The Monster Club (1980) – movie review

the monster club pic 3

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.

the monster club pic 8

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

And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973) – Amicus Films – movie review

and now the screaming starts pic 1

And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Starring: Peter Cushing, Ian Ogilvy, Stephanie Beacham, Herbert Lom, and Patrick Magee

This is the only Amicus Films pre-1900’s gothic period piece. It starts with a ride in a horse-drawn coach and a small introduction narrative. Catherine and Charles Fengriffen are newly married and Catherine is being shown around the castle estate. Stephanie Beachman looks and now the screaming starts posterwonderful as Catherine in her Victorian dress, bustier showing an impressive amount of cleavage. Charles, (Ian Ogilvy) is showing her the family ancestral portraits when she is unduly mesmerized by a painting of Henry (Herbert Lom), grandfather to Charles. Soon there are strange occurrences tormenting the young newlywed. Windows open and doors lock by themselves. An eyeless apparition of a man with no right hand appears. A disembodied hand attacks Catherine. Subsequently friends, workers and servants of the family begin to die. I imagine at the time some of these scenes would have been quite chilling. I have to say Beacham does scream quite a bit in this film, which, as an old-time horror fan, gives me an enjoyable satisfaction.

When Catherine is discovered to be with child, examined by a secretive family doctor, Dr. Whittle (Patrick Magee), the details of the haunting begin to make themselves known. The woodsman that lives on the property is suspect of the mounting murders but the story is not so simple. When Charles calls in a doctor from London, played by the impeccable Peter Cushing, it certainly elevates the mystery aspect. He portrays a psychiatrist and now the screaming starts pic 5looking to find the facts, a character reminiscent of his role as Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles. He discovers there is a curse upon the house and the male children that are born within it, associated with the philandering ancestor, Henry Fengriffen. It is up to Dr. Pope to discover if this curse is real or imagined, supernatural or by the hands of the living.

If you can put yourself in the mindset of the era, you may enjoy the tale that unfolds. I can’t say it would be to everyone’s tastes, but if you like the slower story-telling pace of 60’s and 70’s films and you like period pieces, this is a good viewing choice. It’s not the best of its kind, but eerie nevertheless. Despite the dated effects and style, it is a decent gothic story with both mystery and paranormal aspects. It’s visually colorful and vibrant, and looks great in HD (not always the case with older films). The film is based on the novel Fengriffen by David Case, written for screen by Roger Marshall and deftly directed by Roy Ward Baker.

oakley court

Trivia: The gothic estate used in the film is Oakley Court, now a 4-star Hotel near Bray village, Berkshire England. The estate was also used in, The Brides of Dracula (1960), Nightmare (1963), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Bells of St. Trinian’s (comedy-1954) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).

This review is part of a series I am doing to review all the Amicus horror films.
You can check out all the reviews from links at this page:
Amicus Films – overview



Vault of Horror (1973) – Movie review – Amicus films

vault of horror

Vault of Horror (1973)

(aka: Tales from the Crypt II)

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Starring: Terry Thomas, Curt Jergens, Tom Baker

Although named after the EC Comic, Vault of Horror, these shorts are all based on stories from the Tales From the Crypt comic with the exception of one, which was from the Shock SuspenStories comic. There is no Cryptkeeper in this film as there was in the comics and first Tales From the Crypt film.

Five men enter an elevator on different floors. The elevator brings them to the basement even though none had pressed the button for that level. When the doors open there is a table with food and drink. The enter the small room to investigate and the elevator doors shut. There are no buttons on the panel to call the elevator back so the men resign to sit and wait. They begin to talk trying to find a common denominator as to why they are there. Thus, we are introduced to stories as told by each man.

Midnight Mess – A man tracks down his sister in a small town and murders her so he’ll be the sole inheritor of their Vault_Of_Horror - comic style coverparent’s estate. Pleased with his handy work he goes into town to dine. The local patrons of the restaurant soon sprout fangs and the man may become the main course. However, the man’s sister arrives even though he was sure she was dead. Will she save him or join the feast of blood?

The Neat Job – An obsessive compulsive neat freak, Arthur, constantly nags at his wife about putting things in order and keeping the home neat. She fails miserably. One night he comes home from work to find his basement tools in disarray and goes on a tirade, verbally attacking her about it. She is still holding a hammer and she finds the perfect place for it. This is the best segment mostly because of the fine acting by Terry Thomas.

This Trick’ll Kill You – A magician witnesses an amazing trick while touring India with his wife. A woman plays a flute and a rope rises from a basket and into the air. Not able to get the secret from the performers, he lures the woman to his hotel room for a private demonstration and kills her. He then plays the flute and the rope rises into the air for him. But the rope knows its rightful owner and exacts revenge for her.

