The 100th anniversary of the birth of Peter Cushing was actually yesterday (Sunday, May 26), but of course, many of us were preoccupied with a little contest going on over in France. But Pierre Fournier is running a Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon that’ll be running through Friday and, just three days in, it’s already bursting its Frankensteinian seams.
In his original announcement, Fournier noted that, “among appearances in some 130 films, Peter Cushing was Baron Frankenstein and Dracula’s nemesis, Doctor Van Helsing. He was also Dr. Who, Dr. Terror, Dr. Blyss, Dr. Maitland—who was cursed by The Skull, and Dr. Perry—who traveled to the Earth’s Core. He fought The Mummy, he confronted Ingrid Pitts’s Carmilla and he pursued The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. He was the Sheriff of Nottingham, Sherlock Holmes and Holmes’s creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. On television, he was Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and he appeared in Space: 1999 and The New Avengers. And, of course, in the first Star Wars film, he was the formidable Grand Moff Tarkin who ran the Death Star and bossed Darth Vader around!”
While Fournier’s collecting contributions from all over, I do want to make special mention of two of them, Tim Lucas‘s essay on Cushing originally written for the November 1994 issue of Film Comment, and Richard Harland Smith‘s terrific appreciation at Movie Morlocks of “just a scattering of the man’s non-genre roles, made before and during his tenure as one of the Kings of Hammer Horror.”
And as that King, he cut “a figure that could be simultaneously dashing and sinister,” writes Tim Robey in the Telegraph. “Cushing’s creative contribution to these films can’t be underestimated. In the climax of Terence Fisher’s marvelous 1958 Dracula, both the crossing of candlesticks to repel Christopher Lee’s Count and the famous sprint along the table to tear down the curtains were Cushing’s suggestions, pulled off with the quicksilver athleticism that was perhaps the most surprising string to his bow.” The occasion of the piece, by the way, is the appearance of David Miller’s book, Peter Cushing: A Life in Film, a revised and updated version of his Peter Cushing Companion from 2000, is a comprehensive survey of this 60-year career, packed with excellent production stills and generally delivering the goods as unfussily as Cushing practised his craft.”