THE HORROR JAR: Genre Films Where PETER CUSHING Did NOT Play A Doctor/Scientist/Professor

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Peter Cushing - The Skull

Peter Cushing and the Skull in THE SKULL (1965), a horror film in which Cushing did not play a doctor.

 

Welcome back to THE HORROR JAR, that column where we look at lists of odds and ends pertaining to horror movies.

Up today, my all time favorite horror movie actor, Peter Cushing.

When you think of Peter Cushing, his two most famous roles immediately come to mind, Baron Frankenstein and Dr. Van Helsing, two characters who were also both doctors.  In fact, a lot of Cushing’s roles in horror movies were of medical doctors, professors, or scientists.  So much so, that I thought:  when did he not play a doctor?

Turns out— many times.

Here’s a look at those roles, the times Peter Cushing starred in a horror or science fiction film but did not play a doctor or scientist.

THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959) – Sherlock Holmes.  Technically not a horror film, but that being said, Hammer Films added plenty of horror elements to their rendition of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tale.  Directed by Terence Fisher, with Cushing as Sherlock Holmes and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville.  Superior little movie, atmospheric and full of thrills, with Cushing’s energetic Holmes leading the way.

Peter Cushing - holmes

Cushing as Holmes in THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959).

 

NIGHT CREATURES (1962) – Rev. Dr. Blyss – even though the character is identified in the credits as “Dr. Blyss” he’s really the vicar of the small village of Dymchurch— check that, he’s actually the infamous pirate Captain Clegg, hiding out, posing as the vicar, while secretly smuggling rum in this rousing adventure/horror tale by Hammer Films.  Cushing at his energetic best.

Peter Cushing - Night Creatures

Peter Cushing delivers one of his best performances, as Captain Clegg/Dr. Blyss in NIGHT CREATURES (1962).

 

SHE (1965) – Major Holly – lost cities, a supernatural woman, and lots of action in this fantasy adventure by Hammer Films.

THE SKULL (1965) – Christopher Maitland – plays a private collector interested in the occult who purchases the skull of the Marquis de Sade with deadly results.  Christopher Lee co-stars as Cushing’s rival in this fine horror film by Hammer’s rival, Amicus Productions.

TORTURE GARDEN (1967) – Lancelot Canning – another film by Amicus, this one an anthology film featuring five horror stories based on the works of Robert Bloch.  Cushing appears in the fourth segment, “The Man Who Collected Poe,” once more playing a collector of the macabre.  Jack Palance co-stars with Cushing in this segment.

THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (1968) – Inspector Quennell-  One of Peter Cushing’s worst movies.  In fact, Cushing himself considered it his worst.  Produced by Tigon Films, a company that tried to join Hammer and Amicus as a voice in British horror but ultimately failed.  The monster is a woman who turns into a giant moth that preys on men’s blood, and Cushing plays the police inspector (in a role originally written for Basil Rathbone) who tries to stop her.

SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN (1970) – Major Heinrich Benedek – pretty much just a cameo in this film, famous for being the first time Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Vincent Price all starred together in the same movie.  A bizarre flick, perfect for 1970, but ultimately a disappointment as Cushing and Lee only appear briefly, while Price gets a bit more screen time.

THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970) – General von Spielsdorf – Cushing finally appears in a vampire movie where he’s not a doctor or a professor!  This time he’s a general, but he’s still hunting vampires in this atmospheric and very sensual vampire film from Hammer, starring Ingrid Pitt as the vampire Carmilla.  The first of Hammer’s “Karnstein” vampire trilogy.

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971) – Philip Grayson – Another anthology film by Amicus.  Cushing stars in the second segment “Waxworks” and plays a retired stockbroker who runs afoul of a nefarious wax museum.  Director Peter Duffell once said in an interview that Peter Cushing’s entire segment in this film was simply a contrivance to place his head on a platter, which remains one of the more shocking images from the film.

