aka Blood Beast From Hell; The Deathshead Vampire; The Vampire Beast Craves Blood
Director – Vernon Sewell, Screenplay – Peter Bryan, Producer – Arnold L. Miller, Photography – Stanley A. Long, Music – Paul Ferris, Special Effects – Roger Dicken, Makeup – Rosemarie Peattie, Art Direction – Wilfred Woods. Production Company – Tigon British
Peter Cushing (Detective-Inspector Quennell), Robert Flemyng (Professor Karl Mallinger), Wanda Ventham (Clare Mallinger), Vanessa Howard (Meg Quennell), Glynn Edwards (Sergeant Allan), David Griffin (William Warrender), Kevin Stoney (Granger), William Wilde (Frederick Britewell)
Police inspector Quennell investigates a series of murders where the victims have been found drained of blood and with strange claw marks all over their bodies. His good friend, entomologist Karl Mallinger, knows of no creature that would leave such markings. As Quennell investigates, he discovers that Mallinger has been conducting experiments that have caused his daughter Clare to turn into a giant Deathshead moth who preys on and kills the men who are attracted to her.
This entry from Hammer wannabes Tigon British – is there for the record any Tigon American, or any other country for that matter, to justify the national exclusivity? – is one of the dreariest films to emerge out of the Anglo-horror cycle of the 1950s-70s.
One would have thought the premise – a mad scientist’s daughter who is revealed to be periodically turning into a giant vampiric deathshead moth to suck dry the local youth – would have tipped somebody off that the film could well end up in the laughability stakes. The entire exercise is shot through with a touch of surreal lunacy – although nobody involved sees fit to play up the potential bizarreness. The script never offers any real explanation as to why Wanda Ventham keeps turning into a moth – which is probably wise anyway as anything would have sounded ridiculous.
The Blood Beast Terror is slow moving and statically directed. The barely glimpsed title creature looks disappointingly flat. Peter Cushing at least turns in his usual professional job, which is admirable considering the silliness of the material he has to work with. The most ridiculous scene is the ending, which looks to have been conceived because nobody could find any other way to wrap the show up, wherein Peter Cushing comes up with the ingenious scheme of lighting a fire, which the moth is naturally drawn to and burnt up in.
The Blood Beast Terror was one of the films made by Vernon Sewell, a minor director in the heyday of English horror cinema. Sewell also made:- The Medium (1934), Latin Quarter (1945), The Ghosts of Berkeley Square (1947), Ghost Ship (1952), House of Mystery (1960), Curse of the Crimson Altar (1969) and Burke & Hare (1972).