It’s Murder In Seaford


In 2018 two features were filmed in Seaford. While this may have been an unusual occurrence, it wasn’t unprecedented. In the late 1960s two crews came to the town with murder in mind.

Until lockdown we were in for a real treat with the release of Hope Gap, filmed on location in Seaford. A gala performance in the town’s Barn Theatre and a special screening at Lewes’ venue The Depot were planned.

Watching the trailer, Hope Gap doesn’t just feature brilliant performances from Bill Nighy and Annette Benning but also beautiful footage of the Sussex town. Swooping drone shots of the coastline from Seaford Head, that famous view of the Seven Sisters, the station and the Hope Gap of the title, all feature.  

There’s currently no trailer available, of Summerland but the one brochure shot released, of Gemma Arterton by the Coastguard Cottages, is a beauty. Both films should see a fair few people consider Seaford for a day trip once we come out of isolation. 

But Seaford’s two 60s features are a lot darker, not in the way they were shot but in terms of subject matter. It’s doubtful anyone would have flocked to the coast, on seeing either of them!

At the time of filming, Peter Cushing had tried to shake off his Hammer Horror image, playing Doctor Who in two feature films for Amicus. Now he turned to murder but not in the Kensington gore, gothic horror style of Hammer. His performance in Corruption, playing a serial killer in the present day, is quite a departure.

If you can stomach it, Corruption is a curious watch. Very much influenced by the recent swing in the 60s, sex and violence are portrayed in a raw and real way.  

Plastic surgeon Sir John Rowan (Peter Cushing) accidentally knocks over a lamp at a party he’s attending with his much younger fiancée Lynn (Crossroads’ Sue Lloyd). With shades of Frankenstein, Rowan goes on a killing spree to get the pituitary glands needed to fix her face.

The surgery seemingly a success, the couple take a holiday and rent a cottage near Hope Gap. But Rowan is forced to kill again when Lyn’s face starts melting, with one such murder happening on a train from Seaford to Lewes. Watching it, you’ll never moan about our less than private, first class carriages again! 

“No woman will dare go home alone after seeing this. Therefore, no woman will be admitted alone to this super shocker!” 

With a rather sexist trailer, tagline, and gimmick, it’s not surprising Corruption received a poor reception, but it has since become something of a cult. The success of the Austen Powers movies led to a re-evaluation of an era in film history where colour exploded along with our morals. 

“Corruption finds a pitch of cinematic madness and holds there for most of the picture, remaining taut, with a pinch of sleaze for seasoning.” Brian Orndorf, 

Horror returned to Seaford with the 1970 released A Fragment of Fear. This time the scare factor was more psychological. 

A reformed drug addict (David Hemmings) visits the hotel where his murdered Aunt lived and gets embroiled in a mystery that leads him to question his sanity. 

Although not set in Seaford, the exterior of the Esplanade Hotel, which burnt down in 1976, is used. David Hemmings approaches the Hotel on a typically rainy and windswept day, with the prom and Martello Tower (complete with upstairs flat) also glimpsed.

Trivia: The hotel was the first stage of plans by the landowners to turn Seaford into a mini-Brighton, with a pier planned for opposite the Hotel. 

“The poster promised “A Phantasmagoria of Fright”, but director Richard C Safarian’s disappointing adaptation of John Bingham’s novel delivers very little of anything.” wrote the Radio Times. 

Watched now, the appearance of sitcom stars Arthur Lowe, Yootha Joyce and Patricia Hayes cuts through the suspense, but the film still manages to be quite tense and engrossing. It’s also less of its time than Corruption. Lowe would himself visit the area – Seaford Head to be precise – in August / September 1970, to film the Dad’s Army movie.

Trivia: The role of Columbus is credited as being played by “A London Pigeon”. 

So, when you eventually settle down to watch either Hope Gap or Summerland, no matter what you think of the films, you can take solace in the fact you’re not coming out of the cinema shaken and stirred.