Peter Cushing will forever be synonymous with horror. The actor’s work with Hammer Films helped cement his place in movie history; while his role in Star Wars also showed that he was equally at home playing the villain (and intimidating even Darth Vader in the process). However, there is much more to Cushing and David Miller’s Peter Cushing: A Life In Film, brings that to the fore.
Miller’s book is incredibly well researched and he has some interesting tales of young Cushing as a struggling actor, making his way in America and finding work with Laurel and Hardy. However, fans will mainly be enthralled by the coverage of his Hammer work as well; as the eponymous Doctor in Dr. Who And The Daleks (1965) and its sequel, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D (1966).
Cushing fitted a lot into his 81 years and one thing that the reader can take away from Miller’s book is that Cushing was first and foremost a gentleman in the true sense of the word and a man who was devoted to his wife Helen. The book mainly deals with his screen work, which is a veritable who’s who of classic characters (Van Helsing, Dr Frankenstein, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and the aforementioned Dr Who). It’s the actor’s screen partnership with his good friend and Dracula co-star Christopher Lee which has made his mark in the world of cinema and the pair shared the screen more than twenty times during the course of their careers.
Peter Cushing: A Life In Film features some wonderful images; behind the scenes photographs sit side by side with studio publicity stills and classic movie posters, making this a joy to look at as well as read. Miller’s book is an interesting study into Cushing’s career, but the main flaw of the book is that the author is almost too gushing. It’s easy to see from the prose that Miller is a great fan of Cushing and because of this, there’s very little criticism of the actor – I’m not saying that he had to do a hatchet job, but a little perspective would have been nice. Having said that, Peter Cushing: A Life In Film is a great overview of an iconic actor, with a major focus on a wonderful career.