Film: Bloodsuckers / Incense for the Damned (1970)
Actor: Peter Cushing (as Dr. Walter Goodrich)
Director: Robert Hartford-Davies
Costume designer: Unknown
The film centers on Richard Fountain, an Oxford don who has fallen under the influence of a mysterious Greek girl and her suspicious associates. Fountain's friends visit Greece to get him back and notice that wherever he has been a number of murders have taken place. They find their friend under the spell of a beautiful vampire, whose blood-sucking methods include the use of S&M sex. Believing that they have killed her, the group return to Great Britain, unaware that their friend is now a vampire.
The costume -- jacket, trousers, suspenders and vest -- was acquired in auction, originally from the Peter Cushing estate, as personal wardrobe and not associated with a film. All pieces sport M. Berman Ltd. labels with "Peter Cushing" handwritten. Production woes might explain why the costume ended up with Cushing and not returned to Berman.
"Incense for the Damned is one of the more unusual films in the canon of cinematic vampire lore. It is also one of the more controversially debated films in the genre – and more than anybody by its director Robert Hartford-Davies who hated the ending that was forced onto the film and substituted a pseudonym.
What one does find is an impressive attempt to pare away to the centre of the vampire myth. The central metaphor the vampire film operates on – that vampirism is sublimated sexuality – is here spun out as literal fact. Edward Woodward has a scene where he potently explains vampirism is a perversion brought on by sexual impotency where the drinking of and having blood drunken serves as surrogate orgasm. This is wound into a complex metaphor that sees the Oxford academic structure as vampiric in nature – Patrick Mower has a striking speech where he stands up and denounces the parasitism of the academic system, calling provost Peter Cushing in effect the head vampire. (As a perfectly sardonic after-note, Peter Cushing stands up, apparently oblivious to Patrick Mower’s meaning and demands order). The double-side of the coin the film presents is also striking – that the only relief from a rigidly ingrained system is to be found in the youth movement. However, the youth movement is not seen as liberating, as it usually was in most films of this period, but is instead painted as inhabited by Satanic orgiastists, drug takers and murderers – exactly what some of the more extreme critics were denouncing it as. Incense for the Damned in its condemnation of both the repressive order of the class system and the wild liberation of the youth movement – yet also seeing both as deeply intertwined – makes a striking metaphor.
What does mar Incense for the Damned is the ending that was forced on against director Robert Hartford-Davies’ wishes (resulting in him having his name substituted) wherein Johnny Sekka takes Alex Davion to Patrick Mower’s coffin and hammers a stake through his heart. It is an ending that vilifies the rest of the film, which has up until that point explained vampirism away as being purely a psychological perversion."
"If you ever wanted to see Patrick Macnee and Imogen Hassall ride donkeys in a British vampire picture, then INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED is the film for you."
|A Mexican lobby card.|
|"Looks Familiar", February 2nd, 1976. Left to right: Peter Cushing, Dilys Powell|
(journalist and TV critic), Dennis Norden (presenter) and Burgess Meredith