Ever since I've been on the internet, I've constantly suggested that the Turner Classic Movies cable television channel feature Peter Cushing as a Star of the Month, or at least give him a day during their annual Summer Under The Stars event. A few years ago, TCM featured Christopher Lee as a Star of the Month (in October of course). That got my hopes up that eventually Cushing would receive the same honor.
Now it has finally come to pass--Peter Cushing is the Star of the Month on TCM for October 2020. Should it have happened much earlier than this? Probably, but this news is one of the best things to happen in this ridiculously horrible year, so we might as well enjoy it while we can.
Every Monday night in October various Cushing films will be shown starting at 8 PM American EST, and continuing to the following early morning, a total of 25 movies in all.
An examination of the schedule reveals plenty of the "usual suspects" when it comes to Cushing's acting career, but there's more than a few surprises as well. Let's look at the schedule week by week. (All start times are American Eastern Standard Time.)
Monday, October 5-Tuesday October 6
CASH ON DEMAND 8PM
THE END OF THE AFFAIR 9:30PM
TIME WITHOUT PITY 11:30PM
JOHN PAUL JONES 1:15AM
A CHUMP AT OXFORD 6:15AM
VIGIL IN THE NIGHT 7:30AM
This is an unusual way to start off the Cushing tribute, since he has very small roles in every one of these films except CASH ON DEMAND and THE END OF THE AFFAIR. CASH ON DEMAND gets the prime time slot, as well it should, since Cushing does have a starring role in it, and it contains one of his best screen performances. (It is also a Hammer film which is not a horror movie.) The last film on this list, VIGIL IN THE NIGHT, is an example of Cushing's work in Hollywood before WWII. It also stars Carole Lombard, who was born on October 6--and because of that, TCM will be showing Lombard movies for most of the day. I point this out because Peter Cushing is my favorite actor, and Carole Lombard is my favorite actress.
Monday, October 12-Tuesday, October 13
SWORD OF SHERWOOD FOREST 8PM
DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS 9:30PM
DALEKS INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D. 11PM
VIOLENT PLAYGROUND 2:30AM
Some interesting titles here, with Cushing playing famous characters such as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Dr. Who. The 1965 Hammer version of SHE pops up on TCM often, while VIOLENT PLAYGROUND is much like the Oct. 5/6 lineup in that Cushing has a small role in it. The exceedingly sleazy CORRUPTION gets the late late late slot, which is just as well.
Monday, October 19-Tuesday, October 20
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES 8PM
HORROR OF DRACULA 9:30PM
THE MUMMY 11:15PM
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN 1AM
FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN 2:45AM
FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED 4:30AM
Hammer time here, with TCM showing most of the best horror films from the company that Cushing appeared in. I think it's kind of refreshing that THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES gets the prime time slot, instead of Cushing as either Van Helsing or Baron Frankenstein. Cushing's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes for Hammer doesn't get screened nearly as often as his Gothic horror roles. I do wish that FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED got a better time slot, since it is one of Hammer's best (although darkest) films, with Cushing at his most chilling.
Monday, October 26-Tuesday, October 27
NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT 8PM
FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE 11:30PM
SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN 1:30AM
THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA 3:15AM
DRACULA A.D. 1972 4:45AM
One would expect TCM to start things off with the two Cushing-Lee modern Dracula movies, but instead they go with the somewhat obscure NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT and MADHOUSE. FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE is one of the better Amicus anthologies that Cushing appeared in, and while SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN has its merits, PC is only in it for one scene!
All in all, I think the films being screened give a decent overall presentation of Cushing's movie career. There's some of his supporting roles before he started working for Hammer, some of this all-time horror classics, plenty of his collaborations with Christopher Lee, and a few titles that show what he had to go through due to his status as a genre star.
For those who do not own most of these titles on home video, or are not that familiar with them, or do not have the ability to record them, you might find yourselves staying up quite late (especially on October 19 and October 26). But it'll be worth it!
I'm very happy Turner Classic Movies chose to honor Peter Cushing in this way. He's always been beloved by monster movie geeks, but this gives his extraordinary acting talent a chance to be exposed to a more mainstream audience.