Director: Roy Ward Baker
Writers: Edward Abraham, Valerie Abraham
Starring: Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasence, James Laurenson, Barbara Kellerman, Stuart Whitman, Brit Ekland, Simon Ward, John Magee
I have to confess that I possess a great and deep love for almost anything that is anthology related. Books, comic books, or films, it doesn’t matter. I especially love the anthology films by Producer Milton Subotsky released through the British Amicus Studios. He was responsible for horror film greats like Tales From The Crypt, Vault of Horror, Asylum, and of course the Monster Club which is in fact based on some of R. Chetwynd-Hayes’s stories. The first night I saw this film I had been doing something rather dangerous…at my Junior High dance I had signed up to do stand-up comedy while the band rested…that went just about as well as you might think. I still can hear the crickets as my jokes landed with a thud, thankfully my father was there and I could make a speedy retreat away from those gazes of utter bewilderment directed at me by my fellow students. My embarrassment was quickly forgotten, at least by me, thanks to the local television station broadcasting this little gem of a film as we returned home.
We start the film on the streets of London as R. Chetwynd-Hayes (Carradine, it wasn’t until many years later that I found out there really was a R. Chetwynd-Hayes) as he stops to look in a bookstore window that is displaying not only his portrait but his collection of written works. As he is about to move along, a hand reaches out and grips his shoulder, a man shambles out of an alley claiming he is famished, that he hasn’t had anything for supper for two weeks. We later learn his name is Eramus (Price). Chetwynd-Hayes graciously offers to give Eramus money for food but is told, “Can’t keep food down…never could.” After the author proclaims he will do anything he can for the clearly starving man he is sincerely thanked before Eramus reveals a pair of sharp fangs and bites him on the neck as everything fades to black.
We next see Eramus collecting up the author’s belongings, not to rob him but to return them, and is he is quite excited as he learns just who his obliging meal actually is. After returning the items he introduces himself, trying to flatter the rather confused author by making it known how much he loves to read his horror stories, and that Chetwynd-Hayes’s blood is the most delicious he has ever tasted. The author understandably wants to part company with Eramus, but the vampire insists he must repay him for his aid by giving him material for a new book by taking him to the Monster Club.
Once inside the club, where the dance floor is filled with monsters of all sorts getting their groove on to the likes of UB40, The Viewers, Night, and the Expressos, this film has a great Halloween soundtrack by the way. The author and vampire are seated, and a bloody mary is ordered for Chetwynd-Hayes so he doesn’t stick out as being human, Eramus begins to explain the monster genealogical chart that is hanging on the booth wall (I would love to have that thing!). Which leads to the first of the three tales…
…where we are introduced to George (Ward) who is sitting in a straitjacket within a rubber room at an asylum. We overhear the doctor’s statement that, “He was found under extraordinary and inexplicable circumstances.” We then flash back to six months past and see George and his fiance, Angel (Kellerman), and very quickly we realize they make a living by being scam artists. George finds a promising request for secretarial work, cataloging a collection for an antiquary’s new book. Angela answers the ad and after running away upon first meeting seeing Raven (Laurenson), he resembles the Chaney version of the Phantom of the Opera, she returns due to George’s insistence after she informs him of all the jewelery and such the mansion contains. After accepting the position Raven warns her that he must never get upset because when he does…he whistles. A high pitched whining sound that causes whatever he whistles at to catch fire and melt as we are soon shown when one of his pigeons, who he earlier tells Angela are his only friends, is killed by a cat. Spoilers for this tale shall end here.
The second tale is introduced by the Monster Club’s favorite director, he is there to premiere an excerpt from his latest film, that cinematically retells his childhood and the memories of father and mother (Ekland). This segment is most certainly comedic and has a boy trying to come to terms with his father’s nightly job and odd insistence of sleeping in the daytime undisturbed…as well as the cryptic warning to, “beware of men carrying violin cases.” Which we later learn members of the V Squad do carry about with them, headed up by Pickering (Pleasence). Spoiler for this rather weak tale end here.
The third and last tale is begun by Eramus and deals with Sam (Whitman), a tyrannical movie director in London shooting his latest horror picture. He is unhappy with the scouting locations he has so far been shown and feels that he can do better by going to scout a remote location for himself. Driving around he happens upon a town called Loughville that isn’t even on his map or a street sign and since he what he really wants is a, “Strange, lonely, half-deserted village” this just might be what he is looking for. Following the road he comes upon a wall of thick grey fog, driving through it (Why would a man who makes horror films do that?) he certainly finds the location he wants because it appears as if he has traveled a hundred years in the past. Stopping in the town he tries to get some answers about shooting in the village from the Innkeeper (Magee) who informs him he will have to talk to the Elders who will be there…soon. So end the spoilers for this tale, friends.
But what of R. Chetwynd-Hayes and his new vampire friend, Eramus? There tale isn’t quite finished yet, but as always you’ll need to watch the film yourself to see how it plays out.
Roy Ward Baker does an excellent job of creating three unique looks for each tale as well as their different tones. The first tale is a romantic story, the second a comedy and the third is straightforward horror fare. Of course you can always count on Price, Carradine, and Pleasence to being more than up to the task of creating memorable characters. Even though I do not really care for the second tale like I stated above, it kind of reminds me of one of the show fillers they would have on Night Gallery, it is not enough to lower the five pumpkins out of five I bestow on this cheesy but wonderful film.