When Hammer hit it big with their horror period pieces and franchising strategy during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, Amicus wasn’t the only British studio trying to recreate the magic. Tigon British Films, which also produced outside of the genre, entered the fray in the mid-60’s and went on to release Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan’s Claw, two “folk” horror films that are still – to this day – held in high esteem. With the exception of one or two others, the rest of Tigon’s output has fallen into obscurity in modern times. But if they’re all like The Blood Beast Terror, we haven’t been missing out on much.
Peter Cushing stars as Detective Inspector Quennell, who travels to the English countryside to investigate a series of mysterious deaths. All of the corpses have been drained of blood, which prompts the characters to start hypothesizing about strange wildlife. Quennell consults with entomology professor Mallinger (Robert Flemyng) about the scales found at the crimes scenes, whose strange behavior makes the inspector very suspicious. As it turns out, that seemingly out of place opening scene had a purpose and Mallinger has created a moth creature that masquerades as his beautiful daughter during the day. He has almost completed engineering a mate for her, but needs human blood to keep it alive and maturing in its giant cocoon.
The reveal comes halfway through the film, squashing any sort of tension or mystery that could have been developed but to be fair, director Vernon Sewell hadn’t done anything interesting before the forty minute mark either. The Blood Beast Terror is a film that will not end, packed with an endless stream of pointless scenes that serve no other purpose than to pad out an already ridiculous story with very little promise. Peter Bryan’s script is to blame, leaving out important bits of information like whether Mallinger created a moth creature who is a human by day or had a daughter he experimented on. Apparently, there wasn’t enough time to cram in a transition scene showing Quennell’s daughter being kidnapped to explain how she got hooked up to a blood transfusion scene in a dungeon, but it’s essential to show characters fishing for five minutes. Or watch a play. Or eat lunch next to a dead body for laughs.
Peter Cushing is great as usual, though he looks pretty perturbed during a few scenes which, given the quality of The Blood Beast Terror, isn’t surprising. There’s simply not enough happening to keep it going for eighty-six minutes, and the fact that they start over from scratch in many ways and introduce a whole slew of new characters halfway through is painful. Sewell’s film has decent production values and a hokey – in a good way – creature, but that’s nowhere near enough to hold anyone’s attention.
Even though the movie is not worth watching, Kino Lorber’s 1080p transfer – sourced the original 35mm negative – is incredible looking. The blacks and blues are especially deep, but the overall clarity and contrast of the film is of higher quality than expected and definitely better than the movie deserved. The crystal clear picture inadvertently puts a few technical goofs, which weren’t noticeable on Image’s terrible DVD release over a decade ago, on full display. There are no compression or DNR issues to speak of, and it’s hard to imagine The Blood Beast Terror looking better during its original theatrical run. The stereo mix is less impressive, but acceptable. There are some syncing issues throughout and background noises are a little too prominent, but the dialogue is crisp and clear for the most part.