TWINS OF EVIL (1971) – Gustav Weil – Cushing is excellent (as he always is) in this vampire film from Hammer, playing a different kind of vampire hunter.  He leads the Brotherhood, a fanatical group of men seeking out witches in the countryside, a group that is every bit as deadly as the vampires.  As such, when the vampire threat becomes known, and the Brotherhood turn their attention to the undead, it makes for a much more interesting dynamic than the typical vampire vs. heroes.  It’s one of Cushing’s most conflicted roles.  There’s a scene where he laments that he only wanted to do the right thing, that really resonates, because for most of the film, he’s been doing the very worst things.  The third “Karnstein” vampire film.

peter cushing - twins of evil

Peter Cushing as the fanatical Gustav Weil in TWINS OF EVIL (1971).

 

I, MONSTER (1971) – Utterson – plays a lawyer in this version of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tale by Amicus, which changed the names of Jekyll and Hyde to Marlowe and Blake, played here by Christopher Lee.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) – Arthur Edward Grimsdyke – famous Cushing role in yet another anthology film by Amicus.  Cushing appears in the third segment, “Poetic Justice” where he plays an elderly junk dealer who is terrorized into suicide by his neighbors, but a year later, and this is why the role is famous, he returns from the grave.

DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972) – Captain – cameo in this Vincent Price sequel.  Blink and you’ll miss him.

ASYLUM (1972) – Smith – appears in the segment “The Weird Tailor” in this anthology film by Amicus.

FEAR IN THE NIGHT (1972) – The Headmaster – plays a sinister headmaster, in this thriller written and directed by Jimmy Sangster, and also starring Joan Collins and Ralph Bates.

FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (1974) – The Proprietor – plays the owner of an antique shop, and the man in the wraparound story in this Amicus anthology horror vehicle.

MADHOUSE (1974) – Herbert Flay – plays a screenwriter in this one, and best friend to Vincent Price’s horror actor Paul Toombes.  Toombes is having a rough go of it, as the character he played in the movies- Dr. Death – seems to be committing murders in real life.  A really interesting movie, not a total success, but definitely worth a look, mostly because Price and Cushing share equal and ample screen time in this one.

TENDRE DRACULA – Macgregor – bizarre ill-conceived French horror comedy, notable for featuring Cushing’s one and only performance as a vampire.

LAND OF THE MINOTAUR (1976) – Baron Corofax – plays the villain to Donald Pleasence’s heroic priest in this tale of devil worship and demons.

STAR WARS (1977) – Grand Moff Tarkin – aside from his work in Hammer Films, the role which Cushing is most known for.  As Tarkin, he’s the one character in the STAR WARS universe who bossed Darth Vader around and lived to tell about it.

Peter Cushing - Tarkin

Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in STAR WARS (1977).

 

SHOCK WAVES (1977) – SS Commander – Nazi zombies attack!    Nuff said.  With John Carradine.

THE UNCANNY (1977) – Wilbur – Cushing plays a writer who learns that cats are a little more “active” than he first imagined in yet another horror anthology film.

MYSTERY ON MONSTER ISLAND (1981) – William T. Kolderup – plays the “richest man in America” in this bizarre horror comedy.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983) – Sebastian Grisbane – famous teaming of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, and John Carradine in the same movie for the first (and only) time ever, this really isn’t a very good movie.  It tries hard, and ultimately isn’t all bad, but could have been so much better.  Price and Lee fare the best.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE MASKS OF DEATH (1984) – Sherlock Holmes – Holmes comes out of retirement to solve a case.   Again, not horror, per se, but since this film was directed by Roy Ward Baker, written by Anthony Hinds, and of course starred Peter Cushing, there is a definite Hammer Films feel about this movie.  John Mills plays Dr. Watson.

There you have it.  A list of genre films starring Peter Cushing where he did not play a doctor, scientist or professor.  Perhaps next time we’ll have a look at those films where he did don a lab coat or carry a medical bag.

