Horror films were a major feature of the British cinema in the sixties and seventies, largely because such matter could not be seen on television, the broadcasting companies regarding it as being unfit for family viewing. Even a novelty song as innocuous as Bobby Pickett's "Monster Mash" was blacklisted by the BBC for more than a decade because of its allegedly "morbid" subject-matter. (When the ban was finally lifted in 1973 the song went to No. 3 in the charts, providing Pickett with an unexpected British hit).
The best-known British horror film studio was, of course, Hammer Film Productions. Tigon British Film Productions were less-known than their rivals but did make two of the most notable British horror films of the sixties, "The Sorcerers" and "Witchfinder General", both directed by Michael Reeves. "The Blood Beast Terror", however, is not a film in the same class.
The film starts out as a Sherlock Holmes-type murder mystery. It stars Peter Cushing, who had played Holmes himself in the 1959 version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and in a BBC television series. The setting is somewhere in England, some time in the late Victorian period. Inspector Quennell, a Scotland Yard detective, is sent to investigate a series of grisly murders in the English countryside. All the victims are young men, and all have had their throats torn open and their blood drained.
Quennell begins to suspect that the killer may be some sort of creature rather than a human being, and his investigations centre upon a country mansion named Clare House, the home of a renowned entomologist named Dr Carl Mallinger. Eventually the bizarre truth emerges. Mallinger, it transpires, has been conducting a series of experiments to breed a gigantic carnivorous moth, which has been killing the victims to feed on their blood. The moth also has the strange property (and I am not making this up) of being able to transform itself into an attractive young woman, whom Mallinger passes off as his daughter, Clare.
During the 1950s the science-fiction and horror genres gained an unenviable reputation for bad acting, nonsensical plots and cheap and unconvincing special effects. At this period it was America that was responsible for most of the worst offenders, Ed Wood's "Plan 9 from Outer Space" being the most widely cited example, although there were many others. The British film industry was a slow starter in this regard, but by the sixties it was catching up and we Brits could soon proudly boast that we could make horror films every bit as bad as those produced by our transatlantic cousins.
"The Blood Beast Terror" must surely be Britain's strongest gold medal contender in the Official Rubbish Horror Film Olympics. Cushing counted it as the worst of the many films he appeared in (and, let's face it, he appeared in some shockers). This one ticks all the requirements of the genre. Stupid plot- tick. No rational explanation is ever given as to why Mallinger should want to breed gigantic bloodsucking moths; the only explanation needed is that he is a scientist and scientists in this type of movie are, by definition, mad. Wooden acting- tick. Wanda Ventham as Clare is particularly deficient in this respect. Inane dialogue- tick. And (most important of all) bad special effects- tick, tick, tick. We only get to see brief glimpses of Clare in her moth form, but what we do see is enough to convince us that Mallinger has not only created a monster, he has created one of the most ludicrously unconvincing monsters of all time. The special effects budget must have run to about half-a-crown at the most. All these achievements suggest that "The Blood Beast Terror" has a strong claim to be regarded as the worst-ever British horror film- indeed, as the worst-ever British film, full stop. It is only the second film in more than 500 I have reviewed that I have awarded the minimum mark.
Review by James Hitchcock from the Internet Movie Database.