The Monster Club (1980) – movie review

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The Monster Club (1980) 

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Produced by Milton Subotsky
Vincent Price
Donald Pleasence
John Carradine
Stuart Whitman
Britt Ekland
Patrick Magee

This is often considered the last Amicus Film, however Amicus was dismantled shortly before working on this film. This is also the last film that Milton Subotsky worked on in his career. It is based on short stories by British horror author R. Chetwynd-Hayes who is also a main character in the film. Vincent Price plays Eramus, a vampire who attacks the author, R.Chetwynd-Hayes, played by John Carradine. When he realizes he has attacked his favorite author, he offers Chetwynd-Hayes access to a place that will give himthe monster club poster ideas for his next book. He brings him to a club where all the ghouls and creatures of the night gather. At a small table in the corner three stories are revealed. The first story concerns a Shadmock described as a lesser monster who’s only power is his demonic whistle. The Shadmock, Raven, puts out an ad to hire a personal assistant. A young man convinces his girl to take the job just so they can later rob the rich old estate owner blind. At first the young woman is fearful of Raven’s strange, deathly look. But soon it seems the Shadmock and the assistant may be falling in love. As his trust in her grows he reveals the hidden safe showing the riches of the centuries. But will the young woman steal his valuables or stay on as his assistant and let their budding love flourish? Raven puckers his lips but is it for a kiss or to whistle? The second story tells the tale of a young family who lives in a big scary house and the husband/father who ‘works nights’. A few detectives in a van start flowing the young boy and asking him questions. What does your father actually do for a living? Why does he sleep all day in the monster club pic 2the cellar? etc. The detectives finally convince little Jimmy to let them In and lead them to the cellar. They are modern day vampire hunters with wooden stakes and garlic cloves. Can Jimmy’s dad somehow survive a daytime attack? In the final story an impatient movie director, Sam, goes location hunting for his next film and finds a small town inhabited by the Humgoo (ghouls). The ghouls won’t let him leave the town, they want him to stay for dinner. They paw and grab at him like zombies, trying sluggishly to bite him. He takes sanctuary in an abandoned church where they seem reluctant to enter. There he learns the strange history of the tthe monster club pic 11own. All the stories are campy entertainment and there isn’t a moment of anything remotely scary in the whole film. The film is amusing and entertaining, but I wouldn‘t consider it much more than a novelty. Between the story segments there are full 1980’s MTV video style songs played by bands at the club with mixed results. There’s also an interesting stripper dance where the woman takes off more than her clothes. The wrap around story concludes with a social message. The undead creatures make R.Chetwynd-Hayes, an honorary member of the Monster Club, after describing what man does to his fellow man (to a montage of news clips and video) and concluding that man is the biggest monster of all.

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Be sure to view all the Amicus films I have reviewed on Parlor of Horror at this master page: Amicus Films Overview 

The Uncanny (1977) – movie review

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The Uncanny (1977)

Milton Subotsky post Amicus film
The Rank Organisation

directed by Denis Héroux

Peter Cushing
Donald Pleasence
Ray Milland
Joan Greenwood
Donald Pilon
Samantha Eggar

Awesomely creepy music puts you in the mood during the opening credits. In the first scene, Wilbur Gray, (Peter Cushing) looks nervously out his window into the dark alley and shadowed streets. He then leaves his apartment in a rush, carrying a case file. Several felines follow his moves with their eyes and in this short scene feel very ominous.

Gray enters the home of a publisher, Frank Richards (Ray Milland) who has little faith in what he has written. Gray mentions how people believe in alien conspiracies and incidents but with his theory he has proof. The publisher’s cat growls at him, to the-uncanny-movie-poster-1977which he turns to the cat and says, I know everything. He presents case files that would back up his theory that cats are evil and conspiring in tandem to take over the world from humans.

Tale one bloody and gruesome. A Maid and the Nephew of a wealthy old crone attempt to steal the Last Will and Testament that cuts the nephew out of the inheritance and leaves everything to her numerous cats. In the process, the maid winds up killing the wealthy old woman. The cats are not pleased. This turns into the Cujo moment of Catdom. Over a period of many hours the old lady’s cats bludgeon the maid to death. This film was originally given an ‘X’ – rating, presumably because of the violence in this segment.

The second story about a young girl, Lucy, orphaned that goes to her aunt and uncles stately home to live. The aunt is immediately detest over the girl’s cat. An older cousin bullies Lucy and purposely says hurtful things to her about not having parents. She accuses and blames Lucy for things she did not do. It all plays a little like a 1970’s After School Special, but it gets quite nasty in the end. The aunt has a company whisk away the cat while Lucy sleeps but the cat, Wellington, returns. The cat leads Lucy to a the uncanny pic 03book on witchcraft that belonged to her mother. After reading, Lucy tricks her bully older cousin into stepping into a Pentagon she drew in the garden greenhouse. There she reads a spell that shrinks the girl to a size, no bigger than a mouse. That is where Wellington takes over chasing the girl under the bed in some decent miniatures and back-screen effects. The cat chases the cousin out from under the bed and that is where Lucy puts her foot down on the matter of bullying.