That’s it for now.  Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NUMBERS: Halloween

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NUMBERS:  Halloween Jack O Lantern

 

By Michael Arruda

Here’s a list of some random fun numbers in time for Halloween:

350 million – copies sold of books written by Stephen King.

35 million- pounds of candy corn estimated to be bought for Halloween 2015 in the U.S., according to ABC news.

40,000– Dollar amount stolen by Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in PSYCHO (1960).

278- The number of screen credits for Christopher Lee, according to IMDB.

22– The number of movies Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee made together

10 – The number of movies in the HALLOWEEN franchise.

8 – The number of times Colin Clive says “It’s alive!” in the creation scene in FRANKENSTEIN (1931)

5– The number of times Lon Chaney Jr. played Larry Talbot/the Wolf Man in the movies.

3– The number of times Boris Karloff played the Frankenstein Monster in the movies.

2– The number of times Bela Lugosi played Dracula in the movies.

1 – Number of times Christopher Lee played Frankenstein’s Creature in the movies.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

THE HORROR JAR: MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN

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THE HORROR JAR:  Music by Bernard Herrmann

By Michael Arruda

Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann

 

 

Welcome to another edition of THE HORROR JAR, that column where we feature lists of odds and ends about horror movies.

Bernard Herrmann, the prolific film composer who composed music for some of Hollywood’s biggest movies during the 1940s-1970s, especially for director Alfred Hitchcock, wrote some of my favorite genre film scores.  He scored nine of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, including his most famous for PSYCHO (1960), and interestingly enough none of his Hitchcock scores were ever nominated for Oscars.

Herrmann started in radio, scoring Orson Welles’ radio shows in the 1930s, including his infamous “The War of the Worlds” broadcast in 1938.

Herrmann’s final film score was for Martin Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER (1976).  He was supposed to score Brian De Palma’s CARRIE (1976) but died of a heart attack just before he was start work on the film.  He was 64.

Here’s a partial look at the movies Herrmann provided music for, focusing mostly on genre films:

CITIZEN KANE (1941)

Directed by Orson Welles

Screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz & Orson Welles

Kane:  Orson Welles

Jedediah Leland:  Joseph Cotten

Susan Alexander Kane:  Dorothy Comingore

Emily Kane:  Ruth Warrick

Mary Kane:  Agnes Moorehead

Running Time:  119 minutes

Bernard Herrmann’s first movie score. Not a bad way to start one’s career, scoring music for arguably the greatest movie ever made.

THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (1941)

Directed by William Dieterle

Screenplay by Dan Totheroh and Stephen Vincent Benet

Daniel Webster:  Edward Arnold

Mr. Scratch:  Walter Huston

Running Time:  107 minutes

Herrmann’s second movie score earned him his first and only Academy Award for Best Music Score.

THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942)

Directed by Orson Welles

Screenplay by Orson Welles and Booth Tarkington

Eugene Morgan:  Joseph Cotten

Running Time:  88 minutes

Working with Orson Welles’ again in this troubled production which suffered from major studio meddling and last minute edits and changes.

THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947)

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Screenplay by Philip Dunne, based on the novel by R.A. Dick

Lucy Muir:  Gene Tierney

Captain Daniel Gregg:  Rex Harrison

Miles Farley:  George Sanders

Running Time:  104 minutes

Herrmann’s personal favorite music score.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)

Directed by Robert Wise

Screenplay by Edmund H. North, based on a story by Harry Bates

Klaatu:  Michael Rennie

Helen Benson:  Patricia Neal

One of my favorite Bernard Herrmann scores.  His music completely captures the otherworldly mood of this classic science fiction masterpiece about an alien, Klaatu (Michael Rennie) who travels to Earth to warn humankind that unless they give up their warring ways, they will face destruction by a superior race, and to give credence to his words Klaatu brings along his all-powerful robot Gort.  This thought-provoking drama is science fiction at its best.

Herrmann’s score here was later used in several episodes of the TV series LOST IN SPACE.

