Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Never A Monster

On today's date in 1994, the world lost one of it's greatest actors and all-around gentleman: Peter Cushing. Like many movie buffs my age, I was first introduced to Mr. Cushing's impressive body of work with George Lucas' 1977 space opus 'Star Wars.' The next time I would see Mr. Cushing on screen would be in the bizarre 1984 comedy 'Top Secret.' But my respect and devotion for the silver screen's greatest Van Helsing would come when I saw Hammer Studio's terrific production of 'Dracula.'

Although known for his monster movies, Cushing could do Shakespeare with ease, although he was known to have said: "Who wants to see me as Hamlet? Very few. But millions want to see me as Frankenstein so that's the one I do. If I played Hamlet, they'd call it a horror film."

One movie of his that I always enjoy watching is the 1974 Hammer schlock-fest "The Satanic Rites of Dracula." It is a rather absurd Dracula movie which also starred Cushing's great friend, Christopher Lee, but Cushing brings such a presence to the movie that he quite literally steals every scene he's in. The simple act of him making tea and offering around a box of cigarettes while nonchalantly discussing vampires and the undead is one of my all time favorite scenes. As for destroying monsters, here's what the man himself had to say on the subject...

"People look at me as if I were some sort of monster, but I can't think why. In my macabre pictures, I have either been a monster-maker or a monster-destroyer, but never a monster. Actually, I'm a gentle fellow. Never harmed a fly. I love animals, and when I'm in the country I'm a keen bird-watcher."

Peter Cushing was a great talent who lives on in so many memorable roles; from Baron Von Frankenstein to Lawrence Van Helsing to Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Who. May you rest in peace, Mr. Cushing. You were a class act who is sorely missed by many.

No comments: