Can you be excited to see someone and terrified at the same time?
Absolutely. That’s how I’ve felt most of my life about Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, the iconic duo from Hammer Films.
Their movies gave me nightmares as a kid – the otherworldly creatures, the bright Hammer Films blood, the eerie woods (someone always got lost in the woods), that startling music and those faces. (If you’re wondering what I was doing watching these movies when I was very young, blame my dad. But that’s a topic for another post.)
I know Cushing often played the kindly, intelligent professor or scientist (until he went mad with power as he did as Victor Frankenstein), but there was an unsettling quality about his face despite the fact he was a good-looking man. His patrician nose, attractive widow’s peak and angular cheeks that grew sharper as he aged gave him the look of someone from another time. You can’t process that logically as a kid.
Lee was simply overpowering. Hide him under bandages as Frankenstein’s Creature or as a mummy or let him play a good guy in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1959) and his towering 6’5” frame, long face, dark eyes and deep voice could still intimidate.
Each man was a commanding screen presence, a trait new to me as a kid. Put them on screen together and it was mythical. Between those faces, the characters, the stories and their overwhelming presence they freaked me out – while hypnotizing me at the same time.