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD poster

Directed by Nathan Juran

Screenplay by Kenneth Kolb

Sinbad:  Kerwin Mathews

Princess Parisa:  Kathryn Grant

Sokurah the Magician:  Torin Thatcher

Special Visual Effects by Ray Harryhausen

Running Time:  88 minutes

This just might be my all-time favorite Bernard Herrmann music score.  Rousing and adventurous from start to finish, it’s the type of score that’ll stick with you long after you’ve seen the movie.  Some of Herrmann’s best work is in movies featuring the special animation effects of Ray Harryhausen.

VERTIGO (1958)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor

John Ferguson:  James Stewart

Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton:  Kim Novak

Midge Wood:  Barbara Bel Geddes

Running Time:  128 minutes

Provides the music for one of Hitchcock’s best films, the tale of a retired San Francisco police detective (James Stewart) suffering from acrophobia (fear of heights) who becomes entangled in a bizarre murder plot.

NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay by Ernest Lehman

Roger Thornhill:  Cary Grant

Eve Kendall:  Eva Marie Saint

Phillip Vandamm: James Mason

Running Time:  136 minutes

With apologies to his work on PSYCHO, this just might be my favorite Bernard Herrmann score for an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  His rousing music in this film also ranks among his best work, period.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959)

Directed by Henry Levin

Screenplay by Walter Reisch and Charles Brackett, based on the novel by Jules Verne

Sir Oliver Lindenbrook:  James Mason

Alec McKuen:  Pat Boone

Carla Goetabaug:  Arlene Dahl

Count Saknussemm:  Thayer David

Running Time:  132 minutes

Another of my favorite Bernard Herrmann scores, but seriously, I can say that about nearly every score he wrote.  This fantasy film adventure based on the work of Jules Verne is 1950s filmmaking at its best:  colorful, elaborate, and entertaining throughout.

PSYCHO (1960)

Directed by Alfred HitchcockPsycho poster

Screenplay by Joseph Stefano, based on the novel by Robert Bloch

Norman Bates:  Anthony Perkins

Marion Crane:  Janet Leigh

Lila Crane:  Vera Miles

Sam Loomis:  John Gavin

Detective Arbogast:  Martin Balsam

Running Time:  109 minutes

Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous shocker, and arguably Bernard Herrmann’s most famous music score as well.  Likewise, it contains Hitchcock’s most famous and most studied scene, the shower scene, which also contains Herrmann’s most famous piece of music, the loud shrill of violins as the shadowy murderer strikes down poor Janet Leigh in the shower.  Hitchcock originally wanted no music in this scene, which actually makes a lot of sense and would have worked, making the scene raw and brutal, but Herrmann argued that it needed music, and how can anyone argue with the end result?  A rare example of one brief scene capturing the finest instances of artistry of two separate artists at the same time, as both Hitchcock and Herrmann produce their signature moments in this scene.

Arguably the most famous and recognizable horror movie score of all time.

THE 3 WORLDS OF GULLIVER (1960)

Directed by Jack Sher

Screenplay by Jack Sher and Arthur A. Ross, based on “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver:  Kerwin Mathews

Gwendolyn:  Jo Morrow

Elizabeth: June Thorburn

Running Time:  100 minutes

Once again providing music for a film with special animation effects by Ray Harryhausen.

MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961)

Directed by Cy Endfield

Screenplay by John Prebble, Daniel B. Ullman, and Crane Wilbur, based on the novel by Jules Verne

Captain Cyrus Harding:  Michael Craig

Lady Mary Fairchild:  Joan Greenwood

Herbert Brown:  Michael Callan

Gideon Spilitt:  Gary Merrill

Captain Nemo:  Herbert Lom

Running Time:  101 minutes

Once again reunited with Ray Harryhausen, and once again one of Herrmann’s most memorable scores. This entertaining adventure about Civil War soldiers stranded on an island with oversized creatures is must-see viewing.  The first twenty minutes, involving a daring escape from a Confederate prison, is riveting and suspenseful, complimented in full by Herrmann’s rousing music, and this is all before they even land on the island!

