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"Monsters Rule O.K."
on April 29, 2004
Back in the mid 60's to early 70's, Amicus Productions (The Studio That Dripped Blood) rivaled the famous Hammer Studios and its' horror films, and the releases from the two English studios were often confused as they often used many of the same actors and directors. Amicus Productions was most famous for its' creepy horror anthologies, including The House that Dripped Blood (1970), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Asylum (1972), The Vault of Horror (1974), and From Beyond the Grave (1975). Amicus, formed by a partnership between producers Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg, dissolved in the mid 70's, as did Amicus Productions. While many fans mourned the passing of this wonderful and short-lived institution, Subotosky did go on to form Sword and Sorcery Productions, which released The Monster Club (1980), bringing back some of the magic of a time since past.
Directed by Roy Ward Baker, who also did Asylum and The Vault of Horror, along with numerous Hammer films, The Monster Club, based on a book by famed and prolific author R. Chetwynd-Hayes boasts a plethora of stars including Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasance, Britt Ekland, Stuart Whitman, and Patrick Magee, among others. There are three stories here, loosely tied together with a wrap-around story and a number of musical performances (B.A. Robertson is great performing 'Sucker for Your Love'), all wonderful in their own right.
The film starts off with the wrap-around story, as we meet a character named after the author of the book the film is based on, R. Chetwynd-Hayes (Carradine) being approached by a man looking for a bite, as he hasn't eaten in a couple of weeks. Chetwynd-Hayes offers assistance in the form of money, but the man, named Eramus (Price) isn't speaking of eating in the normal sense, as he's a vampire and takes some of Chetwynd-Hayes blood, but not to the point where he infects the author. Learning of the man's identity and feeling a debt of gratitude is due, Eramus offers to take Chetwynd-Hayes to a exclusive club, a sort of monster disco, where monsters reside, allowing for the author to gather new material for a future book. After some tongue-in-cheek humor, we are treated to three tales of varying degrees of horror.
The first tale involves couple, George and Angela, of dubious nature looking for their next scheme, and it comes in the form of a position cataloging antiquities for a odd looking man named Raven who rarely leaves his large and expansive estate. Angela applies, but soon balks as she has great apprehension about the man, given his strange appearance. George talks her into going back, and she assumes the position. He seems nice enough, despite his ghoulish appearance, and he certainly has a tempting amount of valuables ripe for the taking. Raven soon becomes enamored with Angela and proposes marriage, to which George sees as a perfect opportunity to have access to Raven's wealth. Well, things soon sour, and we learn Raven is much more than an odd-looking fellow, possessing an interesting method of dealing with those who anger him.
The second story deals with a shy, young boy and his parents, to which the father has a job that requires him to stay out all night, and sleep during the day. Also, the boy learns that he's descended from noble lineage, his father being a count. Can you guess where this is leading? Anyway, not to give too much away, the story deals with vampires and vampires hunters, and actually is the more humorous, despite its' dour beginnings, of the three tales, providing a couple of nice twists at the end. This story stars Britt Ekland and Donald Pleasance.
The third story tells a tale of a director named Sam (Whitman) scouting locations for a new horror film, looking for a village with lots and lots of atmosphere, which he finds, but soon regrets. The village, populated by ghouls, has plans for Sam, and they don't involve making a movie. Sam finds assistance in the form of a girl, and both take refuge in an abandoned church, where Sam learns the awful history of the village, and how it came to such a state that it's in now. Do Sam and the girl manage an escape? Maybe they do, maybe they don't...you'll just have to watch. This tale has the strongest horror element, and a really wonderful, thick, brooding sense of atmosphere. Reminds me a little of a film Vincent Price did back in the day called The Last Man on Earth (1964).
Pathfinder Home Entertainment provides a pretty good wide screen, non-anamorphic print here, which does show minor speckling and occasional murkiness, to which we learn that this was the only print available to them with a on-screen note prior to the beginning of the film. As far as special features go, there are a ton of them. There's a complete musical soundtrack, with the ability to listen to any song from the movie, and there's a lot, with artists like The Pretty Things, UB40, B.A. Robertson, and The Viewers, to name a few. There's also a separate commentary by film critics Luke Y. Thompson and Gregory Weinkauf, a theatrical trailer for the film, detailed biographies of most of the films stars, extensive production notes, original press notes, a photo still gallery, essays by film critic George Reis and, a bit by Vincent Price and his views on horror movies in general, and even a hidden feature accessed by clicking on the doctor's stomach in the special features menu. All in all, this is a great little horror anthology infused with a good dose of silly humor, one that fans of the long gone but not forgotten Amicus films will enjoy. But be warned, as the real horror doesn't come until the end, when Vincent Price and John Carradine proceed to get 'jiggy' with it on the dance floor.