Friday, December 06, 2019

Flashback Friday: Peter Cushing's TALES OF A MONSTER HUNTER Paperback from 1977

Peter Cushing's Tales of a Monster Hunter (1978)
As you might imagine, the Geekerati library is filled with volumes containing tales of Sword & Sorcery, Sword & Planet, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and not a small amount of Horror. One of the books I am proudest to have in the library is the 1978 paperback printing of Peter Cushing's Tales of a Monster Hunter.

It is unlikely that the volume was actually edited by Mr. Cushing, as the copyright lists both him and Peter Haining and Cushing's autobiographical Preface is written in third person. Peter Haining was an anthologist of horror tales who had a number of volumes printed in the late 70s and early 80s. Setting that aside, there is reason to think that Cushing provided feedback to the selections and even if he didn't the stories collected in the anthology pair nicely with a Cushing/Hammer Films marathon.

Here is a brief overview of the contents of the book.

How I Became a Monster Hunter by "Peter Cushing" is a biographical essay that gives a very good overview of Cushing's acting career and has some nice quotations from Cushing himself.

The Masked Ball by Alexandre Dumas is a very short story that is included in the book because of Cushing's very small role in The Man in the Iron Mask. Like all the stories in this volume, there is some connection between the tale and Cushing's career.

The Mortal Immortal by Mary Shelley is a reminder that the creator of modern science fiction wrote more than just Frankenstein. Given that much of Cushing's career was spent portraying various versions of Dr. Frankenstein, a Shelley story is a must.

Dracula's Guest by Bram Stoker is an episode that, according to its introduction in Tales, was excluded from the novel due space restrictions imposed on Stoker by his editor. Cushing's connection to Dracula in his portrayal of Van Helsing is well known and it has been argued is one of the inspirations for the Cleric class in D&D.

In the Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman by Joseh Nesvadba is a Yeti tale that is included due to Cushing's performance in The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. This is not the story that inspired the film, which was a teleplay, but it bears some similarities in tone to the underappreciated film.

The Ring of Thoth by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle connects with Cushing's career in two ways. Cushing played Sherlock Holmes on the big screen in Hound of the Baskervilles and he also starred in a Hammer version of the Mummy story. "The Ring of Thoth" isn't a Holmes tale, but it is a Mummy yarn and one that makes me wonder if Robert E. Howard had a copy on his shelf. Howard's Thoth-Amon sought his Serpent Ring of Set in the first Conan tale.

The Gorgon by Gertrude Bacon is a Victorian tale that makes use of the Greek legend of the Gorgon. Cushing had starred as the villain in the 1964 Hammer film The Gorgon and there are few enough tales of the creature that this makes a nice addition to the book. The Hammer film is much better than its effects and is one of a list of Hammer productions I wish could be remade with the same caliber of performances but with modern effects.

The Man Who Collected Poe by Robert Bloch is the first tale in the volume that Cushing actually performed in an adaptation of during his career. The story is adapted in the film Torture Garden (1967) where Cushing plays the "bibliophile."

The Ghoul of Golders Green by Michael Arlen is only connected to Cushing's career in that he starred in a film called The Ghoul in 1974 which was based on an original screenplay by John Elder. There are few enough tales of ghouls, so the tale fits even if the connection is limited.

There Shall Be No Darkness by James Blish is the final tale in the volume and it is a great story to finish with as it served as the basis for the film The Beast Must Die. A recent Vulture article recommended watching this film before or after watching Knives Out. If you've ever played the game Werewolf, you really should check this movie out as it provides the audience with a short "Werewolf Break" in order for the audience to guess which character is the werewolf. It's great fun.


 

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