June 13, 1962
Anthony Hinds and Barbara Harper
Peter Cushing as Reverend Blyss
Oliver Reed as Harry Cobtree
Yvonne Romain as Imogene
Night Creatures is another great film from Hammer, and although there are some similarities to Hammer psychological horror films, this is pure suspense without the horror.
Hammer combined all the elements: Great period costumes and sets, diabolical deeds, supernatural elements, plus actors Oliver Reed (Paranoic, Curse of the Werewolf) and Peter Cushing (the Hammer Horror mainstay)… butNight Creatures is not a horror film.
In addition to horror, Hammer also produced many mysteries. This one seems to have been accidentally mixed into the horror category by third party media producers who didn’t know any better. Even though it is part of many Hammer Horror compilations and IMDb labels it as horror, do not be fooled. Night Creaturesis mystery only. If, however, you are in the mood for some suspense, some sharp turns in the plotline and 18th century outfits, or if you just can’t get enough of Peter Cushing, this one may be worth a watch.
The title has a dual meaning – referring to the mysterious Marsh Phantoms and the smugglers who operate out of the nearby town. The Marsh Phantoms play the role of the small town ghost, or poltergeist. Everyone knows about them, almost all are afraid of them and some have actually seen them. They manifest as ghost riders who claim a victim every once and a while. The existence of the smugglers is also common knowledge, but the extent of their activities and personnel involved remain a mystery.
Aided by a small band of sailors, the intrepid Captain Collier tracks bootlegging operations to the town and attempts to uncover the whereabouts of illegal liquor shipments. Thwarting his efforts is Reverend Blyss (Peter Cushing), who heads a conspiracy to cover-up all traces of smuggling. As leads dry up, Captain Collier’s curiosity about the Marsh Phantoms replaces his law enforcement prerogative and a suspicious connection between the townspeople and a deceased pirate emerges.
Similar to Hammer’s psychological horror films, Night Creatures contains shifts in character focus. The object of the story remains the same (though obscured from the viewer until the conclusion), but two characters whose roles are peripheral in the first hour take center stage in the final part of the film.
Also similar to other Hammer productions, our knowledge of characters evolves to the point where our allegiance shifts. Yet, throughout the film no character with the exception of one seems vicious or otherwise cruel. The rogues are sympathetic and those attempting to track them down are upright and honorable.
The colors are vivid. The story is well constructed (the wild card of the Marsh Phantoms, however, ends predictably). All in all, Night Creatures is not a bad showing for Hammer given the state of cinema in the early ‘60s. The acting isn’t great and parts may seem hokey, but if you’re tired of watching Peter Cushing madly chase after brains and body parts in an effort to reanimate corpses this one may be a nice change of pace.