‘Their oath was.. Terror! Their cry.. Blood!’
Captain Clegg (aka Night Creatures) is a 1962 British film directed by Peter Graham Scott from a screenplay by “John Elder” [Anthony Hinds] based on Russell Thorndike’s Dr Syn character. The film stars Peter Cushing, Yvonne Romain, Patrick Allen and Oliver Reed.
Essentially a grim action-adventure film, it has macabre elements as befits a Hammer Films production.
1792, Dymchurch, England: On Romney Marshes Captain Collier and his “revenue men” are investigating the smuggling of wine and brandy from France. They suspect that the outspoken vicar may be involved but their investigations are hampered by reports of “Marsh Phantoms,” spreading terror to any who encounter them…
This is a film that strays into traditional Hammer territory, so much so that it is often counted as one of their horror movies, though notably the ever-alert British censor’s thought otherwise, and rather than the ‘X’ usually awarded to Hammer Horror, gave this a family-friendly ‘A’ certificate.
Based on the character of Dr Syn (who would also be the subject of a Disney film a year later, possibly putting a spoke in the wheel of any possible series ambitions for Hammer), it stars Peter Cushing and plays with ghostly images in the form of the Marsh Phantoms, a spectral force that is – as anyone familiar with British films about smugglers will already know – a cover for the criminal activities of Clegg, who has escaped execution and is living with his men under the guise of Parson Blyss.
The film fudges its ideas of heroes and villains, as Captain Collier – played with the stiffest of upper-lips by Patrick Allen – arrives with his sailors to investigate tales of local smuggling. Collier, as the figure of authority, is ostensibly the film’s hero, but our sympathies are very much with Clegg and his men (including Oliver Reed, another Hammer regular at this point).
Smuggling has long been a crime that is hard to make look especially evil, particularly in period pieces – perhaps why it has long been the subject of lightweight comedies such as Oh Mr Porter or related to Nazi activity in movies. Hammer’s film allows authority to be eventually asserted, yet Clegg nevertheless seems like the film’s real hero.
David Flint, guest reviewer via The Reprobate
“Some truly wonderful sets, costumes and props – as well as some excellent location shooting – make it one of ‘Hammer’s’ most lush productions and it certainly defies the ever-present ‘Hammer’ low budgets. The – sadly rare – use of the marshes as well as the green English fields and meadows add a welcome space and reality to the unfolding events.” Beardy Freak
“This film manages to integrate so many things that Hammer are renowned for. From lush costumes and sets to perfect locations to an underlying menace to the cream of British acting. All these ingredients provide us with a movie that fits seamlessly into Hammer’s legacy, and it defies logic just how this title has stood on the periphery of their catalogue for so long.” The Schlock Pit
” …in spite of the spectres haunting the marshes and the touches of macabre and the occasional brutalities, it’s more of a romp, played straight but with the odd item of wit to lighten the story. It was scripted by Anthony Hinds under his John Elder pen name, with additional dialogue from Barbara S. Harper, and wins you over with its spirit and atmosphere.” The Spinning Image
“Part thriller, part swashbuckler, part pirate yarn, part horror, Night Creatures categorically hedges its bets. And it’s all the better because of it. Thanks to a clever screenplay by Hammer producer-writer Anthony Hinds which weaves together several disparate plot points, the result is an entertaining composite buoyed by genre anchors Cushing and Reed.” The Terror Trap
Cast and characters:
Peter Cushing … Parson Blyss/Captain Clegg
Yvonne Romain … Imogene
Patrick Allen … Captain Collier
Oliver Reed … Harry
Michael Ripper … Mipps
David Lodge … Bosun
Derek Francis … Squire
Jack MacGowran … Frightened man
Peter Halliday … 1st sailor
Martin Benson … Rash
Daphne Anderson … Mrs Rash
Milton Reid … Mulatto
Terry Scully … 2nd sailor
Rupert Osborn … Gerry
Sydney Bromley … Tom Ketch
Gordon Rollings … Wurzel
Bob Head … Peg-leg
Colin Douglas … Pirate bosun
Filming locations: (25th September 1961 to 8th November 1961)
All Saints Church, Oakley Green Road, Bray, Berkshire, England (long shots of the church; scenes on top of the church tower.)
Bray Studios, Down Place, Oakley Green, Berkshire, England (studio)
Denham, Buckinghamshire, England
Ibstone Windmill, Turville, Buckinghamshire, England (village windmill)
St. Mary the Virgin, Denham, Buckinghamshire, England (Scenes in the churchyard)
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Hammer” was originally due to film the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend as Night Creatures, but this was abandoned when the BBFC informed them that they would not pass the film. As Hammer had promised the U.S distributors a film called Night Creatures the title was passed on to the already completed Captain Clegg (1962) instead.