By G. Michael Dobbs
This week the movie review column will feature a new release of a seldom seen film and something for the holidays.
The Monster Club
I’m currently finishing up a book that collects many of the interviews I’ve conducted so far and Vincent Price is among them. When I spoke to him in 1983 at a press conference at the University of Massachusetts, there was a question about how frustrating it is for an actor to do a film and then realize it wasn’t being released properly.
Price told the audience it was very frustrating, but it is a risk of the business. This film “The Monster Club” was made in 1980 and was one of the two films Price had made – the other being “Mad House” – spurred the question.
Although it was released on VHS years ago, the film is just now making its DVD debut. It is accompanied by a host of extras worth noting including several interviews with Price.
The film was produced by Milton Subotsky, half of the producing team that made up Amicus Productions. Amicus made a series of horror films during the 1960s and into the 1970s that competed with those made by Hammer Productions.
The niche that Amicus created for itself was the anthology film, which featured several short films tied together with a central storyline. Perhaps their most successful and best known was an adaption of the classic EC comic books, “Tales from the Crypt.”
For this film, Subotsky turned to British horror author R. Chetwynd-Hayes and his 1975 book, “The Monster Club” as the source material.
John Carridine plays Chetwynd-Hayes in the movie. He is assaulted by Eramus, a vampire, played by Vincent Price, who then is apologetic for biting him. As part of making amends, he brings Chetwynd-Hayes to the Monster Club, where various monsters listen to rock bands and drink blood – of course.
Eramus shows Chetwynd-Hayes a chart of what happens when monsters mate with themselves and humans and two of the three stories directly come from that discussion. The three stories are far more serious in tone than the Price-Carradine scenes that are played essentially for laughs. The stories feature some familiar faces from that time including Stuart Whitman, Britt Eland and Simon Ward.
Is the film frightening? By 1980 standards, this was fairly tame, but it is enjoyable. The stories have some decent twists and achieve being creepy through story rather than special effects.
Price seems to enjoy himself especially in the scene in which he argues that humans are the most terrible monsters of them all.
I enjoyed the film largely due to the Price and Carradine and the effort to make a light, funny horror film that still had a few good moments of fear. Of course I watched it with different eyes than a contemporary audience who might not appreciate the old fashioned nature of the movie.
The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas with Carol
Looking for something different and festive? This collection includes many Christmas moments from Burnett’s vintage variety show.
The collection includes two full shows – one guest-starring Alan Alda, while the other features Ken Berry. There are additional moments from other shows including a hilarious “Wiggins and Tudball” skit, a great parody of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and a funny piece with Burnett and Sid Caesar about a couple who always fights on Christmas.
While I readily admit I fast-forward through the song and dance production numbers, the comedy remains great, thanks to the writing as well as the outstanding performances.
This DVD is well worth adding to your Christmas video library.
If you missed “Elysium” in the theaters, then catch it on DVD. This science fiction film from the director of “District Nine,” carries on his interest in using science fiction as a means to discuss social issues. Despite that, it’s not preachy, but an action filled, fast-moving story.
No matter how they might try to sell it in home video – the new TV ads emphasize the film’s action sequences – “The Lone Ranger” remains one of the biggest mis-steps I’ve seen in years. How they could have screwed up this character is beyond me, but Armie Hammer’s ranger is an irritating goof, not a hero. Avoid it like store-bought fruitcake this holiday season.