Directed by Vernon Sewell for Tigon in 1968, The Blood Beast Terror (also known under the even more salacious title of Blood Beast From Hell) features a lot of highly regarded members of the vintage British horror scene of the day but fails to hit the heights of other more highly regarded efforts from Hammer, Amicus and even Tigon's own output like Witchfinder General. It does, however, have enough going for it that fans of British horror will want to check it out, if only to decide for themselves.
The storyline is set in Victorian times where a killer is afoot on the streets of London, leaving young men dead and drained of all of their blood. Obviously the powers that be want to put a stop to this and so Inspector Quennell (Peter Cushing) is called in to investigate the murders and see if he can put together the pieces of this bizarre puzzle. A few clues lead him to Professor Mallinger (Robert Flemyng), an etymologist who has a large base of young men in his student body. He also has a beautiful daughter named Clare (Wanda Ventham) who he has used as a guinea pig. The police don't know it but Mallinger has been experimenting on Clare and now she periodically turns into a giant moth, able to lure young men to her using her feminine wiles before turning into her alternate self and disposing of them in grisly ways.
As the cops close in on Mallinger and his daughter, they split town, leaving London for Waterloo but Quennell is dedicated to his job and he quickly follows, his daughter Meg (Vanessa Howard) along for the ride. When he meets up with a butterfly collector, he soon realizes that he's closing in on Mallinger but when Meg gets kidnapped, the stakes have very obviously been raised in this game of cat, mouse and moth with Quennell in a race against time to save his daughter's life.
Directed without much flair by Vernon Sewell, The Blood Beast doesn't rank with the best of British horror films and it periodically drags but it does feature some nice scenery, a memorable killer moth monster (the highlight of the film in a lot of ways) and some interesting set pieces. Cushing is fine here and although he fails to charge the role with the sort of enthusiasm he was known for in his Hammer and Amicus projects, he carries the film just fine. As he always was in his heroic roles, he's likeable here and when his daughter gets caught up in this we buy him not only as the dedicated police officer but also as the concerned father. Vanessa Howard does a fine job in the role of Meg, she's not only as beautiful here as she ever was but she makes a good onscreen companion for Cushing and they share some good scenes together here. Flemyng and Ventham are likewise a good pair, and the film is at least marginally thematically interesting in the sense that the film pairs one father/daughter duo against another.
The film builds to a sizzle rather than an explosive climax, and you get the impression once it's over that the ending could and should have been stronger than it was but as far as gothic inspired monster movies go, you could do much worse than The Blood Beast Terror. At the same time, you could also do much better, and this one falls squarely in the middle - worth seeing and a fun time killer but nothing to write home about.
The Blood Beast Terror looks great in this AVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen transfer from Kino. Framed at 1.66.1 and restored from the negative, the picture quality is strong. Detail is quite impressive as is texture with plenty to look at in regards to the period costumes and various distinctive faces on display. Colors are reproduced nicely and look quite natural while black levels are strong as well. Reds look good without ever bleeding into the other colors and there are no issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction to note. Some minor print damage shows up in the form of some specks here and there but other than that the image is clean, colorful and nicely detailed - fans of the film should be quite pleased here.
The LPCM Mono track, in English, is a little on the flat side but otherwise fine. Levels are well balanced, dialogue is easy to understand without any issues and any hiss that pops up in the mix is minimal and hardly intrusive. The score also sounds nice, as do the effects used throughout the movie. There are no alternate language options, subtitles or closed captioning options provided anywhere on the disc, unfortunately - but otherwise the movie sounds fine, even if its age and budget show at times.
Extras are slim on this disc, limited to a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Kino/Redemption releases, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.
The Blood Beast Terror is neither the crown jewel in Peter Cushing's filmography nor in Tigon's production run but it does feature one of British horror's finest actors in decent form and a pretty nifty monster as well. Not one for the casual Brit-horror fan but definitely one worth seeing for those with a taste for that country's take on the monster movie with this Blu-ray from Kino being the best way to do that. Recommended for the hardcore out there, a fine rental for the masses.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.