THE MONSTER CLUB (1981) Reviews and overview

 

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The Monster Club is a 1981 British comedy horror film directed by Roy Ward Baker and starring Vincent Price and John Carradine.

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An anthology film, it is based on the works of author R. Chetwynd-Hayes. It has sometimes been credited as an Amicus production, though this is incorrect; it was, in fact, made by former Amicus head Milton Subotsky’s Sword and Sorcery productions for Chips Productions, an offshoot of ITC.

Plot:

The Shadmock: A fictionalised version of Chetwynd-Hayes (Carradine) is approached on a city street by a strange man (Price) who turns out to be a starving vampire named Eramus. Eramus bites the writer, and in gratitude for the small “donation”, takes his (basically unharmed but bewildered) victim to the titular club, which is a covert gathering place for a multitude of supernatural creatures. In between the club’s unique music and dance performances, Eramus introduces three stories about his fellow creatures of the night:

A young, financially struggling woman takes a job at a secluded manor house owned by a hybrid creature called a Shadmock, which leads to a troubled and tragic existence and is notorious for its demonic whistle. As time goes by, the girl, Angela, develops a friendship with the mysterious Shadmock, named Raven, and he eventually proposes to her.

Alarmed, Angela refuses but her controlling boyfriend forces her to go through with it in order to gain the Shadmock’s vast wealth. At the night of the engagement party, Angela is caught robbing the Shadmock’s safe, and screams that she could never love him. Heartbroken, the Shadmock whistles and destroys Angela’s face. Upon seeing her, her boyfriend is driven insane and locked away in an asylum.

The Vampires: The timid son of a peaceable family of vampires lives a miserable, lonely life where he is bullied at school and his father spends little time with him. The son discovers his father is a vampire, being relentless if ineptly hunted by a team of bureaucratic undead-killers. The hunters break into the house and stake the vampire father, but the tables are turned when the father bites the leader of the vampire hunters, meaning he will have to be staked by his own servants.

The Humgoo: A movie director scouting locations for his next film pays an unpleasant visit to a small backwards village, Loughville near Hillington, Norfolk, inhabited by man-eating ghouls who unearth graves for food and clothes.

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Whilst imprisoned by these ghouls, he meets Luna, the daughter of a ghoul father and a deceased human mother. With the aid of Luna, the director attempts to escape, only for her to be killed by the ghouls and the director is captured again and returned to the village by ghoul policemen.

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Despite Vincent Price’s decades-long career as a horror actor, The Monster Club features what may be his only film performance as a vampire; although he appeared as Dracula in the educational film Once upon a Midnight Scary. Christopher Lee was originally sought for the role of Chetwynd-Hayes but apparently dismissed the offer simply upon hearing the film’s title from his agent. Peter Cushing and Klaus Kinski also turned the project down. The character of Lintom Busotsky is a film producer, and his name is an anagram of the real film’s producer, Milton Subotsky.

Subotsky intended the film to be suitable for a family audience, and so avoided graphic horror, gore or nudity. The BBFC initially gave the film an ‘AA’ (14) rating, but after Subotsky arranged a screening for children to show they would not be upset by it, agreed to pass it with an ‘A’ (PG). Bizarrely, subsequent British video, DVD and Blu-ray releases have been rated ’15’.

A comic book adaptation of the film was produced by Dez Skinn, John Bolton and David Lloyd, to be used as a promotional tool at the Cannes Film Festival. Only 1000 copies were printed, making it a collectable item. The strip was later reprinted in Skinn’s Halls of Horror. The film also spawned a soundtrack album and paperback tie-in edition of Chetwynd-Hayes’ original book.

The film was released in UK cinemas on May 24 1981. It failed to secure US distribution and was not a box office success in the UK. Many people were dismissive of the rather clumsy humour, the insipid music from the likes of B.A. Robertson, The Pretty Things and UB40, the old-fashioned nature of the film and the poor production values – the meagre budget meant that most of the creatures in The Monster Club wore cheap and crude face masks. A planned sequel, Monsters vs Meanies, was quickly dropped, and the film effectively signalled the end of Subotsky’s career.