CAPE FEAR (1962)

Directed by J. Lee Thompson

Screenplay by James R. Webb, based on the novel by John D. Macdonald

Sam Bowden:  Gregory Peck

Max Cady:  Robert Mitchum

Peggy Bowden:  Polly Bergen

Running Time:  105 minutes

Classic thriller about murder and revenge was a financial flop upon its initial release.

JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)

Directed by Don Chaffey

Screenplay by Jan Read and Beverley Cross

Jason:  Todd Armstrong

Argos:  Laurence Naismith

Running Time:  104 minutes

Reunited once again— and for the last time— with Ray Harryhausen, and yes, once more, another exceedingly memorable film score.  This one contains the classic sword fight between Jason and his men and Harryhausen’s animated skeletons.  The scene also includes some of Hermann’s best music.

THE BIRDS (1963)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay by Evan Hunter, based on the story by Daphne Du Maurier

Melanie Daniels:  Tippi Hedrin

Mitch Brenner:  Rod Taylor

Annie Hayworth:  Suzanne Pleshette

Running Time:  119 minutes.

But, there’s no music in THE BIRDS.  True.  Herrmann served as a sound consultant for this movie.  Supposedly it was his idea not to have music in THE BIRDS.

MARNIE (1964)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay by Jay Presson Allen, based on the novel by Winston Graham

Marnie:  Tippi Hedren

Mark Rutland:  Sean Connery

Running Time:  130 minutes

This Hitchcock drama was considered a misfire on its initial release, but its reputation has grown steadily over the decades.

FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966)

Directed by Francois Truffaut

Screenplay by Francois Truffaut and Jean-Louis Richard, based on the novel by Ray Bradbury

Clarisse/Linda Montag:  Julie Christie

Guy Montag:  Oskar Werner

Running Time:  112 minutes.

Classic novel; not so classic movie.

SISTERS (1973)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Screenplay by Brian De Palma and Louisa Rose

Danielle Breton/Dominique Blanchion:  Margot Kidder

Joseph Larch:  Charles Durning

Running Time:  93 minutes

Early Brian De Palma thriller.

IT’S ALIVE (1974)

Directed by Larry Cohen

Screenplay by Larry Cohen

Frank Davies:  John P. Ryan

Running Time: 91 minutes

Campy horror movie about a killer baby was a hit in the summer of 1974.

OBSESSION (1976)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Screenplay by Paul Schrader

Michael Courtland:  Cliff Robertson

Elizabeth Courtland/Sandra Portinari

Robert Lasalle:  John Lithgow

Running Time:  98 minutes

De Palma thriller with shades of Hitchcock’s VERTIGO.  Herrmann’s score was nominated for an Oscar.

TAXI DRIVER (1976)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Screenplay by Paul Schrader

Travis Bickle:  Robert De Niro

Iris:  Jodie Foster

Running Time:  113 minutes

Classic Scorsese film earned Oscar nominations for stars De Niro and Foster, as well as Bernard Herrmann who was nominated twice in the same year. Herrmann lost out to Jerry Goldsmith for his score for THE OMEN.  Herrmann’s final movie score.

Herrmann died of a heart attack on December 24, 1975, just hours after he had finished the score for TAXI DRIVER.  He was 64.

Bernard Herrmann enjoyed a long and prolific career.  For me, I will always associate his music with the fantasy films of Ray Harryhausen and the thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock, and if I had to pick my three favorite Herrmann scores, they would be NORTH BY NORTHWEST, PSYCHO, and THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD.

Bernard Herrmann

June 29, 1911 – December 24, 1975

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

THE QUOTABLE CUSHING: THE SKULL (1965)

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Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee discuss the dangers of the skull over a friendly game of pool in THE SKULL (1965).

