Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Injection of Evil!

So few palaeoanthropologists look for evidence of pure evil in fossils. Peter Cushing as Dr. Emmanuel Hildern is one exception in 1973's The Creeping Flesh, a brashly absurd story with a extremely hazy concept of science, perhaps somewhat explained by the possibility that it's all the ravings of a madman. Regardless, it's a lot of fun and surprisingly beautifully shot, directed by Freddie Francis who would go on to be cinematographer on three David Lynch movies.

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are brothers this time around, both more or less men of science--While the favourite child Emmanuel was off making new discoveries in his field, James (Lee) nursed resentment as chief administrator of an asylum where Emmanuel's crazy wife has been locked up for years, unbeknownst to Emmanual's daughter, Penelope (Lorna Heilbron).

Emmanuel has told Penelope that her mother is dead, keeping the woman's room locked and forbidding Penelope to enter, fearful the girl will grow up to inherit the madness. Flashbacks tell us the madness basically consisted of sleeping around a lot.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel has dug up a bizarre skeleton, pointing to the layers of sediment to assert that it pre-dates Neanderthal but doesn't remark on the fact that it's not fossils but a fully articulated skeleton that he and his assistant are able to lift without worrying about it coming apart. He is somewhat surprised when he finds any part of it that's exposed to water ends up regrowing flesh.

Taking a blood sample from the finger, he beholds what appear to be black blood cells with little tentacles. He almost immediately identifies the blood as the essence of pure evil, like any good scientist, and after mixing it with some normal human blood and watching the red blood cells seem to triumph, he makes a vaccine, hoping in this way to rid the world of evil.

I won't spoil the pretty wildly absurd turns of plot that occur from there but the film's definition of evil is somewhat problematic, mainly insinuating that it makes women want to jump around and tease men without actually having sex with them. I can only speculate on the particular axe the screenwriter had to grind.

Lee gets first billing but this is definitely Cushing's movie. His character is more credulous and enthusiastic than he normally played, it's interesting seeing him bring this energy to a performance. Lee, meanwhile, as the bitterly jealous brother, looks cool and devilish.

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