Thursday, August 28, 2014
Based on the Dr. Syn novels that first appeared in 1915 [also the basis of Walt Disney's Dr. Syn, the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh], this interesting Hammer feature takes place in the village of Dymchurch in 1792. British sailors led by Captain Collier (Patrick Allen) come to town hunting for smugglers who want to bypass the high taxes on liquor and other items. The whole town leads Collier and his men on a merry chase as they do their best to hide the taxable items and outwit the revenue men. The supernatural aspects of the film -- the phantoms of Romney Marsh or the "night creatures" of the American title -- are a bit of a cheat, but the film is suspenseful and entertaining enough in its own right. Peter Cushing is excellent, as usual, as the reverend Dr. Blyss, who may have a secret or two up his sleeve, and Martin Benson [The Cosmic Monsters] and Michael Ripper also offer superior performances as two of his co-conspirators; Allen is also fine as Collier. Oliver Reed [Paranoiac] is as intense as ever as young Harry, who has fallen in love with barmaid Imogene (Yvonne Romain), who is the secret daughter of the supposedly dead and notorious pirate Captain Clegg. Jack MacGowran [The Giant Behemoth] offers another of his flavorful portrayals as a villager who tries to mislead Collier and his band, and Milton Reid is vivid as the "mulatto" who hates Clegg and causes all manner of mischief. Dan Banks' exciting musical score helps keep things percolating.
Verdict: Something different! ***.