A Recollection about the Legendary Peter Cushing
by Ralph Spitulski
(Originally printed in "From the Pretrel's Nest" - Sept. 1999)
do I begin? When I sat down to write a tribute about Peter Cushing, I thought it was going to be the easiest article I have ever written. Instead, it's become a terribly hard task. From my point of view, it would take a good ten thousand words or more to produce something even close to what I really feel, the debt I owe to him and the sense of sadness I feel about his passing years ago! Peter was my main influence as a kid and the reason I became a fan of supernatural thrillers (okay, horror if you prefer).
I don't think that there is a need to launch into a retelling of Peter's career, of how his eventual association with Hammer films and his partnership with Christopher Lee (whom I got the chance to meet in person at the Monster Rally in 1999) turned him into one of the great horror icons of the cinema!
Like that other great horror icon who also passed away some years ago - Vincent Price - his was a commanding presence on screen, and of course his hosting of "Mystery" on PBS. Sherlock Holmes, Van Helsing, and Baron Frankenstein (to name but a few) were performed by Peter Cushing with a great sense of commitment! I'd like to share my own personal experience with everyone.
My passion and enthusiasm for the horror genre really ignited in 1960. I remember standing in the rain outside the front of Rivali Theatre with my friends looking up forlornly at the poster for "The Brides of Dracula" and desperately wanting to be able to go inside. Finally, the doors opened and I remember we did not come home until the late evening! In those days you could stay without having to pay extra money for the evening shows.
Of course, we paid the penalty for watching "King Kong vs. Godzilla" as the second feature, but it was worth seeing Peter as Van Helsing again, although many of my friends remember him as Sherlock Holmes. I've has the pleasure of corresponding with him in the past, and it was such a joy to receive his letters and autographs from England! His passing effected me as if I'd lost a member of my own family. Yet we never had met in person. He was a private person, very frail in his later years and his mobility was very limited by a nasty accident resulting in a broken hip!
But putting aside the sadness, I'm sure everyone must know, that in a very real sense, Peter had been waiting for death ever since the passing of his wife, Helen, in 1971. He felt that he too had really died then, and was just bidding his time until they could be reunited.
He truly yearned for the time when they would be together again. A man of deep religious faith, Peter was convinced of this fact.
Well, that moment has come. Thank you from that kid, standing in the rain and looking up at the cinema poster. Thank you from all of us who have watched and admired your performances over the years, and thank you for the wonderful legacy of screen roles that you've left, not only for today's lovers of the macabre, but for those to come...
Peace and God's Blessing, Peter.
COPYRIGHT 1999 - Ralph Spitulski
Special thanks to Ralph Spitulski for allowing the PCA to repost his tribute.