Based on the Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn series of books by Russell Thorndike — just like Disney’s The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh which was released a year later — this Hammer film was called Night Creatures* in the U.S.
A sailor (Milton Reid, who wrestled as The Mighty Chang and showed up in three Bond movies) has his tongue removed fromhis mouth and is left behind to die on an island after attacking the wife of pirate captain Nathaniel Clegg.
However, when we get back to England, the prevailing theory is that Clegg has been hung by the Royal Navy and rests in the Romney Marsh. However, by night, glowing spectral riders known as the Marsh Phantoms are terrorizing the people of the village of Dymchurch.
Captain Collier rescued that sailor and keeps him as a slave. He arrives in the village to investigate rumors of smuggling, attacking bars and safehouses before he finds a secret passage in the home of Jeremiah Mipps (Michael Ripper), a coffin maker, that leads to the smugglers’ headquarters. When the mute sailor goes into their lair, he meets clergyman Dr. Blyss (Peter Cushing), who he attacks and even tries to open the grave of Clegg.
Is Clegg still alive? Is he one of the phantoms that roam the night? Are the villagers in on it? All of these questions have very easy answers, but this film has so much style that you just enjoy it. It’s directed by Peter Graham Scott, who created Into the Labyrinth, which aired in the U.S. as part of Nickelodeon’s The Third Eye, along with The Haunting of Cassie Palmer, Under the Mountain, Children of the Stones and The Witches and the Grinnygog. It was written by Anthony Hinds, who wrote a ton of films for Hammer, including The Curse of the Werewolf**, The Kiss of the Vampire, The Reptile, Frankenstein Created Woman, Taste the Blood of Dracula and many more.
In Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, the band in the movie is Captain Clegg & the Night Creatures. It’s Jesse Dayton, who played as the band Banjo and Sullivan for The Devil’s Rejects.
*Hammer was planning to adapt the Richard Matheson story I Am Legend into a film that would be titled Night Creatures. The British Board of Film Classification told them that they would not pass the film — the script must be sent to the BBFC before a movie is filmed — and because Hammer had promised Universal a movie with that title, Captain Clegg became Night Creature.
**The werewolf star from that movie — Oliver Reed — is in this in a rare heroic role.