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Film / Captain Clegg

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Captain Clegg is a 1962 movie produced by Hammer, starring Peter Cushing. Although Hammer are known for their horror movies, and this one was even released as Night Creatures in North America, this isn't a particularly frightening movie, and it doesn't try to be one. It's more of a crime thriller, set in the late 1700s.

With the Napoleonic War looming, Britain and France increase their mutual tariffs, which is really too bad for any Englishman who wants fine wine, brandy, or gin. Therefore, the south-east coast quickly becomes a haven for smuggling, and the navy sends Captain Collier (Patrick Allan) down to that area to investigate the town of Dimchurch, in the supposedly-haunted Romney Marshes. The town is also the burial place of the notorious pirate Captain Nathaniel Clegg, whom Collier chased halfway around the world. The town's sweet-natured vicar, Parson Blyss (Cushing, at his most stork-like) receives the sailors with all friendliness, but is peculiarly unhelpful. The audience quickly learn that Blyss is the chief of the smuggling operation, which also includes the witty undertaker, Jeremiah Mipps (the always-delightful Michael Ripper), and the town innkeeper, the aptly-named Mr. Rash (Martin Benson). Rash's young ward/waitress, Imogene (the incredibly sexy Yvonne Romain) is in love with Harry Cobtree (a young Oliver Reed), son of the local squire (Derek Francis), and they plan to run away together.


What is the secret of the ghosts in Romney Marshes? How does it relate to the smuggling scheme? And what is the secret of Captain Clegg?

A highly entertaining film, that's what.

Actually an adaptation — see Doctor Syn ("The Scarecrow").

This movie provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: In the novel Doctor Syn, on which the film is based, the central character is named — well, Doctor Syn. This film changed it to "Doctor Blyss" to avoid legal issues with Disney, who had produced their own adaptation of the story.
  • Character Title — although with a twist.
  • Chandelier Swing: Used as a means of escape. But is interrupted by a bullet.
  • Cool Hat: There's actually a minor arc built around Captain Collier's bicorn hat. Early in the film, Blyss asks him to remove his hat in church, and Collier responds that he would if he were "here in service of my Maker", but at the moment, his duty to the King supersedes his religious duties. See What a Senseless Waste of Human Life below for how this finally resolves itself.
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  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Oliver Reed gave himself a bullet wound in his arm while shaving. Also the death of Tom Ketch.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Is Imogene named after a ship?
  • Deadpan Snarker: Blyss and Mipps. Blyss manages to do the whole thing with so innocent a smile that you're never sure if he's being deliberately snarky or not.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Averted with the stable lad at Rash's inn, who might qualify as Ugly Cute if he's lucky.
  • Doomed Appointment: Collier comes to town to meet with a man named Tom Ketch, who tipped him off about the smugglers. Ketch dies in the opening scene.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: "Clegg was bad, but he was never a coward or a traitor."
  • Final Speech
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: There now exists a psychobilly band called Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: The smugglers are willing to murder a man who threatens to expose their operation, but Collier can be a real Jerkass, too, as he exercises the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. For most of the movie, you don't know which side you're supposed to support.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Rash, and later, Clegg.
  • Inspector Javert: Collier.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Blyss/Clegg is a severe badass when the need arises.
  • Lovable Rogue: All the smugglers. Except Rash.
  • Lost Wedding Ring: When Imogene and Harry are married at the end, the ceremony briefly falters for lack of a wedding ring, but Mipps produces one taken from a tapestry hanging. It's an oddly sweet romantic-comedy moment in the climax of a swashbuckling adventure movie.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Imogene is Clegg's daughter.
  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: Clegg faked his own death. The hangman was one of his guys, implicitly Mipps. But he still has a big old scar.
  • Meaningful Name: Rash and Blyss.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: The stable lad.
    Lad: [looking at a sailor's tattoo] I know how to tie that knot!
    Sailor: You want to be a sailor when you grow up?
    Lad: No, sir! I want to be hangman! String 'em up! And cut 'em down!
  • Non-Indicative Name: It was released as Night Creatures in some places because Hammer had promised its American distributor a movie of that title. The original plan was to do yet another adaptation of the novel I Am Legend under that name, which fell through after finding out that their original plan would probably be banned in Britain.
  • No Name Given: The "mulatto" guy. Justified, because he can't talk: he had his tongue cut out by Captain Clegg for treason (specifically, attacking Mrs. Clegg). Also Collier's boatswain, who serves as a sort of Recurring Extra type character.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, as Collier's boatswain observes: both the local barmaid and Clegg's pirate ship are given the fairly uncommon name of "Imogene". Although he doesn't realize the significance of this...
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: See Adaptation Name Change; Disney owned the name "Doctor Syn" at this point. Still, it's hard to disguise that Parson Blyss is in fact the Reverend Doctor Syn, under an alias (appropriately enough).
  • Pietà Plagiarism: The final scene of the movie.
  • Psycho for Hire: Rash, probably the only truly evil person in the movie.
  • The Reveal: Generally averted, as the film prefers to more subtly let us figure out that Blyss and Clegg are the same person.
  • Revealing Injury: After Collier shoots the scarecrow, he's on the lookout for a man with a wounded arm, leading to this exchange:
    Collier: "Why did you flinch when I took your arm?"
    Dr. Blyss: "Oh, it wasn't my arm, Captain.—You trod on my foot."
  • Scary Scarecrows: Used as lookouts by the smugglers. Nevertheless, there's something creepy about Oliver Reed's eyes looking out of a scarecrow's mask.
  • Sidekick: Mipps. To a lesser extent, Cpt. Collier's boatswain.
  • Sinister Minister: Parson Blyss smuggles liquor...
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax
  • Shout-Out: One of the sailors is named Smee.
  • The Speechless: The mulatto. Clegg cut the man's tongue out, split his ears, and left him to die on some island, before Collier found him. Although it's hard to feel too sorry for him, considering that he "attacked" Clegg's wife, causing her to die in childbirth.
  • Taking the Bullet: Clegg jumps in front of a spear to save Mipps.
  • That Man Is Dead
  • Undying Loyalty: Both Mipps and Harry are unwilling to betray Blyss under any circumstances.
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: A subtle example: Collier takes off his hat when Clegg is killed.
  • Wife Husbandry: Imogene has been Rash's ward since she was a little kid. Think about that when he tries to grope her.
  • Worthy Opponent: Blyss and Collier, to each other.


Example of: