TITLE: Captain Clegg aka Night Creatures
YEAR RELEASED: 1962
DIRECTOR: Peter Graham Scott
CAST: Peter Cushing, Yvonne Romain, Patrick Allen and Oliver Reed
REVIEW BY CARL SYKES
The film opens with the eponymous Captain Clegg overseeing the ‘trial’ of one of his crew members who is charged with attacking the Captain’s wife. The crew member is sentenced to the gruesome fate of having his ears slit, his tongue removed and to be tied to a stake and left with no food on a desert island.
Moving forward a few years, we open upon the Romney Marshes, where a glowing skeletal gang (with skeletal horses) terrorise a man and force him into the marshes where he drowns.
The next day Captain Collier (Patrick Allen) and his men arrive in the village of Dymchurch, near the marshes, looking for suspected smugglers. What they find is a very closed community, led by the village Reverand Dr. Bliss (Peter Cushing), who attempt at every turn to thwart Collier and his men in their search to discover the truth behind the rumours of a smuggling ring and the supposed terror on the marshes.
During the early pre-production of this film, it was discovered that Disney were also planning a production based upon the same set of novels (which included Dr Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marshes by Russell Thorndike) and had already acquired the rights to the book, so details had to be changed to avoid any legal issues. The character of Dr. Syn became Reverand Dr. Bliss, however the majority of the film remained faithful to the original Thorndike novel and benefited greatly from not having to change too much of the story, unlike Disney who had to alter events for a more family friendly production.
Featuring a stellar British cast in Allen, Cushing, Oliver Reed and Derek Francis (amongst others), this often overlooked Hammer production ranks highly as a gripping tale of swashbuckling daredevilry and ghostly goings-on. As ‘Clegg’ doesn’t feature any of the characters synonymous with Hammer (i.e. Vampires, Wolfman etc), in fact there is little of what we have come to know Hammer for in the entire movie, so it is easy to see why this gem went pretty much unseen for many years after its release. What it does include are a taut and gripping story, with excellent cast performances which make this production shine bright.
Among the key elements of this film are the fantastic locations and brilliant sets used throughout. Hammer, as a company, were often accused of utilising low-budget techniques and back drops but there is no sign of this in Clegg. It’s an interesting note that Hammer pulled out all the stops in regards to cast and locations in what is (to many at least) a seemingly un-Hammer-like production, but what they achieved was above and beyond the usual cinematic releases of the era.
In all Captain Clegg is a gem among the non-traditional Hammer productions and is worth seeking out by die-hard Hammer fans and newcomers to Hammer productions alike.
CARL SYKES is an avid film fan living in South Wales. Outside of his full time job at a University, he spends his free time working as a Film and TV Supporting Artist and trawling for obscure and alternative films, which he then reviews on his film blog.