Bargain in Death –  Two men pull off an scam faking one’s death for the insurance money. After the ‘death’ the other man is to go dig up the ‘dead’ man and revive him. However, he leaves the man to suffocate, keeping all the insurance money for himself. But little does he know that someone else is digging up the graves for an unrelated reason and fate has a plan to bring both men their just rewards.

vaulthorror pic 2Drawn and Quartered – A painter learns that an art dealer has sold his painting for top dollar, even though the dealer told him it was worthless and purchased it for almost nothing. The painter goes to a voodoo priest and is endowed with a special magic. Everything he paints can inflict damage to the real subject if the painting is damaged. So he paints portraits of the art dealer and his associates, then destroys them causing the men’s deaths. But the magic is also a curse, one the painter will soon learn.

When the men are finished telling their stories, the elevator doors open onto a cemetery. The walk out one-by-one and fade into the mist.

While ‘Vault…’ was filmed competently, it is lackluster compared to the previous year’s Tales From the Crypt. A couple of the tales are interesting but in general the film doesn’t engage the excitement of other Amicus anthology features. The twist endings are quite obvious and telegraphed and not delivered in a manner that will shock the viewer. Unfortunately, the version most of us have seen of this film an edited version with some of the violence cut out. The only full version on the market was the Vipco released version. However, I doubt the few cuts they have made for the PG version would bring much to the film. I would say that this would only be enjoyed by fans Amicus and completists who want to see all the Amicus Anthologies.

For Links to all the other Amicus Anthologies I have reviewed thus far, click here:
Amicus Films Overview

Asylum (1972) – Movie review – Amicus Films

Asylum dvd coverAsylum (1972) – movie review

Written by Robert Bloch and directed by Roy Ward Baker. Stars, Robert Powell, Patrick Magee, Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Charlotte Rampling and Barbara Parkins. A Doctor Martin shows up at an Asylum for a job interview as head doctor. A wheelchair bound Dr. Rutherford (Magee), the Asylum’s administrator, explains that the previous head doctor had suffered a mental breakdown and is now one of the patients at the institute. He then gives Dr. Martin a test to see if he is worthy of the job. If he can interview the patients on the second floor and discover which patient is his predecessor, he would basically have the job. An orderly, Max, escorts him from room to room, to meet each patient. Thusly, each interview takes the viewer into a different story.

While House that Dripped Blood used a minimalist style musical score, Asylum uses bold musical pieces by Modest Mussorgsky. The intro credits are accompanied by the powerful ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ as Dr. Martin drives up to the ominous asylum building. My favorite piece plays as Dr. Martin ascends the asylum stairs while observing disturbing paintings upon the walls showing harsh treatment of mental patients through history. The piece ‘Gnomus’ from Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures of an Exhibition’ accompanies the scene and is quite foreboding and sinister with its dissonant harmonies and broad brass blasts.

Frozen Fear – in the first room we are introduced to a woman named Bonnie. She recounts the tale of how she plotted with her married lover to kill his wife. The husband, Walter, chops his wife to bits and wraps the pieces in brown butcher paper, asylum pic 4placing the pieces neatly in a basement freezer. However, the wife having studied voodoo can not die and the separate pieces crawl out of the freezer looking for revenge.

The Weird Tailor – tells a story of how a suspicious Mr. Smith (Peter Cushing) came into the Tailor’s shop with a unique fabric and pattern asking him to make this suit for him. When the tailor finishes, days later, he delivers the suit to Smith. He then learns of the suits magic powers of resurrection and Smith’s intentions for the suit. Trying to stop him he accidentally kills Smith and returns to his shop with the magic suit. However, when he awakens, he discovers his wife has put the suit on a mannequin and the mindless humanoid knows only to kill. This is my favorite segment of the film.

In Lucy Comes To Stay a young lady, Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) relays the story of how she had been watched closely because of a prior mental breakdown. She felt like a prisoner in her own home due to the watchful eyes of her brother George and her nurse. It wasn’t until her good friend Lucy (Britt Ekland) came for a visit that she saw her only chance at freedom.

Mannikins of Horror – In this segment, a Dr. Byron (Herbert Lom) is a scientist that is working on transferring his soul asylum pic 8into a small toy robot by filling its insides with his own biological makings. He can telepathically control the small version of himself through meditation. However, the small toy is an evil incarnation of Dr. Byron that breaks contact with his master and does his own bidding. This segment is unintentionally humorous because watching the miniature toy with Herbert Loms head walking around can only be regarded as comical.

The film wraps up with a reveal to Dr. Martin, a couple of murders and a ‘patients running the asylum’ ending. Aside from The Weird Tailor segment, this is probably my least favorite of the Amicus anthologies. However, I think the wrap-around story is probably one of the most interesting and developed of all the Amicus anthologies. There are some bright spots in the film and it’s definitely worth a watch for completists and those who like movies from this era.

Amicus Films overview