The Creeping Flesh
Dr. Hildren (Peter Cushing) recounts a tale that involves him returning from New Guinea with the skeleton of a being that is decidedly not human. The doctor investigates the skeleton believing it to be a source of physical evil, and with it, he can generate a vaccine against human wrongdoing. His daughter, Penelope (Lorna Heilborn), is busy uncovering the truth about her mother, a revelation which tempts Dr. Hildren to use his new found vaccine…
The underlying story of The Creeping Flesh is fascinating. The possibilities that arise from this ancient advanced being that could be a source of real physical evil makes from some cosmic tinged horror. While the film never becomes directly Lovecraftian, it does draw a little bit from that well of vast dread. I can see this movie having some influence on Alien (1979) by opening its mystery with an oversized and distorted skeleton. I also see a touchstone for Prince of Darkness (1987), with a long forgotten source of human evil that is on the verge of awakening to herald the end of the world.
|"Oh, I really hope that this a finger..."|
As always, Peter Cushing turns in a tremendous performance as a man caught between his research, protecting his daughter (and himself) from the truth of a tragic past, and a not so hidden rivalry with his brother. Christopher Lee has limited screen time here as Hildern's brother, but he makes the most of it, layering on a sinister graciousness. Lorna Heilborn makes Penelope’s change from innocent and distraught girl to psychotic murderer work by demonstrating just how much joy inflicting pain brings her.
The film looks great, filled with gloomy autumn images, and dark claustrophobic interiors. Director Freddie Francis does an amazing job of making the ambulatory skeleton look menacing, mostly by concentrating on its looming shadow as searches for its target. There is a very limited about of gore on display, most of the titular creeping flesh is rendered in stop motion and a few simple prosthetics.
|Something is seriously wrong with this Viewmaster|