The 3rd story is a campy affair featuring actors from the 1930s. It stars Donald Pleasance as Valentine De’ath, a horror actor and a cat hater who replaces a prop in the movie with the real thing, killing his actress wife. Now his dim-witted actress girlfriend, Edina, can take her place. At first she’s amused by the wife’s cat which Valentine calls “Scat”. Valentine sends off Scat’s newborn kittens to a pest control. Scat is not happy. The cat torments the couple in some random slap-stick antics. Meanwhile, the film ‘Dungeons of Terror’ begins re-filming only to find that Edina is a horrible actress. Attempting to coach her on a scene in the torture dungeon Scat leads Valentine to accidentally kill his new leading lady.

It’s a decent anthology in the Amicus tradition. By 1977 these stories were considered ‘old-hat’ and not very popular with the horror watching youth, but as an adult I can appreciate the old style story-telling aspects of the film. I’d say it’s worth seeing just for the violent and bloody first segment, whose gory style has never been repeated in film (not with cats, anyway).

See all my other Amicus Films and related movie reviews here:
Amicus Films – The Studio that Dripped Blood Overview

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From Beyond the Grave (1974) – Amicus Films – Movie Review

From Beyond the Grave - Cushing

From Beyond the Grave (1974)
Amicus Films

Stars: Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, Angela Pleasence, Ian Bannen, Diana Dors, David Warner, Ian Ogilvy, Margaret Leighton

Directed by Kevin Conner

This is without a doubt my favorite Amicus Films anthology film. Released in 1974, this is the first horror film I ever went to see in theaters without my parents. I wanted to go see The Exorcist, but they said no, they wouldn’t let me tfrom_beyond_the_grave_movie_poster001o see it. So they let me go see this instead (with a friend). It may have been rated- R, but (except for The Exorcist) they didn’t really check ID’s back then. If you showed up with money, you were in. The stories were adaptations from R. Chetwynd-Hayes.

The wrap-around concerns an antique shop, Temptations Limited, with a humble proprietor played by Peter Cushing. We watch as people enter the shop and each one selects an item, and then attempts to rip off the shop owner from his asking price. One changes tags with a cheaper item, another talks him down in price, saying the item is a worthless fake. Each item the customers take home has a wicked curse upon it. I often felt the series, Friday the 13th, which aired in the 1980’s, had more in common with this film than its namesake. Cursed antiquities in a shop is an excellent jumping-off point to tell many different stories.

The Gate Crasher – Edward, played by David Warner purchases an antique mirror for a pittance, claiming it was worthless. He mounts it in his apartment and everything is fine until one night when he and his friends decide to hold a séance. A spirit is trapped within the mirror and needs Edward to kill in order for him to regain his energies and escape the from beyond the grave pic 2reflective glass.

An Act of Kindness – Christopher Lowe is treated poorly by his wife and his young son has no respect for him. He stops and talks to a street vendor everyday and learns the man is a veteran. Christopher claims he is a veteran too, bragging to the man about a medal he had received. The next day he goes into the antiques shop and procures a medal, so he can show the veteran. The man invites Christopher to dinner and to meet his daughter, who is a witch. The witch kills the wife and to take her place as spouse and mother, but not for long. However, Christopher also meets his untimely demise. Stars Donald Pleasance and his daughter, Angela Pleasance, who looks exactly like her father. Despite the more intricate story, this is my least favorite of the segments found here.

The Elemental – Reggie purchases a small pill case from the shop but also inherits a small but nasty demonic entity. On the train ride home, a psychic spiritualist, Madame Orloff, tells him about the elemental and hands him a business card to call if there’s trouble. It isn’t long before he is forced to admit something is afoot and calls her in to cleanse the home. The cleansing is very comical with Madame Orloff exorcising the entity, squeezing Reggie’s face, screaming and yelling, as the home is wrecked in the process. Reggie’s wife cringes on the couch as paintings and knick-knacks fly, couch pillows arfrom beyond the grave pic 12e relieved of their feathers and winds blow through the home like a bad winter storm. The psychic claims the entity is gone, but is it?

The Door – Finally, my favorite story of the bunch concerns a wood carved door from ancient times. A young man, William, purchases the door and installs it for a closet, more as ornamentation for the room than necessity. His wife Rose finds it rather displeasing. Working late one night in the den, William sees the door open. What lies behind it is a secret blue room from the 16th Century. He enters the room and reads a journal upon a desk. He discovers the door was owned by occultist, Sir Michael Sinclair, who created the door so he would be able to walk amongst future times and live forever by capturing the souls of others. There are some creepy and suspenseful scenes in this segment as William hears footsteps approaching and each time he enters the room, the footsteps get closer to the blue room. Eventually Sir Michael kidnaps Rose and the couple has to battle him for their very souls.

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This is one of the few Amicus Films that still bears some relatively creepy scenes that haven’t completely lost their impact over time with me, most notably in The Gate Keeper and The Door segments. After seeing this as a youngster, I remember having to make sure the closet door in my room was securely closed and feeling the urge to cover my mirror with a pillowcase. It doesn’t have the same effect now, but it still remains my favorite Amicus anthology.



This review is part of a series I am doing to review all the Amicus Anthologies and horror films.

You can check out all the reviews from links at this page:
Amicus Films – overview