When you visit a seaside town, there’s always legends involving ships that sunk off the coast. First there’s the treasures that might have been inside them as they sunk to the bottom during a fierce storm. This usually brings out the searchers with their metal detectors hoping to see if the tide coughs up the loot. Other legends involve the ghost of the crew haunting the land since they are doomed to never return to their native port. The village of Dymchurch on the Romney Marsh has such a legend. After dark the rumor has it you can see the skeletons of the undead ride around. They call the ghostly gang the Marsh Phantoms. Night Creatures (also called Captain Clegg) goes deep into this tale of pirate ghosts.
While there are stories of the Marsh Phantoms, there’s also reports of the smuggling of brandy from France into England in the coastal area. It has become such a nuisance that a Royal Navy unit led by Captain Collier (The Body Stealers‘ Patrick Allen) shows up in Dymchurch to investigate. The navy has memories of the town since this is where they buried the notorious pirate Captain Clegg. His grave sits near the church where Parson Blyss (Star Wars‘ Peter Cushing) preaches. The locals aren’t happy about the navy snooping around. Mainly because it turns out Blyss and his congregation are hiding a bunch of dark secrets. There is one person with the naval unit who can expose the town. A sailor who was part of Clegg’s ship is with the royal navy except he can’t say anything since Clegg cut his tongue out after he tried to attack the captain’s wife. Will anyone uncover what’s really going on in the town with the phantoms, smugglers and dead pirates?
Night Creatures is a Hammer film that gives a touch of horror to a swashbuckling tale that mostly takes place on dry land. Peter Cushing holds the story together as the Parson with a lot to keep hidden from the Royal Navy. Oliver Reed (Gladiator) gives a fine performance as the future son-in-law to Blyss’s daughter Imogene (The Curse of the Werewolf‘s Yvonne Romain). Disney made its own adaptation of the character with Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow. Patrick McGoohan played the parson except they didn’t give him the pirate background. The action was a bit tamer since the Disney version ran as a three-episode mini-series. Night Creatures is a bit more intense of an adaptation with an extremely un-Disney ending. Walt wouldn’t have approved the final showdown as it would probably scare five-year-old kids watching The Wonderful World of Disney worse than Bambi’s mom being shot. This is Hammer and they didn’t disappoint their freshly minted legacy as a studio that doesn’t back down from a scare. Night Creatures will keep you up late when the skeleton horse ride across the marsh.
The video is 1.78:1 anamoprhic. The new 2K scan from the interpositive brings out a richness to the color. The Audio is DTS-HD MA mono. This is the original mix and they’ve cleaned it up you can hear the phantom horses. The movie is subtitled.
Audio commentary with film historian Bruce Hallenbeck gives a background on the cast, crew and production. He points out which actors appeared in James Bond films. He mentions how Hammer found out as they started production that Disney was using the same book to make Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow with Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner). He points out how Disney made the character extra good and leaves out his time at sea.
Pulp Friction – The Cinematic Captain Clegg (22:07) allows author/film historian Kim Newman to talk about the books that inspired the movie. Turns out author Russell Throndike also was an actor and had a minor role in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet. He goes into how Dr. Syn went from book to the screen.
The Hammer Must Fall: Peter Cushing’s Changing Direction (28:09) gives background on the actor with author/film historian Jonathan Rigby. Cushing was excited to play Dr. Syn since he was a fan of the books. Cushing wanted to do a sequel, but nothing came of it. He talks about how Peter Cushing was doing his best to mix up his roles so he wasn’t only doing Horror films. Although the Hammer Horrors are what he’s remembered for doing from this time until Star Wars.
Brian with Bowie (7:56) allows special effects artist Brian Johnson talk about how he was hired by Les Bowie (not David Bowie). He was straight out of the RAF when he got hired. Bowie was a matte artist. He was mostly sweeping up the stage and loading film into the 35mm camera. Bowie was a tank driver in World War II. He mentions a cool thing Peter Cushing did to the cast and crew after making the film.
The Making of Captain Clegg (32:02) is hosted by author Wayne Kinsey. He takes us to the various locations and exposes the special effect that let Dr. Syn and his ghostly men ride like skeletons.
The Mossman Legacy: George Mossman’s Carriage Collection (6:55) is how a businessman bought up horse carriages after people bought cars. Mossman would rent them out for weddings until he discovered a need to use them in movies. Kinsey tours the museum that houses the collection. He connects them to the various Hammer films.
Theatrical Trailer (2:29) promises terrors behind the cloak of darkness. People are dying of fright.
Still Gallery (3:32) includes press photos, behind the scenes shots, posters, lobby cards and a newspaper ad.
Scream Factory presents Night Creatures: Collector’s Edition. Directed by Peter Graham Scott. Screenplay by John Elder. Starring Peter Cushing, Yvonne Romain, Patrick Allen and Oliver Reed. Rating: Unrated. Running Time: 82 minutes. Release Date: April 19, 2022.