Few actors have had such a strong effect on my viewing habits, but Peter Cushing is one such actor. It’s difficult to put into words what an actor the caliber of Cushing had in my viewing habits, but it goes without saying that simply seeing his name in the credits of a film is enough to make me want to see it.
About Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing was one of those actors who took great pride in the work he did and it shows with each performance. His mere presence in a film was enough to guarantee it is an enjoyable experience on some level. Best known for his association with Hammer Studios from the late 1950s through the mid-1970s, he helped bring the horror genre back from the brink of being considered almost passe` to a force to be reckoned with, again.
He’s probably best known to the younger generation as the evil, Grand Moff Tarkin, in the first Star Wars film, but in a career that spanned well over fifty years, his characterizations will not soon be forgotten, from; the irrepressible Baron Frankenstein, the tireless Van Helsing, the quick-witted Sherlock Holmes, and the sympathetic Arthur Grimsdyke, any fan is sure to find some character that they can identify with and enjoy the exploits of.
When asked which role is my favorite of Cushing’s, I’d be hard-pressed to narrow it down to one, as each role showcased so many talents of this actor, but two characters that I certainly love is, oddly enough, not from Hammer roles, they would be; Dr. Brian Stanley in the 1966 film, “Island of Terror”. and Arthur Grimsdyke in the 1972 film, “Tales From the Crypt”.
These two roles not only showcase his talent as an established actor in horror films but may also give fans a glimpse into what the real Peter Cushing was like. These two roles give us an opportunity to see the comic side to Cushing as well as the deeply passionate and mourning side of this gentleman. Cushing filmed, “Tales From the Crypt” not long after the loss of his beloved wife, Helen and in fact, it’s her photo we see him talking to in the film.
Peter Cushing Biography
TROMAVILLE, New Jersey–Toxic Chemical capital of the World. A nice place to live?? Well not for 98lbs. weakling Melvin (Mark Torgl), the janitor at a local health club. It seems that mild-mannered Melvin is constantly berated by the population of muscle-bound meatheads that call this place home and is later incited to leap from a second story window just to escape their torment. Unfortunately for him, he lands in a vat of bubbling toxic waste, but even more unfortunate for the “bad guys”, the Toxic Avenger is born.
Evildoers beware because towering in at well over 7 ft with the strength of 10 men, Toxie has an unquenchable thirst for ripping bad guys to shred. No body part (arms, eyes, brains, balls, etc.) goes un-spared as Toxie armed only with his trusty mop rampages through these miscreants like a hot knife through shit. This is bad news for corrupt Mayor Belgoody (Pat Ryan) and his trusty band of cronies, whose aspiration for transforming the toxic dumps into valuable shorefront property is now in jeopardy.
Along the way, Toxie saves a blind girl (Andree Maranda) from a bunch of corn holing thugs and a romance blossoms. As the “monster vs. hero” debates rage in the local rags, Mayor Belgoody must find a way to get rid of his archrival in order to complete his evil plans. His luck turns when Toxie accidentally kills an innocent. The final showdown comes when the national guard is called into action. Does the Mayor have the guts to stand up against the town’s hero??? Buy this film immediately.
How can you call yourself a horror fan, if you have never seen “The Toxic Avenger”??? I must have asked this question a million times too many so-called horror fanatics. Love it or hate it, Troma’s “The Toxic Avenger” has forever influenced the way we watch horror movies today. Born out the dark and deranged mind of Lloyd Kaufman (co-founder of Troma) in the early ’80s, Toxie, as his adoring fans have come to call him, helped to establish a new standard for underground filmmaking.
This environmental crusader has become a symbol of freedom for children and adults alike and a mainstay for the collective conscious of this here planet earth. But beyond his rise to superstardom in animated features, his own toy line and comic book series, Toxie’s misadventures helped to create one of the most entertaining, influential, and fun horror films of all-time
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Peter Cushing Movies and Roles
Young Cushing was unable to serve his country’s military due to ear problems but ended up entertaining His Majesty’s soldiers. After a leading lady in Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” left the production due to exhaustion, Cushing quickly fell in love with her replacement, Helen Beck, and the two were married on April 10, 1943.
After the war, he found it difficult to find work in many places, but the entertainment scene was changing, and after a successful screen and stage tour in Laurence Olivier’s “Hamlet”, he soon found a plethora of work in British film and television.
The BBC’s 1954 production of “1984” made him a big star in England, where he won several awards for his role as Winston Smith, and he caught the attention of the producers at fledgling Hammer Film Productions, who wanted him to play Victor Frankenstein in their upcoming “Curse of Frankenstein”. While the Hammer people were not enthused about the prospect of getting Cushing to appear, they were subsequently surprised to find that he was very interested to play the role.
The worldwide success of “Curse of Frankenstein“, and the even more impressive box-office receipts for “Horror of Dracula“, solidified Cushing and his close friend Christopher Lee as international stars, and they went on to work together in many films.
Just as Lee became closely identified with the role of Count Dracula, Cushing became identified in a similar fashion with Baron Frankenstein and Dr. Van Helsing in the two Hammer series.
As Hammer declined in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, Cushing was left more on his own, appearing in a variety of non-Hammer genre films, some great (“Horror Express”), some good (“Tales From the Crypt” and “Shockwaves”) and some not-so-good (“The Ghoul”). Nonetheless, Cushing was always giving a good performance.
He also became identified with the role of Sherlock Holmes; Cushing was a devoted Holmes fan, played the great detective on several occasions, and collected copies of “The Strand”, a rare magazine that published many of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock-stories.
During his declining years, Cushing was not an idle man, heavens no. In the years before his death, he wrote: “Peter Cushing – An Autobiography” and “The Bois Saga”, a phonetic history of his homeland, which was forty years in the making. He also indulged in his hobbies of painting, bird watching and answering fan mail.
A skilled craftsman, he also worked on many personal projects. The “gentleman of horror”, as he was dubbed, died after a long bout with prostate cancer on August 11, 1994, in Canterbury, Kent, England. He had had the disease since the early 1980s and had made an almost complete recovery when it struck back with a vengeance. His last project was “Flesh and Blood – The Hammer Heritage of Horror”, a documentary he had completed with Christopher Lee just a few weeks before his death.
Peter Cushing Death
August 11th, 1994 was indeed a sad day for this fan, it was a passing that had been expected for some time, given the frail state of health Cushing was in, but it goes without saying that the sadness felt with his passing that day was all-consuming.
Here was a man who had entertained me for years, kept me always wanting to see more of his films and on a day when nothing went right, settling back to watch one of his films was like visiting an old friend, it felt comforting and right.
Peter Cushing is at times overshadowed by the other greats of this genre; Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price and his co-star in many films as well as good friend, Christopher Lee, but Cushing will always hold a special place in this fan’s heart for the simple fact that he had the ability to entertain and make this viewer feel good at the same time!