CAPTAIN CLEGG (1962) – The Harrowing House of Hammer

There’s something about a good Hammer movie that can almost feel like sorcery. It’s a fragile kind of trickery that stands in the face of cheesy predictability without ever losing its merits. Not all of the studio’s pictures are able to capture this elusive effect, but one will always find it to be an inherent quality in the classic Hammer films – Dracula, Curse of the Werewolf, The Devil Rides Out, and this film, Captain Clegg.

Of course, this isn’t to say that the film is perfectly made. One could easily argue that it isn’t with several examples to back them up. For instance, you might submit that the story is replete with shallow character depth, that the story isn’t anything new, and that the effects range from outdated and corny to just plain bad (see numerous shots of atrocious day-for-night or half day-for-night filters).

And you know what? You’d be right.

BUT the main asset of Captain Clegg is that despite these fairly evident shortcomings, it’s hard not to get sucked into the story and get carried along for an extravagantly fun and entertaining ride. And this is done through the use of two especially potent piece of artillery. The first is the simplicity of the story. Yes, it is a shallow adventure story, but its childish storybook nature is part of what makes things ever engaging. The second, and probably most important blessing graced upon this story is its lead actor – Peter Cushing.

Image courtesy of bedfordbypass.com

In many ways, this may be the ultimate vehicle for the actor as it demonstrates almost all of the iconic things one would look for in a classic Peter Cushing role. His titular character is essentially a villain, but here he is cast as our protagonist, which effectually gives us the chance to see him be a charming, noble member of society as well as a ruthless and daring pirate with many of clever tricks to pull off and exciting battles to be fought.

Also of note is that Captain Clegg is not a horror film like many of the infamous Hammer movies but rather a swashbuckling action/adventure pirate tale with a few elements of horror (i.e. the marsh “phantoms”). But even for Hammer horror fans, this piece is an immensely entertaining gem of a movie that holds many of the qualities one would hope to find within the studio’s horror cycle.

Sure, it may have a number of moments when the proceedings might feel like a played-out relic of the past, but ironically, those qualities lend to its overall style and likeability to make a fast and effortlessly enjoyable adventure movie.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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