Saturday, October 10, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Creeping Flesh (1973)

Been in a Hammer mood lately, so I thought I would revisit some old favorites. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that The Creeping Flesh, starring  Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and directed by Freddie Francis was NOT a Hammer Film.  But more on that later.

This film scarred me crazy when I was little, but it also is responsible for me becoming more curious on both psychology, anthropology, and the Victorian era.  Christopher Lee plays a psychologist and Peter Cushing an anthropologist. 

Emmanuel Hildern (Cushing) has come back from a trip abroad to Papua New Guinea where he has found the skeleton of a giant humanoid.  It was buried in a lower stratum than Neanderthal, and thus much older (note, Neanderthals have only been discovered in Europe and the Middle East).  He is being financed by his younger half-brother James (Lee), who is a psychiatrist.  

The skeleton (which my wife and I agree is actually that of a Klingon) begins to grow new flesh when exposed to water.  

There is a bit about his dead wife, she died in his brother's insane asylum, and maybe his daughter inheriting her madness.   Oh. And an escaped mental patient Lenny.  "Lenny the Lunatic" would a focal point of many nightmares after that.  Not so much him but how he was killed. 

Cushing plays the absent-minded professor with his head full of science.  Lee plays the scientist looking for fame and money.   

Eventually, Emmanuel concocts an idea of using the Klingon's blood as a vaccine against evil.  Of course, the doctor injects his "unruly" daughter (Lorna Heilbron) with it (she went into her mother's room where she was forbidden!) but not before he sees what it does to his test monkey.  In pure Victorian fashion turning evil makes you hotter, his daughter Penelope starts tarting around London.  Oh and she turns from a blonde to a red-head in a red dress. Not at all subtle really. 

There is some back and forth between Lee and Cushing (as there should be, they were the best as antagonists) with the skeleton getting stolen and caught in the rain.  

The movie is remarkably uneven, but still quite a lot of fun really.  Lorna Heilbron is absolutely adorable in this, first as the "Good" Penelope and then as the "Evil" Penelope.  Christopher Lee is his typical commanding self. Not evil, but certainly amoral. 

The ending bugged me then. Was it all in Emmanuel's head or has some ancient evil been released in the world? Now I think it is great.

Watched: 14
New: 9



NIGHT SHIFT Content.
Finding an ancient skeleton that should not exist is a hallmark of sci-fi horror.  Doctor Who would cover the same ground five years later with The Image of Fendahl about a 12 million-year-old human skull.  Quatermass and the Pit did it a few years back with a 5 million-year-old skull. I would use a similar idea in Ghosts of Albion: Dinosauria with a screaming skull. 

BlackStar Content.
My wife, who never watches horror movies with me, watched this one.  We both thought the skeleton looked like a Klingon.  So what about this. A Federation archaeological survey has turned up a 12 (or 5 or 6 or whatever) million-year-old Klingon skeleton on a planet far outside of the Klingon Empire, and millions of years before the Klingons achieved warp.  Since this is the dawn of the Federation-Klingon peace accords, everyone is on eggshells.  The survey team goes silent.  The Klingons send a ship. That goes silent. The closest ship in the sector is yours.  You intercept a Klingon transmission. It is the captain of the Klingon ship, he is covered in blood and screaming, "HeS'a' wa' tu'lu'bej!" (The Devil is here!)
I would avoid saying it is actually Fek'lhr, but that doesn't mean the characters don't know that.

We thought the skull looked a lot like a Klingon's.


And it was tall like Fek'lhr is.

It makes sense. Kahless pointed to a star and said to his followers "you would find me there" and was the planet of Boreth, home of the Klingon Time Crystals.  If there can be holy planets then there can be profane ones as well.   

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