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Reviews:

“Any expectations of humour aroused by the presence of a producer and a director in the dramatis personae prove ill-founded. The individual narratives are slackly unfolded while the scenes at the club are just embarrassingly silly.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror, edited by Phil Hardy, 1997

“If The Monster Club has accrued a certain cult status it’s mostly down to its sheer awfulness” Film 4

“In the hands of a younger director with a vision for the fantastique, The Monster Club would have been to-die-for. Instead, it is a wet blanket, and apart from the first story which features a superbly gory ending, there is only the pleasure of seeing Vincent and John Carradine trying to be hip in a club playing UB40 to savour.” The Sound of Vincent Price

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Cast and characters:

Vincent Price … Eramus (Segment “The Monster Club”)
John Carradine … R. Chetwynd-Hayes (Segment “The Monster Club”)
Anthony Steel … Lintom Busotsky (Segment “The Monster Club”)
Roger Sloman … Club Secretary (Segment “The Monster Club”)
Fran Fullenwider … Buxom Beauty (Segment “The Monster Club”)
The Viewers … Entertainers (Segment “The Monster Club”)
B.A. Robertson … Entertainers (Segment “The Monster Club”)
Night … Entertainers (Segment “The Monster Club”)
The Pretty Things … Entertainers (Segment “The Monster Club”)
Suzanna Willis … Exotic dancer (Segment “The Monster Club”)
Barbara Kellerman … Angela (Segment “Shadmock Story”)
Simon Ward … George (Segment “Shadmock Story”)
James Laurenson … Raven (Segment “Shadmock Story”)
Geoffrey Bayldon … Psychiatrist (Segment “Shadmock Story”)
Donald Pleasence … Pickering (Segment “Vampire Story”)
Richard Johnson … Father (Segment “Vampire Story”)
Britt Ekland … Mother (Segment “Vampire Story”)
Warren Saire … Lintom (Segment “Vampire Story”)
Anthony Valentine … Mooney (Segment “Vampire Story”)
Neil McCarthy … Watson (Segment “Vampire Story”)
Stuart Whitman … Sam (Segment “Humgoo Story”)
Lesley Dunlop … Luna (Segment “Humgoo Story”)
Patrick Magee … Innkeeper (Segment “Humgoo Story”)
Skip Alan … Drummer – The Pretty Things (uncredited)
Sean Barry-Weske … Ghoul (uncredited)
Tony Clarkin … Vampire (uncredited)
Stephanie English … Angry Villager (uncredited)
Jill Goldston … Monster Club Member (Segment “The Monster Club”) (uncredited)
Prentis Hancock … Policeman (uncredited)
Barrie Holland … Vampire (uncredited)
Stevie Lange … Singer: Night (uncredited)
Phil May … Singer – The Pretty Things (uncredited)
Cathy Munroe … Punk Dancer / Vampire Twin (uncredited)
John Normington … Narrator: Ghoul Segment (voice) (uncredited)
John Povey … Keyboardist – The Pretty Things (uncredited)
Pat Roach … Great Uncle (uncredited)
John Simpkin … Vampire Dancer (uncredited)
Liz Smith … Villager (uncredited)
Vic Tablian … Dealer (uncredited)
Dick Taylor … Guitarist – The Pretty Things (uncredited)
Chris Thompson … Band Leader – Night (uncredited)
Peter Tolson … Guitarist – The Pretty Things (uncredited)
Wally Waller … Bass – The Pretty Things (uncredited)
Hugh Walters … Art Director (uncredited)
Fred Wood … Angry Villager (uncredited)
James Wynn … School Teacher (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Aldenham, Hertfordshire, England (Loughville)
Knebworth House, Knebworth, Hertfordshire, England
Tykes Water Lake, Aldenham Country Park, Hertfordshire, England

Filming dates:

April 1980 – June 1980

Technical details:

104 minutes
Audio: Mono
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1