I’ve written about my love for British horror movies of the 60s and 70s before (thank you YMB archive) and it is still as strong, lo these 30 years later. While I described at the time the fond memories of watching them with my gran, there was another reason why these films worked and stayed with me for so long … Peter Cushing.
Undoubtedly his iconic performances as Baron Frankenstein or Abraham Van Helsing first brought him to my attention, but watching his appearances in films such as Twins of Evil, The Ghoul, The Gorgon and Dr Terror’s House of Horrors it was easy to see that even though the films themselves could be described as kitch and got more sex and gore focused, he was a genuine actor who was able to bring a presence and gravitas to every role he played. It was obvious (although not until I was older and read about his life before Hammer) that he had started out in theatre, radio and television.
My respect for him was so strong that for about 16 years I hunted to get his autobiography and finally managed to get my hands on a re-issue last year. Reading it demonstrated that he was also a talented storyteller, replaying fascinating anecdotes from every period of his professional and personal life. The latter, documenting his love affair with his wife and her eventual death is one of the most emotive pieces I have ever read.
While we will forever remember him in those classic Hammer roles or for those great performances as Holmes, Doctor Who and Grand Moff Tarquin in Star Wars, not to mention the hilarious backwards cameo in the Top Secret, for me he is one of the only actors whose performances I would watch no matter what the plot or review.
A true gentleman and a legend.