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee discuss the dangers of the skull over a friendly game of pool in THE SKULL (1965).

THE QUOTABLE CUSHING:  THE SKULL (1965)

By

Michael Arruda

 

 

Today on THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, that column where we look at Peter Cushing’s best lines in the movies, we look at one of my favorite Amicus movies, THE SKULL (1965) starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

 

Amicus was the other British company making horror movies in the 1960s and 70s, forever stuck in the shadow of England’s more famous horror studio, Hammer Films.  Amicus even used the same directors and stars, including Cushing and Lee.  Amicus was most famous for their anthology films, movies which would feature several short horror stories in the same movie.  However, THE SKULL is not an anthology movie.  It features just one story.  Perhaps that’s why I prefer it.

 

The best scenes in THE SKULL are those that feature both Cushing and Lee, who play rival art collectors in this one. There’s also a neat nightmare sequence involving Cushing, which just might be the most memorable scene in the movie.

 

Let’s look now at some of Peter Cushing’s memorable lines in THE SKULL, screenplay by Milton Subotsky, based on the short story “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade” by Robert Bloch.

 

In this early scene in the movie, the shady character Anthony Marco (Patrick Wymark) attempts to sell a special novelty item to one of his best customers, an author who writes about demonology, Dr. Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing).  Let’s listen:

 

Maitland:  What have you got for me?

Marko:  Something choice.  Very choice.

Maitland:  Why don’t you show me?

(Marco hands Maitland a book.)

Marco:  The life of the notorious Marquis De Sade.

(Marco goes on to describe De Sade’s experiences with inflicting pain on others, and his worshipping of the devil.)

Marco:  A most interesting man. A most interesting book.

Maitland: How much do you want for it?

Marco:  Two hundred pounds.  Look at the binding.

Maitland:  What’s it made of?

Marco:  Skin.  Human skin.

 

Maitland buys the book, prompting Marco to return the next night, where he makes Maitland another offer, this time attempting to sell him the actual skull of the Marquis De Sade.  Maitland decides he needs time to think about it.

 

Later, in one of my favorite scenes in the movie, Maitland’s friend and sometimes rival Sir Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee) tries to warn Maitland about the skull over a friendly game of pool.

 

Maitland:  I was offered an item last night by a mutual acquaintance, Marco.

Phillips:  Yes, a somewhat shady individual, but useful.

Maitland:  He offered me a Death’s Head which he said is the skull of the Marquis De Sade. He wanted a thousand but finally came down to five hundred.   Naturally, I’d like to have it in my collection if it’s genuine.

Phillips:  It’s genuine enough.

Maitland:  How could you possibly know that?

Phillips:  Because my dear fellow, it was stolen from me.

 

A few moments later:

 

Phillips:  I’m glad the skull has been stolen.  And I advise you to leave it alone.

Maitland:  Why?

Phillips:  Because it’s dangerous.

 

And later:

 

Maitland:  But how can a mere skull be dangerous?  Unless your mind makes it so.

Phillips:  De Sade said he wasn’t mad.  I believe him.  He was far worse than mad.  He was possessed- possessed by an evil spirit, a spirit which still inhabits the skull.  I kept the skull locked in a glass case in the library.  I had the only key.  Once a month during the two nights of the new moon, the time of devil worship and black magic, I found in the morning that the skull had been removed.

Maitland:  Who removed it?

Phillips:  Those who use its power.  Invisible beings, spirits from a strange evil world.  Sometimes I used to hear them calling me to join in their ceremonies.  It took all my powers of will to resist.

Maitland:  I wouldn’t resist.  Given the opportunity, I’d wait for them. It would make a good chapter for one of my books.

Phillips:  Don’t think that I wasn’t tempted.  But I knew the moment I set foot in the room I’d be unable to resist the forces of evil.  I would do whatever the skull wanted me to do.

 

And finally:

 

Phillips:  I never went into the library on the nights of the new moon.

Maitland:  You’re a coward.

