Captain Clegg is an often-overlooked gothic fantasy picture from the Hammer Fms stable, first distributed by Universal in 1962. Based on the Dr Syn novels by Russell Thorndyke, it was for many years completely unavailable to the domestic commercial home video market, and quite hard to find. I’d even supplied a DVD dub to the film’s producer John Temple-Smith.
|Personal card from John Temple-Smith, producer of Captain Clegg, to Robert JE Simpson|
The prints that had surfaced on television over the years, and which did the trading rounds back in the 1990s and early 2000s, were all sourced from US prints of the film, under the title Night Creatures. In 2005 the film finally made its way to DVD as part of Universal’s The Hammer Horror Series collection of 8 films.
[Clegg isn’t an Exclusive film, by the way. It’s firmly a Hammer film. But as a long-time Hammer researcher, and former archivist, it comes under my area of interest, and is just tangential enough to merit inclusion here on the blog.]
That US DVD came under criticism for its incorrect aspect ratio, but it did mean the film finally got a commercial release, and many more fans could finally appreciate its fine performances (Peter Cushing is on top form) and Scooby Doo-type plotting (seriously, it’s a Scooby Doo story, down to the unmasking of mysterious phantoms).
In 2014 the film was released in the UK for the first time via Final Cut, under the UK title Captain Clegg. And then in June 2021 on the Indicator label as part of Hammer Volume Six box set, which it claimed offered a presentation of the film containing its original UK title sequence among its extras.
|Indicator’s advertised Captain Clegg Blu-ray special features list|
Earlier this week, over on Twitter, HammerGothic and I got to talking about Clegg and title sequences. And we quickly spotted a problem:
Things like original title cards from my favourite films get me disproportionately excited. Do all existing prints on DVD and Blu-ray have the US title card (Night Creatures)? First time I\’ve seen this one. https://t.co/LC0TkjAuGs
— Hammer Gothic (@HammerGothic) August 10, 2021
I had shared an image of the titles I took in 2012 from a screening of Captain Clegg at the National Media Museum in Bradford. I had programmed a Hammer thread as part of the Fantastic Films Weekend and had gone to pains to source a few genuine rarities for the audience. I’d spent some time negotiating a slightly complex situation, but had secured an actual original UK 35mm print from Universal. The film was seldom shown in the UK, had been difficult to secure, and because I was only ever familiar with the Night Creatures card, I had to photograph this for reference. It was as elusive as the original British titles for Hammer’s Dracula, and very exciting to finally see in person.
[That image has been shared via various bits of my social media over the years, and has been in a public Flickr album for quite some time.]
HammerGothic then posted this image of the title card from the Final Cut Blu-Ray:
|Captain Clegg title from the Final Cut BluRay (2014)|
Even though I’ve had the disc on my shelf for several years, I hadn’t ever got round to watching it, and so it had never occurred to me to check. But I was instantly struck because the titles were evidently not the original UK ones. They are a modern remake, using the British title, but overlayed on top of the American sequence. They’re uniform, in a slight italic, unlike the slightly haphazard alignment of the originals – which follows through into the Night Creatures caption:
|Night Creatures title card – snapped from my TV screen, apologies for the reflection!|
During the remade titles, movement in the background becomes visibly stopped. There’s a rounded almost comicbook look about them. To me, the original captions (both UK and US) suggest instability – foreshadowing the mental breakdown of the Mulatto, and the fragility of the deception that keeps Clegg’s identity hidden in the film.
We then asked around on Twitter to see if anyone could supply a shot from the new Indicator Blu-Ray, seeing as neither of us had picked it up yet. In return we were sent an image taken from his tv by HorrorPosterGuy:
|The remade Captain Clegg title as used in the Indicator Blu-Ray|
Its pretty clear then that Indicator have used the same source as Final Cut for their HD master – one that incorporates a remade title card, and not the original UK title sequence as advertised.
Having previously done a little work for Final Cut, I’m well aware that they tend to work with whatever elements are supplied to them, and are at the whim of Universal. But Indicator have earned much plaudit for their extensive extras packages, and additional research, including 8mm cut-down versions and alternate title sequences. So this oversight seems somewhat egregious.
What isn’t clear, is why a remade title card was produced for HD transfers no later than 2014, when original UK elements, at least in print form, were available in the summer of 2012. I know, because I handled them. How likely is it that Universal have subsequently junked their theatrical 35mm print? Even with an HD digital master available, I have my doubts.
At any rate, a 35mm print of Clegg is held in the archives of the BFI, so subject to clearances, it should be possible to scan a genuinely original UK title sequence for preservation and restoration purposes.
It would arguably be sensible to scan the entirety of the opening and closing captions in case of other text variances too. Looking at my photo from the 35mm screening, the lettering under the title also appears different, which means that there may be other subtle adjustments elsewhere (something I’ve noticed previously when comparing US and UK credits). It would probably also make sense to do a complete comparison of UK and US prints in these sorts of situations in case of other small alterations, otherwise overlooked. Something that is currently impossible for anyone to do domestically with this title.
Ultimately, it appears that at present, regardless of which version of Captain Clegg you buy on home video, none of them use original UK release titles, even as an extra. Hopefully now that this has been flagged* any company preparing a future release, may be able to fix this.
|Original UK title card for Captain Clegg
as screened in Bradford in 2012
* I tagged Indicator on Twitter on 10 August 2021, and asked about the remade titles within both the Hammer and Indicator fan groups on Facebook that employees of Indicator frequent, without any acknowledgement as of 17 August. I’ll update the post in the event that changes.