yvonne Romain as the gorgeous Imogene come to mind.
The story carries with it a mild twist that brings everything together nicely. Much of the dialogue is effective in that it sets up a lot of suspicion and distrust that pays off as the plot progresses. There aren't a lot of special effects and the "night creatures" are actually pretty sloppily done. But they're practically unseen so their overall effectivenss is minor to the advancing the story.
If you watch "Night Creatures", don't expect the typical Hammer horror experience because it isn't here. What you will encounter though, is a really enjoyable tale with elements of suspense, thrills and even a fair bit of action.
In fact, the whole cast is pretty good here. There's a young Oliver Reed who gives an uncharacteristically low-key performance, and Yvonne Romain is certainly nice to look at on screen. Patrick Allen is a little one-dimensional here, but there isn't much to his character. Michael Ripper does a terrific job as Mr. Mipps, coffin maker and conspirator. Peter Cushing truly stands out, though, and if you've enjoyed his work in other Hammer films you must track this one down!
The Phantoms of Romney Marsh, when they do show up toward the end of the film, probably take more away from the movie than they add. They're silly looking and obviously not ghosts; it's hard to imagine that a platoon of soldiers wouldn't have simply hacked them to bits. They probably could have been left on the cutting room floor without affecting the overall film much, and I suspect that they were only put in so that this film could be sold as a horror movie and not just as a costume drama about pirates and smugglers.
A good story and good performances make this stand out among Hammer's Gothic Grindhouse works. Surely deserves to be remembered and re-seen. I don't normally watch this sort of flick; I thought I was going to see horror that was actually about some sort of vampires or other "night creatures." I still wound up enjoying it a great deal!