Phillips:  Perhaps sometimes it’s better to be.

 

And in the film’s most memorable sequence, the dream sequence, two mysterious men burst into Maitland’s home.

 

Maitland:  Who are you?  What do you want?

Man:  Are you Christopher Maitland?

Maitland:  Yes.

Man: We have a warrant for your arrest.  I must caution you that anything you say will be taken down in writing and will be used in evidence.

Maitland:  What is the charge?

Man:  You’ll find out.  Come along.

Maitland:  My wife is out.  I must leave a note for her.

Man:  You can phone from the station.

Maitland is brought to a mysterious courtroom where he is handed a gun and forced to play a deadly game of Russian roulette.  No dialogue here, unless you count Cushing’s screams.  It’s a very weird and tense scene.

 

Okay, that wraps things up for today. I hope you enjoyed this look at THE SKULL, on THE QUOTABLE CUSHING.

 

See you next time!  Thanks for reading!

 

—Michael

 

 

 

 

PSYCHO By Robert Bloch – A Frightening Read, Perfect for Halloween

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Psycho coverWhat I’m Reading – Psycho  By Robert Bloch

Book Review by MICHAEL ARRUDA

 

Looking for a good read this Halloween?

 

Look no further than Psycho by Robert Bloch, the novel on which Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie is based.   Hitchcock’s film is such an icon of horror cinema, it’s easy to forget that a novel called Psycho existed first.

 

And whether you’re reading it for the first time, or re-reading it for the umpteenth, it’s still a powerful read.

 

For me, I enjoy comparing the book to the movie, seeing things that Hitchcock and screenwriter Joseph Stefano kept in, things they left out, and things they changed.  I also enjoy reading the original ideas by Bloch.  With very few exceptions, the story of Psycho as we know it today was entirely created by Bloch.  Hitchcock and Stefano added very little in the way of ideas original to the movie.

 

The story of Psycho is so well known at this point, and for those folks unfamiliar with the movie or the book, the less they know about the plot the better, so I won’t go into much detail here about the story. It’s best for you to discover it on your own.

 

Basically, Psycho is the story of a peculiar young man named Norman Bates who lives with his domineering old mother and runs a small motel located on a back road off the main highway.  A young woman, Mary Crane, has stolen a large sum of money from her employer, which she plans to use to help pay her boyfriend Sam Loomis’ debts so they can get married.

 

On her way to visit Sam, she stops at the Bates Motel to spend the night.  She ends up having a conversation with Norman Bates over dinner, and later that night returns to her room where she takes a shower—. 

 

Sometime later, Mary’s sister Lila and a private investigator name Arbogast arrive in Sam’s town looking for Mary, and when Sam tells them he has no idea where Mary is, that she never came to see him, the search continues.  Arbogast finds evidence that Mary had stayed at the Bates Motel, and he tells Lila and Sam this news, but when Arbogast himself disappears, Sam and Lila finally decide to go to the local sheriff, who tells them he believes Arbogast has pulled a fast one on them, because if he told them he was returning to the Bates Motel to question Norman Bates’ mother, he was lying, because Norman Bates’ mother is dead.

 

And thus the mystery deepens, leading to one of the most memorable conclusions ever in a horror movie, and a pretty good one for a novel as well.

 

The first and most obvious difference between the book and the movie is the physical appearance of Norman Bates.  In the movie, as played by Anthony Perkins, Norman is tall and thin, whereas in the novel, Norman is heavy, out of shape, and wears glasses.  In fact, when Mary first sees him in the novel his weak appearance puts her at ease:

 

Mary made up her mind very quickly, once she saw the fat, bespectacled face and heard the soft, hesitant voice.  There wouldn’t be any trouble.

 

Think again, Mary!

