Written by: John White on January 7th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: United Kingdom, 1981
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Producer: Milton Subotsky
Writers: Edward Abraham Valerie Abraham R. Chetwynd-Hayes
Cast: John Carradine, Vincent Price, Stuart Whitman, Donald Pleasance, Simon Ward, Geoffrey Bayldon
DVD released: April 20, 2004
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35.1 Widescreen (Non-Anamorphic)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
DVD Release: Pathfinder
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.98
A horror writer, R. Chetwynd-Hayes (Carradine), comes across Erasmus (Price) who is clearly is in distress outside a book shop. No sooner has he offered to help, but he finds Erasmus’ teeth in his neck. In his gratitude for his blood Erasmus offers to give Hayes material for future books and takes him to a club for monsters. Once there Hayes is told three stories – one about a whistling ghoul and conmen, one about a vampire and a vampire hunter, and one about a film director lost in a village of cannibals. The stories are punctuated by 80’s rock music from the likes of BA Robertson and the Pretty Things. Eventually, Hayes is offered membership of the club as Human Beings are the greatest of monsters.
AMICUS productions were two American producers, Milton Subotsky and Stuart Rosenberg, who came to England to make films and produced some great great horror films between 1965 and this last outing. Subotsky regularly contributed to the writing of these films but mostly concentrated on marshalling the best of British acting talent with usual directors Roy Ward Baker and Freddie Francis. The Monster Club is a mixture of what made AMICUS great and a failed attempt to re-invent that for the 1980’s.
The film is a port-manteau film with one framing story acted by Carradine, Price and the regulars of the Monster Club and three short stories told by Price and visualised for us. Of the three short tales, there are some wonderful moments in all of them and mercifully they are very similar to earlier films like Vault of Horror or the House that dripped blood. In the first, the offspring of a Ghoul, a Shadmock is conned by Barbara Kellerman and Simon Ward. The acting is very good here and the sensitivity and lack of irony in the story make it the most effective of the three tales here. The second with Richard Johnson as modern day vampire and Donald Pleasance as his Van Helsing is light and quite witty. The tale is presented as the new film of vampire film producer, Limton Busotsky –
Carradine: “A vampire film producer?“
Price: “Aren’t they all”
The final tale is a retread of Village of the Damned with the wooden Stuart Whitman running from a village of cannibals.
The stories are very successful and far better than AMICUS’ previous film, The Uncanny, however the framing story is irritating. Framing stories are often weak in films like this but this one is further undermined by an obvious end – that human beings are the worst monsters of all – and really truly awful pop music. Hearing BA Robertson sing “I am just a sucker for your love” is bad enough but watching the performance is eye-poppingly awful. This is made even worse by the very end of the film where Carradine and Price get down and strut their stuff on the dancefloor. This transparent attempt to reach out to youth culture has aged terribly and the most tolerant of hands will find itself reaching for the fast forward during these sections.
Great individual stories, particularly the first, are weakened by desperate attempts to modernise the AMICUS film. A pity.
The film is transferred from a video master and lacks a little sharpness and contrast. It is shorter than the theatrical cut so it is probably missing scenes. It is poorly transferred – look at the screenshots. The widescreen is letterboxed and non-anamorphic. The sound is clear if not punchy which makes the music sound lo-fi.
The extras include music soundtrack, biographies, production notes, a trailer and a commentary from two film historians. They do include the fact that this is the only film in which Price played a vampire – not a lot of people know that!
Given that the film can carry no option to remove the awful songs, any AMICUS fans are probably best off keeping the mute button on standby. The disc presented here can easily be bettered with a properly sourced print so any fans of Brithorror are advised to rent rather than buy.