Sunday, October 1, 2023

Captain Clegg aka Night Creatures

I wish I had known about this film when I was still writing here regularly. I had Theme Months and I very much wanted to do Pirate Film Month.  Probably in September, which has Talk Like a Pirate Day. But I just couldn’t find enough. I found a few films with scalawags and clergy, but it tended just to be pastoral cameos. Such as the Impressive Clergyman (Peter Cook) in The Princess Bride who performs the wedding ceremony. But he isn’t quite the focal point of the film.

If I had only known about this film, Captain Clegg aka Night Creatures. Captain Clegg was a pirate captain who was captured and hanged. But not really. A noose was put around his neck and the trap door opened, but the executioner got soft and cut him down, leaving only scars but the neck wasn’t broken. And Clegg takes on a new persona, Parson Blyss in the village of Dymchurch on the Romney Marsh.

Though in ministry, he hasn’t given up on the business of smuggling. Now using the funds to help the poor and oppressed in Dymchuch. So he puts on his clerical collar to preach and lead hymns on Sunday mornings and dawns a skeleton costume to do his skullduggery at night. But the British Navy eventually begins to suspect the good reverend and things go south for him and his comrades.

Did I mention Clegg/Blyss is played by one of Hammer Studios’ horror stars, Peter Cushing? Christopher Lee is not to be found, but Oliver Reed is one of Cleggs’ stalwarts, Harry Cobtree. As part of their plan of deception, Cobtree dresses like a scarecrow. Which might make you think this sounds much like Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow, but actually that film came out a year later.

But how is Dr. Blyss as a pastor? He seems to fill his sanctuary quite well and people sing along with the hymns quite hardily. We see him perform a wedding ceremony, but it’s not clear if he does so under his clerical or nautical authority.

The real question is whether the works he does for the poor have a little less eternal value since he comes by the finances through illegal means. I’m afraid that really isn’t okay. So, if I was using my old Movie Churches Steeple Ratings, he would rate a One Steeple Ministry.

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