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Peter Cushing: The Gentle Man Of Horror And His 91 Films by Deborah Del Vecchio and Tom Johnson

1/01/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Peter Cushing: The Gentle Man Of Horror And His 91 Films in the USA - or Buy Peter Cushing: The Gentle Man Of Horror And His 91 Films in the UK

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pub: McFarland & Co Inc. 465 page illustrated indexed enlarged paperback. Price: 34.50 (UK), 36.00 euro. ISBN: 978-0-7864-4495-3).

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It is obvious from reading this book that writers Deborah Del Vecchio andTom Johnson are full of admiration for Peter Cushing's acting career covering 91 films, with only four that were poorly released and lacked full info that were scantily covered. However, if you were just expecting the synopsises and commentary to be solely focused on Cushing himself then that is not the case. Each story has a detailed synopsis and the commentary gives bios for many of his co-stars and directors as well as what they thought of the man himself giving a vivid picture of the late actor It's hard to believe that, at the time of writing this review, that Peter Cushing has been dead some twenty-five years.

Peter Cushing was an amiable nice man, quite contrary to the many parts he played over the years as the villain, often selecting roles that would please his public. He didn't actually like horror films but preferred adventure and drama. Indeed, his acceptance in so many horror movie roles was because he never liked to let his fans down that enjoyed them. It is no wonder then that so many Hammer and Amicus produced horror films are here. Reading this book and you cover most of their output, too. Likewise, the range into other films clearly showed that Cushing would do whatever was asked of him in drama, adventure and, towards the end of his career, even light comedy. As an actor, he was a real trooper moving between starring and bit parts solely because he enjoyed work and after the death of his wife, Helen, to keep himself occupied.

There is also insight into his hobbies as a painter and model-maker which I wish was explored a little more considering how much was made of them, especially when there's a photo of a model based on a set from 'The Seven Golden Vampires' shown. People often think of actors solely as actors so this was a nice revelation.

Cross-references are made to his television work and guest-appearances which would no doubt make for a book of their own. If anything, it gives a remarkable insight into how busy an actor's life can be. Peter Cushing went into his work prepared far beyond what the script says and had a reputation for making good use of the props.

The book is properly indexed and with a lot of well-produced black and white photographs of Cushing with film and production stills, together with the odd poster. I should also point out that this is a reprint of the 1992 edition in case you have, worn out or ever wanted a copy.

A couple niggles. It would have made a lot more sense in the headers to have the titles of the films for quick reference than the extended chapter title. Yes, the book is indexed but if you wanted to do a random read, it would have made it easier.

Considering how much is said about Peter Cushing's late wife, Helen, it's a shame that there was no photograph of her included. In the 1972 film, 'Tales From The Crypt', he used a photo of her as part of the role of a widow grieving for his wife and to ensure she would at least have a brief role in his film career.

A few credit details should have been proof-read better, especially when Jon Pertwee's name was spelt correctly in the cast credits for the 1970 film 'The House That Dripped Blood' and wrong in the synopsis. Likewise, a 1982 film called 'Sword Of The Valliant' as Wilfred Brambell as Wilfred Bramwell. Oddly enough I wasn't reading all the credits as much of them and who they were was in the synopsises but my unconscious eye picked those out when scanning. I know getting details right is a tedious business but it only took me all of a few seconds to check.

Having said all of that, this is a book that I really enjoyed. When you have a book of films you expect to be bogged down getting through it. If anything, the depth and insight given just made me happy to read until the end.

If you're interested in Peter Cushing's career then this book deserves to be on your shelves and heavily read. You won't be disappointed.

GF Willmetts

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