Wednesday, August 11, 2010

RIP, Peter Cushing (1913-1994)

Sixteen years ago today, the cinematic world lost one of its most distinguished actors when Peter Cushing lost his battle with prostate cancer. Not only was he the most recognizable face in many Hammer horror productions, he also played the great Doctor in two Doctor Who films, as well as making a memorable appearance in Star Wars (1977) as Grand Moff Tarkin and in Shock Waves as an aging Nazi commander.

One of Cushing's roles that has resonated with audiences over the years isn't a role in the horror genre, but rather a mystery, that of Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles. However, there are many ties to horror within the film: it was produced by Hammer, co-starred Christopher Lee, and Baskerville Hall is widely recognizable as Dracula's castle from the 1958 Hammer version of Dracula (a.k.a. Horror of Dracula). Here below is the trailer for that film, also starring Lee as the titular vampire and Cushing in one of his most famous and beloved roles as Van Helsing.

Personally, I will be honoring Cushing today by watching a film that doesn't seem to have as many fans as many of the other Hammer Dracula pictures, Dracula A.D. 1972, which features Cushing as an aging descendant of Van Helsing. It isn't the greatest Drac film, but it's entertaining and definitely a product of its time, and as always Cushing absolutely lights up the screen any time he is on it.

RIP, Peter. In a time when horror seems to be focused more on the gross-out and the shock factor than real scares, your touch of gentlemanly class is sorely missed, now more than ever.


dr.morbius said...

I can't believe you didn't mention the fact that he's the definitive Dr. Frankenstein, a role he owns like no other actor! He may also be the definitive Van Helsing (particularly in Brides of Dracula), but Hammer tended to skimp on salaries in the later Dracula movies, so he didn't have the chance to put the same kind of stamp on the role. He was a splendid Holmes. I'm also partial to his role in Captain Clegg (Night Creatures in the US).

Anna said...

Oh no! I totally whiffed on the Dr. Frankenstein role. Full Disclosure: I probably neglected to mention it because I have yet to see his Hammer Frankenstein films. Tie me up and whip me for that.

He is my favorite Holmes. Most people prefer Basil Rathbone, who is an excellent Holmes, but Cushing played him more the way he was in the books.

*sigh* I also have a big stupid crush on Cushing. I can't even say why; it's just something about his skull-like face that makes me all atwitter.

Anonymous said...


vicjoy1945 said...

Love Peter Cushing !!

Yes...the definitive Prof. Van Helsing AND Baron Victor Frankenstein. He was also a Shakespearean actor getting his first major film role in Olivier's film version of Hamlet. I haven't seen Night Creatures in ages but I'd like to revisit that one and of course remember his turn in Tales From The Crypt !?! What a heart !

Peter Cushing will always be remembered !!