Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Honourable Mentions: Madhouse

Okay, this one is a real stretch and just to get things straight – whilst there are two people dressed as vampires in a costume party (and another as a vampire’s victim) – there are no real vampire moments in this. However a connection to a famous vampire movie lends this a genre interest.

But first of all let us look at some of the stars of this 1974 joint API and Amacus film that was directed by Jim Clark. The star was Vincent Price (the Last Man on Earth, Scream and Scream Again, the Monster Club and a voice cameo in Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein). It co-starred Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry (Deathmaster, Count Yorga, Vampire & the Return of Count Yorga), Adrienne Corri (Vampire Circus) and Linda Hayden (Taste the Blood of Dracula & Vampira). It also contains archive footage, staged as films starring Price’s character rather than Price himself, with Basil Rathbone (Queen of Blood) and Boris Karloff (Isle of the Dead, Black Sabbath, House of Frankenstein, Mad Monster Party? & hosting the Thriller episode Masquerade). A veritable smorgasbord of genre names.

Robert Quarry and Adrienne Corri
The story starts 12 years ealier and a private screening of the new Dr Death movie – starring Paul Toombes (Vincent Price) as the titular character. After the screening Toombes announces his engagement to Ellen (Julie Crosthwaite). There is some bitchiness from a previous leading lady, Faye (Adrienne Corri), who suggests that all Toombes gave her was a stake through the heart. Then producer Oliver Quayle (Robert Quarry) drops the bombshell that Ellen was a lead… in his porn films. Toombes is incensed and then, as she retreats to a bedroom, we see someone don the Dr Death gloves. Toombes wakes from a blackout and goes to apologise to Ellen but, as he touches her shoulder, her head falls off.

Vincent Price and Peter Cushing
The credits show us Toombes being treated in a mental institution and we discover that it he was acquitted but the psychiatrists believe that he had a breakdown and became the Dr Death persona. Twelve years on and he has been released and called over to England where his friend Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing) – the writer of Dr Death – has sold a TV series based on the character to Quayle. They want him to reprise the role. However people start dying in ways identical to deaths in the Dr Death films and Toombes can only question his own sanity.

Yorga outfit
The reason for the mention centres on a costume party celebrating the TV series. It has Flay and Quayle dressed as vampires and PR woman Julia (Natasha Pyne, who played Laura in the unfortunately lost Mystery and Imagination version of Carmilla) as a vampire victim. There was an irony, of course, to Cushing being dressed as a vampire given his association with the Van Helsing character but we should remember that he made Tender Dracula that same year, in which he played an actor who believed he was a vampire (and may have been, though the film is unclear). Natasha Pyne as a victim, given her Carmilla role, and Quarry as a vampire seemed in-jokes. It is because of Quarry, however, that we mention the film as (according to IMDb) the outfit he wore was the very one he wore in Count Yorga, Vampire – though to be honest, Quarry and Cushing just dressed as vampires would probably have been enough for me.

The film itself is fascinating, star studded, silly and – eventually – blooming ridiculous. The imdb page is here.

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