Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Creeping Flesh (1972)
"The serum... Thank God we didn't use it on a human being!"- Waterlow (George Benson)
Stars: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Lorna Heilbron
Other Stars: George Benson, Kenneth Warren, Duncan Lamont, Michael Ripper, Catherine Finn, Hedger Wallace
Director: Freddie Francis
MPAA Rating: PG for (gore, violence, attempted rape)
Run Time: 01h:31m:58s
Release Date: 2004-06-08
DVD ReviewPeter Cushing and Christopher Lee paired up for quite a few memorable pictures, beginning with 1957's The Curse of Frankenstein. One of their later but most bizarre teamings was in this oddball vehicle that finds them as brothers. The improbability of these very physically different two men being related is smoothed over a bit by making them half-brothers, but that's the least of the improbabilities on display here.
In 1894 London, Dr. Emmanuel Hildern (Cushing) has just returned to his daughter Penelope (Lorna Heilbron) and assistant Waterlow, having retrieved a strange gigantic skeleton from New Guinea. It seems that Emmanuel has told Penelope her mother died many years before, but she was in fact placed in the madhouse of brother James Hildern. Penelope discovers the truth at about the same time as Cushing discovers that the touch of water grows living flesh back onto the skeleton. Examining the blood of the newly grown flesh, he finds some black, hairy cells. Leaping immediately to the conclusion that these cells are isolated Evil, Emmanuel decides that they will provide a vaccine against all forms of evil and corruption, and duly injects Penelope in an effort to ward off hereditary madness. Needless to say, little goes well from that point on.
This picture, despite being made by distinguished Hammer Studios alumni, including director Freddie Francis, is a fairly weak effort. It depends to a great extent on the protagonist and others being willfully stupid in order to get the plot rolling, a phenomenon that I find highly irritating. Furthermore, it takes quite a while to really get going, and when it does so it's fairly predictable. Many unanswered questions remain, such as how the skeleton was unearthed and cleaned in the first place without ever getting it wet. For a man who calls himself a scientist, Emmanuel doesn't seem to have a great deal of faith in experimentation or the scientific method, instead engaging in wishful (if not magical) thinking. The name is fairly subversive, since despite having a character whose name means "God with us," Cushing seems to be completely abandoned by any higher power.
Cushing is nonetheless entertaining throughout, as always. Lee is a bit underused, though he does have some good scenes as he expresses his irritation at his brother's expenditures as well as envy of the discoveries he's making. Lorna Heilbron makes for an appealing Penelope, displaying a fair amount of range from the loving daughter to depression upon learning the truth about her mother to violent madness. But the threesome is really let down by the silliness of the script.
The film relies to a significant extent on cheap shock effects, such as a sudden monkey screech to startle the viewer. The gore level is fairly restrained for the most part, though there are quite a few bits of business with a severed finger. There's a fairly harrowing attempted rape of Penelope that is probably quite inappropriate for younger audiences; the PG rating is from a more liberal time and this film probably would garner at least a PG-13 today.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture looks quite decent considering its age. The source elements are somewhat grainy but well rendered, with mild speckling the only serious problem. Fine patterns in the wallpaper and Penelope's clothing are easily readable. The colors are rather drab, but the blood is extremely vivid, leading me to suspect that the subdued palette is intentional. There's some mild ringing visible on high contrast objects, but it's not too distracting for the most part.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono track is surprisingly effective and involving. There's a bit of hiss, but presence is very good. Paul Ferris' musical score sounds fine, with decent bass extension and not much shrillness or tinniness. Dialogue is clear throughout. The audio design provides a definite sense of unease, especially as Penelope begins to drift into insanity, as random pounded piano chords contrast with the smooth romantic violins of the score.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring 13 Ghosts (the original), Mr. Sardonicus, The Revenge of Frankenstein
Extras Review: The sole extras are three anamorphic widescreen trailers for three unrelated Columbia horror movies.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsSome decent performances are wasted in an ultimately silly story that suffers from poor pacing to boot. The transfer's quite good, but there are no relevant extras.
Mark Zimmer 2004-06-07