The Blood Beast Terror (1968)
Critter: Vampiric were-moth lady, genetically engineered by a madman: a cross between human and Lepidoptera africans (perhaps the least imaginative species name in all of movie-land)
Size: Lady-sized, perhaps 5 feet 8 inches tall
Modus Operandi: After transforming into a moth-person, bites victim on neck, drains victim of blood
How the Menace Emerges: A mad naturalist with an interest in entomology created a lady were-moth somehow before filming began. He also starts making her a mate, Bride of Frankenstein style, but later decides that it is a bad idea.
End Goal: A little heavy petting, then dinner
Buxom blonde by day; bug-eyed, blood-sucking moth by night! Yes, this film is really about a vampiric were-moth. I’m not kidding. I might quibble about whether or not a human-insect mutant is still technically an invertebrate when she obviously still has an internal skeleton, but I won’t. I’m sure most of you good folks would still consider this gal a bug-woman, and so this is our first entry in the human-bug mutant sub-category. In Roger Corman’s hands, this story may have been a campy 60s romp, but The Blood Beast Terror takes its cue from much more formal source material: Hammer Films’ many takes on Frankenstein. Although Tigon films gave it a good go in 1968 with this and the much better Witchfinder General, their even lower production value kept Tigon from overtaking Hammer or even Amicus as Britain’s kings of low-budget, period-piece horror. The true draw to this film is Peter Cushing, who is capable of endowing even the worst film with undeserved class and dignity. I’m sure that Cushing knew what a turkey this picture was going to be, but he doesn’t let that stop him from giving it his best. There’s a cute little scene with Cushing peering through a window at a student performance of some sort of Frankenstein tale. He snickers, presumably because he knows that he did a much better job at such things with Hammer. Still, there are little moments of comic clarity in the film that suggest that someone aside from Cushing cared just a little, every now and then.
So, we come to the great tragedy of the film: the were-moth herself. Despite the fact that moths are featured throughout the film (our evil professor even delivered a rather dry lecture on sphinx moths featuring illustrations), the costumers failed to recognize the differences between bats’ wings and moths’ wings (didn’t you see the pictures or even the live specimens?). The face shots that tease us also make us dread the inevitable full-body transformation. When it comes, it’s dreadful. The bug eyes and antennae are laughable, but serviceable. The hairy gloved hands and bat cape, on the other hand are just uncalled for.
Just as a side note, this film also features a favorite scenario of mine common to horror films: the goofy mortician’s dinner break on the slab. I’d like to make a compendium of these someday, so if any of you have suggestions, please send them along!
Nit-picking Science: Victorian science is always a little odd, so I’ll leave some of this as historical error. On the other hand, Dr. Mallinger, surely you recognize that the potter wasp (Family: Vespidae) do leave an opening in their pots. After constructing the little pot, a female potter wasp will lay an egg inside and provision the future larvae with paralyzed insects and spiders. Only then will she seal the pot.