Peveril Publishing

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By Wayne Kinsey, Tom Johnson and Joyce Broughton


For those of you are unaware, 2013 marks a hundred years since the birth of arguably England’s most talented and iconic Horror actors. Peter Cushing was born on 26th May only a few miles from me. Ok admittedly our births were 59 years apart and while Peter entered the world via the picturesque suburbs of Kenley, I was shat out of the arse end of Croydon but hey. Regardless of our natal proximities however, I have always looked at Mr Cushing with great fondness. Apart from being hugely talented, unlike some of his more revered peers, he never distanced himself from the horror genre. Although he detested the term ‘horror movie’ his devotion to entertain and accommodate his legion of fans is unsurpassed.

Besides his acting endeavours, the more I learnt about Cushing as a man, the more I was enthralled by him. It is the complete opposite of having the magic of heroes and idols shattered because they are basically not very affable human beings

Unforgivably, up until recently, I had never actually read a book completely dedicated to the great man. Most of my knowledge has been gleaned from books on Hammer Horror, documentaries and DVD extras. But that all changed when I was allowed to have a sneak preview, albeit an electronic one, of a unique and heart-warming tome from Peveril Publishing.

‘THE PETER CUSHING SCRAPBOOK, a centenary celebration’ is only available directly from their website and, although it will set you back £35, let me start by dispelling any derogatory suggestions that it is simply a crude cash-in.

With a Foreword from George Lucas and an introduction from long time secretary Joyce Broughton the book is divided up into 12 chronological chapters giving the reader an intimate insight of Cushing’s journey from cradle to grave.

The word ‘scrapbook’ may erroneously give the impression of a rather hastily constructed and slapdash publication, but this is not the case. Also, even though the book begins with the rather worrying vintage photo of the actor as a toddler attired as a little girl complete with pigtails due to his mother’s yearning for a daughter, neither is this simply Cushing’s life in pictures. Along with the plethora of posters, photographs and stills of Cushing at work (and play for that matter) we get a fascinating montage of extremely rare personal documents. For example we are shown certificates Peter gained while at school Purley Grammar right through to the intriguing diary he kept when he first went to Hollywood. Ever wondered what Peter Cushing’s passport looked like? Here’s your chance! His creative talents outside the field of acting are also featured including an impressive selection of his earlier Disney-esque sketches and doodles.

Chapter 3 chronicles how he met his wife, Helen and even the most anti sentimental among us (oh that’s me!) can’t help but being moved by the efforts Mr Cushing used to go to at Valentines and birthdays to woo his special lady. We are not talking lavish Hollywood splurges of cash either. Indeed the couple were strapped for cash in the early years, but it didn’t stop Cushing treating his wife like a Queen. There are pictures galore exposing the lengths he would go to redecorate scarves as gifts. Every card that he sent Helen was exclusively fashioned by Cushing himself and a few of these are shown as examples of his romantic inclinations. His much talked about passion for creating and collecting models and toys is also evidenced offering an intimate insight into his leisurely pursuits.

The next few chapters focus on Cushing’s his early career and those of us who got into his work from the late 50’s onwards (I stand guilty as charged on that one) are enlightened to his theatrical stage work. Including an era dubbed "The Olivier years" whereby his embarking on the Old Vic Theatre Company Tour of Australia and New Zealand eventually left him in a state of exhaustion.

Rare magazine covers, awards and indeed advertisements are also weaved into the pictorial tapestry. Diverse gems such as him being the 1957 face of Nescafe. Judging by the excited and extremely alert facial expression Cushing sports, I would suggest the caffeine was working overtime! Then there was the much coveted "Pipe Smoker of the Year" accolade he was awarded in 1968, evidenced by a genuinely beaming Cushing posing alongside Veronica Carlson during the FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED shoot. Fans of the delectably elegant co-star from that movie will be no doubt mesmerised by her stunning painted portraits of Mr Cushing that have a page to themselves in the final chapter.

By Chapter 6 we are into the Hammer years and again some wonderfully rare reprints of the original scripts prove just how dedicated Cushing was to giving his all in any project. His interventions to spice up the climatic action sequences in THE MUMMY due to seeing the poster depicting light shining through the fiend’s bandaged chest is one such example. He had similar input into 1958’s DRACULA. The original scripts (including Sangster’s mistake of using the name ‘Hesling’ not ‘Helsing’) with alterations again are reprinted along with photos of a priceless copy of the original novel by Bram Stoker that is bustling with signatures from the cast and crew of Hammers 1958 classic.

The book continues in this captivating manner covering his work with Amicus, his roles as Dr Who and right through to his OBE award and concluding years making this more than simply an attractive coffee table book. With its perfect blend of text, photos and pictured artefacts, every page is absorbing and entices the reader to turn to the next.

There is no shortage of volumes on Peter Cushing available. Some are superb (even if they have been cunningly re-titled and repacked in time for May 2013…cough cough Titan cough..) but very few come close to being as meticulously researched and lovingly crafted as Peveril’s publication.

So with a full moon glowing in the May sky come midnight on the 26th, I for one will be indulging in a highly appropriate domestic screening of LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF in anticipation of receiving my copy of this essential purchase.

Review by Marc Lissenburg

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