Horror film reviewer and author Alan Frank talks to Spooky Isles about his friendship with Peter Cushing. (Guest Blog originally published in The Peter Cushing Appreciation Society website.)
FRUSTRATION over the lack of horror movie reference material lead film reviewer Alan Frank to meet “the nicest actor I’ve ever met” Peter Cushing.
Back in the pre-internet early 1970s, Alan was writing his first book into horror movies. The lack of research material was getting him down and in spot of desperation headed to his local library.
“I go into the Twickenham library reference department – which shows desperation – and ask “Do you have any books on horror movies?” Alan told me, especially for The Peter Cushing Appreciation Society recently.
“This guy comes up to me and says, “Hi, my name is Peter Duffell and I’m making a film called The House that Dripped Blood” in Shepperton. Fortunately, I remembered Peter’s credits from one or two Edgar Wallace Presents.
“To cut a long story short, I spent days while they filmed The House that Dripped Blood and I spent a lot of time with Peter Cushing.”
Alan says he came to know Peter very well from their original onset experience on The House That Dripped Blood and over the years, Peter would ask him to interview him for different projects.
Alan remembers it was a particularly difficult time for Peter Cushing, with his wife Helen just taken ill.
“Hammer, for all that they were shits, they said (to Peter) if you want, we’ll take you to any doctor you want, anything for Helen. Amicus, on the other hand, said you’ll turn up on Monday for shooting.”
Alan Frank has worked as a film critic, researcher, author and extra in 700 films for over 50 years. During that time he has met, interviewed and worked with hundreds of famous actors. To him, Peter Cushing was his favourite.
“Peter Cushing was without a doubt the nicest actor I have ever met. He was an absolutely delightful character.
“What was so nice about him was that he had no big head. He was a gentleman in the old British tradition – he knew he was good but didn’t flaunt it.”
Alan – who met and interviewed all the major horror stars during his career – says actors by their very nature were prone to blowing their own horns.
“Chris (Lee) never tells a lie but you can’t believe it,” Alan says. “I remember interviewing Chris after The House that Dripped Blood and he says (doing a Christopher Lee impersonation), “Well, I fenced with Gregory Peck” Well, he did fence with Gregory Peck but the way he said it, you didn’t believe it. You always had to wonder.
“Peter, you would have to draw it out of him – Chris would just tell you.”
Alan has wonderful memories of his times with Peter Cushing, including hearing tales from his childhood – like Peter telling him that as a kid he tried to emulate Tom Mix – the cowboy star – and almost hung himself in the garden with one of Mix’s stunts.
“Peter talked about working with Laurel and Hardy (at A Chump at Oxford) – he did a wonderful impression of Laurel and Hardy,” says Alan.
“He was a great actor, people forget long before he was with Hammer, he worked with (Laurence) Olivier.
“He tells a wonderful story, I can only paraphrase, when they were doing Hamlet. He was doing Osric, and they had to rerecord the scene in the tower and he was worried he was spitting because he had dental work, I think. “Drown me, dear boy, it will be a wonderful death!” says Olivier.”
Alan continues: “He had been a great actor long before Hammer – he kind of realised that once he was horror he was horror – just like Karloff – he accepted that.”
Alan spent a lot of time with Peter Cushing over the years, including a syndicated interview with him for his second book: “He was dying and it was sad. He had asked me (to interview him) – he was just a nice guy.”
Having interviewed and met so many stars over the years, the film critic was never too fussed about meeting stars. But Alan does remember one time he felt knowing a movie star was a good thing:
“Peter made my day with my cleaning woman. He left a message and she was there, saying “This is Peter Cushing, would Alan ring him?” She thought this was wonderful.”
Originally published on The Peter Cushing Appreciation Society website.