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Peter Cushing: The Scare Master

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Elegant, ever so English, with piercing blue eyes and Grinch-like cheekbones, Peter Cushing was, from the ’50s on, the actor horror directors called when they needed a cold, clinical type. He died of cancer at 81 on Aug. 11, leaving behind a vaultful of more than 80 films, most scary. Three of his best:

*Hamlet (1948, Paramount). Before he struck graveyard-flick pay dirt, Cushing was a member of Laurence Olivier’s Old Vic theatrical troupe. Here, he takes a droll, foppish turn as the courtier Osric. A

*The Horror of Dracula (1958, Warner). In one of his first fright films, he makes stake-brandishing Van Helsing a thoroughly compelling compulsive. A-

* Star Wars (1977, FoxVideo). He exudes urbane menace as Grand Moff Tarkin, especially when he lets the rebels escape and deadpans, ”I’m taking an awful risk, Vader. This had better work.” A