Director: Peter Graham Scott
Cast: Peter Cushing, Yvonne Romain, Patrick Allen, Oliver Reed, Michael Ripper
Length: 79 min
Rating: BBFC: 12
Label: Final Cut Entertainment
Release Date: Jun 23, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2:1
Audio: English: LPCM 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
- Video tour of George Mossman’s collection of horse-drawn carriages that appeared in Hammer films.
- Making of Captain Clegg, a 30-minute documentary on the making of the film.
- Image Gallery
By 1962, Hammer star Peter Cushing, for fear of being typecast as a horror actor, was ready to tackle a non-horror role, and ironically it was Hammer that provided him with the perfect opportunity. Having been a big fan of Russell Thorndike’s popular series of Dr. Syn adventure novels, Cushing was eager to play the notorious pirate-turned-parson, when Hammer acquired the rights to remake Roy William Neill’s Doctor Syn (1937) . The resulting film, Captain Clegg (1962) finally makes its blu-ray debut in the UK, courtesy of Final Cut Entertainment, restored from an HD master provided to them by Universal Pictures.
Hammer’s Captain Clegg (1962) is a colorful departure from the company’s tried and true Gothic horror formula into high adventure, mystery, pirates, scarecrows, and ghostly phantoms that haunt the marshes of a small English village—you can’t expect Hammer to abandon all its tropes!
The story centers around a local village parson who runs a smuggling ring, in opposition to England’s cruel taxation laws, in order to help the beleaguered townsfolk. When the King’s Revenue Men arrive to investigate they uncover some startling facts, not just about many of the villages, but about their parson, Rev. Dr. Blyss, who may be hiding a terrible past.Peter Cushing is superb as the fearless Blyss/Clegg, who thwarts the King’s harsh laws for the sake of his small community. His tight-strung energy and cool authority are perfect for conveying the dual personalities of his character. In many ways, Captain Glegg is a logical extension of Cushing’s Frankenstein and Van Helsing.
The theme of an authority figure from outside entering a closed community to investigate possible wrongdoings is more famously explored in Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973), but there are certainly similarities between the two films. Like Sergeant Howie in The Wicker Man, Captain Collier (Patrick Allen), the leader of the revenue men, is a paradoxical protagonist. Carrying the King’s authority, he is righteous, intolerant, and demanding—almost more a villain than a protagonist. Yet, he falls comfortably in line with many similar Churchillian, no-nonsense protagonists in British films of the period, including Prof. Quatermass, Father Sandor in Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Capt. Lansen in The Lost Continent, Dr. Pritchard in Hands of the Ripper, etc. The contrast between Collier’s bulldozer-like investigative tactics and the villagers’ good-humored methods of thwarting them makes for some enjoyable jousting.In principle, this kind of film needs a big-budget Hollywood production to make it really leap off the screen. Hammer does their customary best to disguise the film’s low budget and, most of the time, they succeed to a surprising degree. But in certain instances, such as the less than convincing day for night photography, or the distinctly meager quota of villagers living in the town, the low budget makes itself felt.
Universal Pictures and Final Cut Entertainment have done a good job restoring this relatively minor catalog title. The frame is matted to 2:1, instead of the original 1.85:1, which, in principle, may be a cause for complaint, until one remembers that the old R1 DVD was matted even tighter. So this is an improvement. The image is mastered in 1080/50i instead of 1080p, but only the most sensitive will see the difference. To me, the biggest tell tale sign of the very slight speed-up involved in 1080/50i mastering appears in the pitch of the actors’ voices—just a touch higher than it should be. This is especially noticeable with Peter Cushing’s distinctive timbre. But I don’t want to make too much of this, because in every other way, the mastering is very good. The image retains its original film grain, which has not been coarsened by any edge sharpening. Some small age-related imperfections pop up here and there, such as specs and scratches, but they do not distract, and actually add a realistic sign of age to the look of the film. Color is vibrant, but natural-looking, and image depth is a distinct improvement over the old R1 DVD.
Occasionally, certain shots show a kind of ghosting effect, where a light edge meets a dark background, (see the top of Captain Collier’s hat in the third screen grab, where we circled the problem spot in red). For some reason known only to Universal Pictures, the main title has been re-done with a different font which does not match the original. See the first two screen grabs for comparison between the new blu-ray and the old R1 DVD. Overall, not a perfect presentation, but a perfectly acceptable one.
For this blu-ray release we are given a standard mono 2.0 track, which does the job admirably. Comparing it to the sound of the R1 DVD, however, puts it at a slight disadvantage. Possibly owing to the marginal speed-up of the blu-ray already mentioned above, the sound on the R1 DVD is a little more resonant, with a richer, more satisfying bass. This is especially noticeable in the timbres of the actors’ voices, which seem just a little higher in pitch on the BD than they ought to be. Don Banks’ powerful music comes through well, though, in principle, it too could benefit from a bit more resonance and depth. English SDH subtitles are included.
Final Cut Entertainment gives us a good, but not spectacular set of extra features. First up is a six-minute video, written and hosted by Hammer-aficionado, Wayne Kinsey, in which he takes us on a tour of George Mossman’s collection of horse-drawn carriages, many of which appeared in various Hammer films. Next, we have Making of Captain Clegg, a 30-minute documentary on the making of the film. Written by Wayne Kinsey, and narrated by veteran Hammer actor, John Carson, the documentary goes deep into the history of the film’s origins and production. It’s a very informative doc and enjoyable to watch, but ideally would have benefited from a few more well-chosen experts to present their points of view. Lastly, we are given the ubiquitous image gallery.
For Hammer fans, this blu-ray release of Captain Clegg from Final Cut Entertainment is self-recommending. On technical grounds, the HD restoration and blu-ray presentation could certainly be improved upon, (to a certain extent it feels like Universal Pictures did this one on autopilot), but it’s still perfectly acceptable, and the benefits of the new medium give one sufficient reason to upgrade from the old DVDs. Recommended to all but the most perfectionistic.