‘The high priestess of evil… a monstrous fiend with an overpowering lust for blood…’
The film was produced by Louis M. Heyward for Tony Tenser’s Tigon British Film Productions. It is based (uncredited) on the short story “The Dreams in the Witch House” by H. P. Lovecraft. Extra nudity was added for a Continental European release. For the US release, the film was censored by American International Pictures (AIP) and released as The Crimson Cult as the support feature for Horror House.
The movie stars Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Barbara Steele, Virginia Wetherell, Michael Gough and Mark Eden.
On July 7, 2015, Kino Lorber release the film on Blu-ray in the US with Audio Commentary by David Del Valle and Barbara Steele, In Conversation with Christopher Lee, Interview with Composer Kendall Schmidt, US and UK Trailers.
Robert Manning (Mark Eden) goes in search of his brother, who was last known to have visited the remote house of Craxted Lodge at Greymarsh. Arriving at night, he finds a party is in progress, and he is invited to stay by Eve (Virginia Wetherell), the niece of the owner of the house.
His sleep is restless and strange dreams of ritual sacrifice disturb him. Enquiring about his brother, he is assured by the house owner Morley (Christopher Lee) that the man is not here. But Manning’s suspicions are aroused further by his nightmarish hallucinations.
When occult expert Professor Marshe (Boris Karloff) informs Manning about a witchcraft cult based around the ancestral Lavinia Morley (Barbara Steele), the cult is uncovered…
“Karloff himself, cadaverous and almost wholly crippled, acts with a quiet lucidity of such great beauty that it is a refreshment merely to hear him speak old claptrap. Nothing else in The Crimson Cult comes close to him—though there is Barbara Steele in greenface playing Lavinia, a glamorous 300-year-old and a monumental cast that lists no fewer than seven-party girls, plus several sacrificial virgins.” Roger Greenspun, The New York Times (1970)
“Coquillon, the talented cinematographer of Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968) , devised all kinds of innovative ways of lighting the house and achieves results superior to many studio-lit productions… The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“Lovecraft’s story is ultimately much more disturbing than this adaptation, which features very little on-screen violence, though Wetherell does flash exactly one of her breasts and her entire bare ass, both of which likely felt scandalous in their day…” Oh, the Horror!
“The novelty of this being Karloff’s final film is not enough to salvage the enterprise, although the film, posthumously, retains minuscule interest as an of-its-time curio (yesterday’s trash is more tolerable than today’s trash). Villagers celebrating Independence Day, villagers playing hide-n-seek, an attempted human sacrifice, and self-immolation are inexplicable ingredients in this woefully underdeveloped brew.” Alfred Eaker’s The BlueMahler
The house used for Craxted Lodge is Grim’s Dyke, the allegedly haunted former home of William S. Gilbert, located in Old Redding, Harrow Weald, North-West London. The building, which is now a hotel, was used for both exterior and interior shots.
Cast and characters:
Christopher Lee – Morley
Boris Karloff – Professor Marshe
Mark Eden – Robert Manning
Barbara Steele (Black Sunday; Shivers; Piranha) – Lavinia Morley
Michael Gough (Horrors of the Black Museum; Konga; Horror Hospital) – Elder
Virginia Wetherell – Eve
Rosemarie Reede – Esther
Derek Tansley – Judge
Michael Warren – Chauffeur
Ron Pember – Petrol attendant
Denys Peek – Peter Manning
Rupert Davies – The Vicar