Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing made countless horror films together (many for the Hammer studio) about Dracula or Frankenstein, but here’s an unsung original tale that’s just as horrifying. Set in Victorian London, it’s a Frankenstein variation in which a scientist reanimates just a finger, with understandably disastrous results. Cushing brings back a whole prehistoric hominid skeleton from his travels to New Guinea. Exploring his theory that evil is a disease akin to mental illness, against which he might develop a serum, Cushing washes the skeleton’s finger in water, and flesh grows upon it as the finger comes alive. In the finger, he finds black cells that he believes to be the source of evil.
Lee plays Cushing’s brother, a fellow scientist who runs an asylum, and whose research is on the hereditary nature of insanity. Their interests come together in the form of Cushing’s daughter, Penelope, who is beginning to show signs of the suicidal madness that killed her mother. Cushing injects her with the experimental vaccine, but of course, there are some horrific side effects. When Lee learns of the skeleton and its role in the experiment, he plots to steal it — during a rainstorm.
If you want, you can read the whole thing as a satire, on Victorian sexual repression, outdated science, and imperialism, but it’s easier just to sit back and scream at the elegant creepiness of Cushing and Lee or the awful spectacle of that wriggling finger.
Next Dog Soldiers