Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Kieron Moore, no more


Kieron Moore died last month. An Irish actor who did proper work on the stage and was Count Vronsky in the Vivien Leigh version of Anna Karenina, and also a dead ringer for Greg Rusedski when he smiles, he is better known as the beefcake star of two splendid 1960's British horror films, in both of which he is cast oddly against type.
In Day of the Triffids (1962) he appears in the lighthouse sequences shot after Steve Sekely's first cut of the film (which starred Howard Keel, you'll remember, as something like the main character in John Wyndham's novel) was finished and found to be singularly lacking in thrills. So an entirely new subplot was written and filmed by director Freddie Francis to beef things up a bit, with Moore and Janette Scott trapped by Triffids in a Cornish lighthouse. And it is Moore who makes the climactic discovery that, although these seemingly invincible walking plants are holding the entire planet in a grip of terror, all it takes to kick their ass is salt water. Despite this, perhaps so as not to steal any of Keel's thunder, his character is a miserable, unpleasant alcoholic for some reason unhappy about the prospect of being stuck in a lighthouse with Janette Scott.
And in Doctor Blood's Coffin (1960) he is Dr Blood himself: Dr Peter Blood, that is. The surprise here is that as well as the hunky lead, romancing Hazel Court (the actress for whom Eastmancolor was invented) he is at the same time the villain, kidnapping innocent Cornishfolk, paralyzing them with curare and then taking out their still-beating hearts. His motive is that which seems to drive all horror movie doctors: to bring the dead back to life. (Nobody ever seems to stop and ask them why. They say it's wicked, dangerous, meddling in things best left alone, daring to play God and all that. But nobody says: "Yes, but why exactly?")
At the end, he revives Court's late husband at the bottom of a tin-mine, and expects her to be pleased as she encounters a shambling ghoul with green mould all over its face.
Doctor Blood's is one of my absolute favourite British horrors, partly for the reasons made obvious by the paragraph above, but also because it was filmed in the (to me) familiar surroundings of Zennor, Cornwall. Which means, unlike the vast majority of studio-bound films of this era, you can actually walk through the set of Dr Blood's Coffin any time you fancy. Imagine living there!
Kieron Moore probably thought of both films as strictly rent-paying assignments, but I've watched Dr Blood's twice already this year, and counting.

Kieron Moore, 5.10.1924 - 15.7.2007