Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Night Creatures (AKA Captain Clegg, 1962)

Night Creatures (AKA Captain Clegg) is one of those movies that could never get made today. This 1962 Hammer production is 100% B-movie. It’s a story of pirates and smuggling set in the late 18th century, with a hint of the supernatural in the form of a troop of ghostly horsemen who haunt the marshes near the village of Dymchurch, and with a cast headed by Peter Cushing and Oliver Reed. These days pirate movies have to be bloated $100 million blockbusters, loaded to the gunwales with CGI. Hammer Films had more sense, and made a perfectly entertaining little movie on a modest budget. The good people of Dymchurch are smugglers on an extensive scale, providing fine imported wines and brandies to much of southern England without the bother of annoying customs duties. Their parson (played by Peter Cushing) seems a respectable enough clergyman sat first glance, but looks can be deceiving. Dymchurch’s other claim to fame is that it is the burial place of the notorious pirate Captain Clegg, hanged 16 years earlier. It just so happens that the naval officer who has now, very inconveniently, shown up to investigate reports of smuggling had spent many years hunting down the infamous Cleg, so he has something of a personal interest in the goings-on in Dymchurch. He also has a secret weapon, in the person of a former member of Clegg’s crew with an uncanny ability to sniff out (quite literally) hidden caches of contraband wine. This man, a mulatto, had been left to die on a deserted island but had survived. You’ll probably see most of the plot twists coming a mile away, but that’s part of the fun. And the special effects, simple as they are, work surprisingly well. The acting is delightfully over-the-top, and Peter Cushing is in fine form. Good harmless fun.

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