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  Monster Club, The A Rival To The Hellfire Club?
Year: 1980
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Stars: Vincent Price, John Carradine, Anthony Steel, Roger Sloman, Barbara Kellerman, Simon Ward, James Laurenson, Donald Pleasence, Richard Johnson, Britt Ekland, Stuart Whitman, Lesley Dunlop, Patrick Magee, Geoffrey Bayldon, Anthony Valentine, Neil McCarthy
Genre: Horror, Comedy, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: The horror writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes (John Carradine) is walking along a London street in the middle of the night when he is accosted by a mysterious man who staggers towards him claiming to be famished. When he gets near enough, he sinks his teeth into the writer's neck, drains him of some of his blood, then feels refreshed enough to introduce himself as Eramus (Vincent Price), a vampire. Grateful for the red stuff he has taken, he offers to take Chetwynd-Hayes to a nightclub he knows, a place where all the monsters go, and he won't take no for an answer, so off they go to enjoy the evening's entertainment...

The Monster Club was really the last hurrah of the British horror anthology movie that had been promoted so heavily by the king of the genre, Milton Subotsky, the man who had brought Amicus so much success in the sixties and seventies. Here he took the producer's role, with stories adapted from the works of the real R. Chetwynd-Hayes, an incredibly prolific British chiller author, after enjoying a hit with an earlier film of his stories, From Beyond the Grave. It was a nice touch to put the writer into the action, but the reaction to the film was not a good one at the time, and since it has been regarded as a bit naff by those who catch it on TV.

Not least because of the musical performances which provide interludes between the three tales, which at one point rendered the movie hopelessly dated, but now, for some fans, render it pleasingly redolent of the era, although blatantly an effort to make this more fashionable to a 1980 audience, something it missed by miles. Yet now, seeing the likes of B.A. Robertson caked in white makeup and singing about being a sucker for your love makes many recall his appearances on Swap Shop when they were little, and they begin to warm to its ramshackle charms. Also appearing is Night, who perform a tribute song to a stripper, complete with a woman taking it all off - down to the skeleton!

So it's worth sticking with this to see the finale where Price and Carradine strut their funky stuff on the dancefloor to a Police-styled title tune from The Pretty Things, which achieves a level of camp that only occasionally surfaces, and then usually in the bits of business between the stories. This is because the actual plots of those stories have a curiously melancholy air, as the first one illustrates most obviously. It tells of a Shadmock (Eramus helpfully explains what that is, but essentially you have to watch out for its whistle) who is being set up for a robbery by a scheming couple, but he falls in love with the female half when she goes to work for him at his mansion, with predictably tragic results.

There's a sympathy with the outsider to all three tales, as with the second, where a boy being bullied at school takes comfort from his stable home life, thanks to his father (Richard Johnson) being a vampire. Things start to look bleaker when clergyman Donald Pleasence starts hanging around with a view to staking the bloodsucker, but it is resolved with an improbably jokey ending. Lastly, film director Stuart Whitman is location scouting for his latest horror movie when he ends up at a village full of ghouls, and only finds an ally in one of the half-human inhabitants (Lesley Dunlop); this is the most downbeat of the lot, but has an inescapable nightmare quality to it that isn't half bad. In fact, at this distance The Monster Club is quite pleasing, building up to a cheesy "Ah, but who is the real monster?" punchline. You can tell it was hopelessly out of step with what else was around in the genre in 1980, but now that is to its benefit.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Roy Ward Baker  (1916 - 2010)

Reliable British director who worked his way up from teaboy to assistant to Alfred Hitchcock to overseeing his own hit projects from the 1940s to the 1970s. Making his debut with The October Man, he continued with Morning Departure, Don't Bother To Knock, Inferno, The One That Got Away and what is considered by many to be the best Titanic film, A Night To Remember.

After the failure of The Singer Not the Song in the sixties he turned to television, including episodes of The Avengers, The Saint and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), then to Hammer, where he directed many of the later favourites associated with the studio: Quatermass and the Pit, The Anniversary, The Vampire Lovers, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. He also made Asylum, Vault of Horror and The Monster Club for Hammer's rivals, then returned for the remainder of his career to TV with episodes of Minder and Fairly Secret Army, among others.

 
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