SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!
In 1893, Professor Emmanuel Hildern has returned from an expedition in New Guinea with a skeleton he believes to be of pure evil pre-dating the existence of man. As he experiments with his belief that evil is a disease that can be cured from the human race creating a Utopia on Earth, he uses blood samples from the skeleton that appears to be more dormant than dead as when it comes into contact with water it begins to regenerate. Using the blood from the skeleton he creates a serum that he believes will vanquish evil from a person, so he tests it on his daughter who he is concerned will end up like her mother; in an asylum, which he blames the mental illness on her having the disease of evil inside her. Now as he struggles to protect his daughter from discovering the truth about her mother spending the remainder of her life in an asylum he also has to stop his half brother from stealing his work, which could end drastically for all of humanity if the skeleton ends up in the wrong hands and is allowed to come into contact with water
The Creeping Flesh is a 1973 Tigon Pictures and World Film Services Production. It stars Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Lorna Heilbron. It was directed by Freddie Francis.
Right away we're off to a creepy start as the camera creeps around this creepy painting. It eases in and pans across this painting of what appears to be some sort of demon eating something bloody. The creature is surrounded by images of horror including hands with missing fingers and even those missing fingers floating in mid air. It is essentially a rather creepy painting, the perfect introduction for a film called The Creeping Flesh.
AWESOME! Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee play a pair of half brothers; Professor Emmanuel Hildern and Dr James Hildern. And not just that but there is a rivalry between the brothers. They are both competing for the Richter Prize, and coincidentally they are both experimenting in the same field about evil being in the blood and so on.
I love the fact that this isn't one of those typical “It should never have been discovered” kind of monsters. Instead Emmanuel states that it has been discovered 3000 years too early, it was always meant to be discovered but naturally when it would rise to the surface itself at a time when humanity would be much more advanced and capable of handling such an evil being. I also love this idea that it's a being from a war that started before humanity even existed, a war between good and evil. The fact that he has discovered this being that is beyond mere man and he is using it to win the Richter Prize is brilliant.
This film has a great story with several intertwining plot strands happening at once. I counted four plots within the same story.
1.Professor Emmanuel Hildern's experiments into evil and his discovery of the ancient skeleton.
2.Dr James Hildern's experiments into mental conditions which rival Emmanuel's chances for winning the Richter Prize.
3.Emmanuel's daughter, Penelope, who he is striving to protect from the knowledge of her mother being committed to James' asylum. Penelope instead lives in the knowledge that her mother died when she was very young. Emmanuel dare not let his daughter know the truth in case the knowledge makes her go the same way as her mother.
4.The patient who has escaped from James' asylum.
All these plot strands meet each other at various points throughout the film.
Since water is what gives life to the skeleton, then it was inevitable that the skeleton would go without touching water. So when James gets his carriage driver to steal the skeleton he carelessly lets it's hand fall into a tub of water whilst carrying it, which left me shouting “No, not the water! Anything but the water!”
I love the shot from the creature's point of view. This seems to be a recurring shot that Freddie Francis does in his films, he does it in both this and The Skull. Coincidentally both times the being that the point of view is of just so happens to be looming over Peter Cushing. These monsters do seem to have an eye for Peter Cushing.
WARNING! I'M ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE ENDING! WARNING!
The ending is great, it all turns out that Emmanuel has been in James' asylum the whole time he was telling this story to the man who visited him in what appeared to be his lab at the start of the film. So we the audience are left thinking was this all just the ramblings of a mad man? James explains to the man that Emmanuel believes a fellow patient to be his daughter pointing at Penelope, the man then informs James that Emmanuel believes that James is his half brother. Then James remarks that Emmanuel has been at his asylum for 3 years, in fact since the week he won the Richter Prize, then we see Emmanuel in his cell and then the camera zooms in on his hand which has a finger missing just as he did at the end of his story when the creature took it.
Overall, I think this is a great British horror. It stars both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing who are both great in this. I love the various plot strands that cross and intertwine. The film at times is rather creepy, especially scenes that feature the evil being, even more so when it begins coming to life. I just plain and simple enjoyed the story, above all what I liked most was the fact that it was something I haven't seen before. This idea of evil being a disease that can be cured, I'm not sure if this has ever been done in a film before or since The Creeping Flesh, as far as I'm aware it's a new concept, new since 1973 that is. All in all The Creeping Flesh is creepy, scary and intriguing, it's definitely worth seeing.
The Creeping Flesh 4/5