Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for World Service Films makers of The Creeping Flesh but from the cast and crew list it could have been any of the usual suspects, Hammer, Amicus, Tygon.
Evil in the blood is the premise of this minor shocker. The storyline takes in elements of Jekyll and Hyde and in an off hand way earlier classics like the Thing From Another World (1951) and Horror Express (1972).
The film opens with Cushing receiving a visitor to assist in his work carried out in a slightly surreal looking lab. Plenty of test tubes, medical specimens and skeletal bits and bobs. Several walk on cameos for Hammer regulars later and amidst a background of oak panel and crushed velvet we’re introduced to the familiar screen rivalry between brothers James (Peter Cushing) the explorer keen to create a vaccine against evil from a large specimen he’s brought back from somewhere far away and Emmanuel Hildern (Christopher Lee) in charge of a lunatic asylum and busy experimenting on the inmates with his own theories. They’re both hell-bent on wining the Richter science prize.
Following a watery eureka moment in the lab James is convinced he can develop the antidote to evil by mixing his good blood cells with the specimens bad cells. As usual a monkey gets to find out if it works, but not before James decides to inoculate his daughter Penelope (Lorna Heilbron) who has only recently discovered why dad keeps the room at the end of the corridor locked.
Following an out-of -character incident in the local gin palace she holes up in a disused warehouse. with Lenny the lunatic (Kenneth J Warren) recently escaped from Emmanuel’s asylum. That serum must be having an effect she seems to be bringing out the gentle Len in him. True love or will one them get dumped?
Penelope is delivered into the hands of uncle Emmanuel who carries out a quick blood test before trying to convince brother James to pool resources; working together to deliver a prize winning scientific breakthrough. James isn’t having any of it so Emmanuel swipes the backbone of his brothers experiments and heads off in a rain storm which turns out to be very bad news for all concerned remember that watery eureka moment.
We end where we started back in the lab – the brothers re-united with each other. Nothing is ever as it seems when it comes to the mind’s eye but in this case you can see the twist coming from the beginning. But don’t be put off by that. Low on real shocks and gore the story does cover some interesting ground, the nature of evil, hereditary madness and the treatment of mental health in society – but not in a way likely to interfere with the box office. A film from a period of Brit-horror that losing vigour could have used a shot in the arm – sadly this wasn’t it. Likeable worth a viewing but unlikely to make the flesh creep too far.
Review by Dancemakr
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