 

The novel also introduces Norman Bates right away, in Chapter 1, unlike in the movie where the first third of the movie is all about Marion Crane (she’s Marion in the movie, Mary in the book.)  It’s a great way to open the novel, as the first chapter probably does a better job defining Norman Bates’ character than the entire Hitchcock movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  The Hitchcock film nails Norman Bates, mostly because of Anthony Perkins’ phenomenal performance, but here in the novel, especially in the opening chapter, we get inside Norman’s head and immediately are privy to interactions with his mother that define him with the kind of depth  you can only find in a novel, as it’s nearly impossible to accomplish in a movie.

 

As in this exchange:

 

“—-You never listen to me, do you?  It’s always what you want and what you think.  You make me sick!”

 

“Do I boy?” Mother’s voice was deceptively gentle, but that didn’t fool Norman.  Not when she called him “boy.”  Forty years old, and she called him “boy.”

 

And: 

 

“That’s the real reason you’re still sitting over here on this side road, isn’t it, Norman?  Because the truth is that you haven’t any gumption.  Never had any gumption, did you boy?

 

“Never had the gumption to leave home.  Never had the gumption to go out and get yourself a job, or join the army, or even find yourself a girl—.”

 

“You wouldn’t let me!”

 

And this thought from Norman:

 

She’d always laid down the law to him, but that didn’t mean he always had to obey.  Mothers sometimes are overly possessive, but not all children allow themselves to be possessed.

 

This is all from Chapter 1, which really sets the tone for the rest of the novel, as right off the bat we get a full understanding of the dynamic between Norman and his mother.  We see and understand what his mother has done to him, and what he has become in the process.  I think it’s better defined here in this opening chapter than anywhere in the Hitchcock movie.

 

Of course, the defining moment of the movie PSYCHO (1960) is the shower scene, one of the most memorable and most studied scenes in film history.  Now, whereas the book obviously isn’t going to capture the cinematic craftsmanship of Hitchcock, the bottom line is Bloch doesn’t have to because his version is even more brutal than the film version.  His shower scene ends with a beheading.  Nuff said.

 

Granted, I enjoy the first half of the novel better than the second.  I find the chapters about Lila and Sam’s investigation much less captivating and interesting than the ones about Norman Bates and his mother.  During these later chapters, Norman is in them less, and the novel just isn’t as creepy when he’s not present.

 

The same goes for his mother, whose presence is felt much more in the book than in the movie.  When she’s in the novel, she’s a monstrous character, and Bloch does a masterful job with her.  She’s much less of a force in the movie, where for obvious reasons, we don’t see her much.

 

There’s a great scene after Norman has spent hours cleaning up after his mother’s crime and meticulously disposing of the body.  He returns to his house, exhausted.  He collapses in his bed and soon hears his mother enter the room.

 

“It’s all right son.  I’m here.  Everything’s all right.”  He could feel her hand on his forehead, and it was cool, like the drying sweat.  He wanted to open his eyes, but she said, “Don’t you worry, son.  Just go back to sleep.”

 

“But I have to tell you—.”

 

“I know.  I was watching.  You didn’t think I’d go away and leave you, did you?  You did right, Norman.  And everything’s all right now.”

 

Yes.  That was the way it should be.  She was there to protect him.  He was there to protect her.  Just before he drifted off to sleep again, Norman made up his mind.   They wouldn’t talk about what happened tonight- not now, or ever.  And he wouldn’t think about sending her away.  No matter what she did, she belonged here, with him.  Maybe she was crazy, and a murderess, but she was all he had.  All he wanted.  All he needed.  Just knowing she was here, beside him, as he went to sleep.

 

Aaargh!!!  How creepy!!!!

 

Great stuff!

 

Psycho is an excellent read, especially around Halloween. If you want to curl up with a frightening book this Halloween, grab a copy of Robert Bloch’s Psycho and invite Norman Bates and his mother into your home.  It’ll get under your skin in ways the Hitchcock film doesn’t.

 

Bloch brings you in so deeply into the mindset of Norman Bates and his mother, it’ll leave you feeling uncomfortable and dirty, in need of a shower.  Then again— maybe you better opt for a bath.

 

–END—