Monday, August 07, 2006

The Monster Club - review

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Release Date: 1980

Contains spoilers

Another film made up of shorts, the Monster Club has a place in my heart as one of my favourites from childhood, though looking at it now it was aimed at a younger market and replaced horror with black comedy – whilst the DVD is rated 15 I loved the film at a very tender age indeed. Unlike other such collections this contains only three main stories. These are the shadmock story (slow to start but with an excellent ending), the village of monsters (atmospheric but with a twist at the end you could see a mile away) and the vampire story. All the stories were based on shorts by R Chetwynd-Hayes who is actually portrayed in the film by John Carradine. Before we look at the vampire story, subject of this review, let us look at the film in total as there is vamp action aplenty.

Chetwynd-Hayes is looking in a display at his horror books when he is grabbed by a gentleman who states he is famished. Chetwynd-Hayes offers money for food but it is not food he wants and suddenly the author is bitten. Afterwards the assailant introduces himself as Eramus (Vincent Price), a vampire and fan of the author’s work. He assures the author that he will not become a vampire, he did not bite deeply, and to repay him takes him to the Monster Club. We also find out later that only blood taken directly from a victim will feed a vampire, which is why the bottled blood at the club will not suffice.

In the club we get our three tales, however we also get some very cheesy monster masks (when I say cheesy that is somewhat of an under-statement) and faux-rock pop songs written by BA Robertson and performed by various bands. We see several vampires, including the coat-room girl. However, we do get some great Vincent Price moments. At the end of the movie Eramus suggests that the author should have club membership and, after listing the various methods of killing and destruction that humans have invented, membership is granted. It is worthwhile watching this end scene if only for the vision of Price and Carradine boogying on the dance floor.

The vampire tale is the second piece we see and is a film shown in the club, rather than a story related by Eramus. The film is introduced by Lintom Bustosky (Anthony Steel) a vampire film producer (aren’t they all, quips Eramus) and, he states, is based on his own life. The segment is very much geared to black comedy.

We see a young Lintom (Warren Saire) being packed off to school by his mother (Britt Ekland). Never talk to strangers he is warned. That night his father (Richard Johnson), a “night worker”, rises from the cellar to play with his son. Unfortunately he has to go to “work”. Lintom asks if he is a waiter, he is in evening dress, which he denies. He explains that he lightens the burden of those with too much and that his motto is feed without greed. He also warns his bemused son to be on the lookout for the B-Squad (or the Beeny) and to beware of men carrying violin cases.

At school the next day we see that Lintom is bullied and this is observed by a priest, Pickering (Donald Pleasence). That night his mother tells him not to mind the bullies, he is better than them. In the old country his father was a Count, which makes Lintom a viscount. Lintom uses this the next day but it makes the bullying worse. He is rescued by the priest who tries to engage him in conversation, Lintom tries to be tight-lipped, as he has been taught, but perhaps reveals too much about his home life. Pickering suggests that Lintom visit his father during the day, in the cellar – when his mother is out. Pickering then looks over at a van, in which sit three men with violin cases, and gives a nod.

Lintom’s mother goes to the shops, leaving him at home. She is observed by Pickering who has ditched his priest outfit and is now suited like the men from the van. Lintom decides to follow the advice and go and see his father. His father is in a coffin and Lintom runs from the house straight into Pickering. He and his men go in, telling Lintom that they are the B-Squad, fighting blood crimes. Lintom’s father has been Pickering’s toughest case. They drag him to the cellar and Pickering is about to stake the father when the mother comes in and screams. Unperturbed Pickering gets on with his job, but the father, as he dies, grabs Pickering and bites him.

Pickering asks for an ambulance but the mother laughs, her husband has bitten deep and he is now a vampire and must be staked by his own men, to which they concur. He protests, he is Pickering, a legend, he has staked 2000 vampires but the men ask him to lie down whilst they stake him. He tries to run but eventually he too is staked. His men carry him out of the house, whilst the funeral march plays; the music gets stuck as they struggle with the gate in a black humoured gag.

Mother and son go back to the cellar, having watched the B-Squad leave. The father sits up and pulls the stake out. He explains that he always wears his stake proof vest filled with tomato ketchup.

It is a comedy piece and as such we can forgive the stake proof vest and it is an amusing watch. The cast are generally good and, unusually for such a short, we actually get to know a little about the characters. The soundtrack in this segment is excellent, wild violins abound playing traditional Transylvanian folk music. All in all I’m giving the vampire story 6 out of 10. As for the film as a whole, if you can get past the cheesy club scenes it is definitely worth a watch.

The imdb page is here.

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