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Tales of the Marsh Phantoms...,
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This review is from: Die Bande des Captain Clegg (Neuauflage) (DVD) (DVD)
Ironically, Captain Clegg (1962) appears to be one of the most fondly-remembered fan favourites in the Hammer canon as well as being one of their most frustratingly difficult films to see in the UK, where it has never previously received either a VHS or DVD release. However, this German Region 2 edition is excellent value, so if you can't hang on for the bells-and-whistles Blu-ray set for a British release in June 2014, you'll have no complaints if you pick up this disc instead.
Supposedly one of Peter Cushing's own favourites too, this adaptation of Russell Thorndike's novels about Doctor Syn, the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, went into production almost simultaneously with a rival Disney TV version, starring Patrick McGoohan, which resulted in the changing of both the film's title, and the central character's alias (`Doctor Syn' becomes `Parson Blyss'); however, in all other respects it is remarkably faithful to the books, chronicles of an infamous pirate-turned-smuggler masquerading as a genial clergyman in the village of Dymchurch on the Kent coast. Difficult to categorise within Hammer's output, it certainly feels influenced by their famous horror movies but at the same time is far more closely related to their swashbuckling adventure films aimed at much younger audiences, such as The Pirates of Blood River (1961). Cushing is his usual assured self in the central role, expertly balancing Captain Clegg's ruthlessness with the gentle eccentricity of his saintly alter ego, whilst he is backed up by excellent supporting turns from Patrick Allen, Oliver Reed, the luscious Yvonne Romain, and especially Hammer mainstay Michael Ripper, enjoying an unusually substantial part for a change.
Produced in conjunction with a small independent named Major Pictures and re-named Night Creatures for its US run so that Hammer could honour a deal with Universal to supply them with a film of that title (their original Night Creatures project, a version of Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend, had to be scrapped due to BBFC objections), Captain Clegg is energetically directed by television veteran Peter Graham Scott and stands head-and-shoulders above most of the company's other efforts from this period. On its original release it was issued as the supporting feature to Terence Fisher's lacklustre version of The Phantom of the Opera (both movies were considered tamer than usual by Hammer standards and only earned `A' certificates in Britain), but this lower-berth flick is by far the superior of the two films. Highly recommended.