Monster Club (The) (1980)
R2 - United Kingdom - Network DVD
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (21st January 2008).
The Film

Director Roy Ward Baker was the respected workhorse in the British cinema. While Baker directed such a classics like “A Night to Remember (1958)”), it was the films for “Hammer Films” and “Amicus” where most horror-fans will remember him. During those years he did a few entertaining “horror anthologies” (“Asylum (1972)” and “The Vault of Horror (1973)”) for “Amicus”, where one film included several short stories. Just like completing a circle, Baker teamed up with the old “Amicus” producer Milton Subotsky for one last anthology film “The Monster Club (1980)”. It also included three “legends” of horror in the same film, which gave some boost for the marketing department. That still didn´t help the film from sinking at the box office.

The opening of the film introduces the aging vampire Eramus (Vincent Price - e.g. “Witchfinder General (1968)” and “Edward Scissorhands (1990)”), who bumps into the known horror author R. Chetwynd-Hayes (John Carradine - e.g. “House of Frankenstein (1944)”). Here´s the first inside joke, since the stories of the film are based on the book of “real” author R. Chetwynd-Hayes. Eramus bites the author in the neck (!) for a small amount of blood and as return invites him to the secret society “The Monster Club”. Perhaps Chetwynd-Hayes finds some material there that he could use. When the men arrive at the club, the rock band is already playing and the vampires, werewolves, ghosts and goblins are dancing. While chatting at the table, Eramus tells about the certain “monster hierarchy” and continues to the first real story of the film. After that the (vampire) movie producer Lintom Busotsky (Anthony Steel - e.g. “Massacre in Rome AKA Rappresaglia (1973)”) tells one story for the whole audience and finally Eramus tells the third - and the final one to Chetwynd-Hayes. After each story (and an additional one to conclude the film), you´ll hear basically one song from the different band (“The Viewers”, “B.A. Robertson”, “Night” and “The Pretty Things”). Here´s the short synopsis of the stories:

1 - “Shadmock Story” tells about the odd, pale-faced hermit Raven (James Laurenson - e.g. “Pink Floyd The Wall (1982)”), who hires a young woman Angela (Barbara Kellerman) for his secretary. Both are unaware of each other´s hidden secret; Angela is just a tool in a plan to rob Raven´s money and valuables, but Raven has the horrifying, special skill that could change all that…

2 - “Vampire Story” introduces the third “horror legend” of the film, when Donald Pleasence - e.g. “You Only Live Twice (1967)” and “Halloween (1978)”) makes his presence as Pickering, the Chief of the special “B-Squad”. He has been monitoring the father (Richard Johnson - e.g. “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)”) of a young boy (Warren Saire) for a quite some time, who reveals that his dad just “sleeps all day and goes out at nights”… The mother of the family is played by Britt Ekland (e.g. “The Wicker Man (1973)”).

3 - “Humgoo Story” focuses on the energetic film director Sam (Stuart Whitman - e.g. Oscar nomination for “The Mark (1961)”), who goes on a location search for his upcoming, “atmospheric” horror-movie. With his car, he follows the sign for “Loughville” and drives through the thick mist. It actually seems to be the portal to a different place and time, and soon Sam finds himself surrounded by the hostile “ghouls”. Only the “Humgoo” (half human-half ghoul) Luna (Lesley Dunlop - e.g. “The Elephant Man (1980)”) can help him now…

It´s actually quite easy to sum up “The Monster Club”; the stories themselves are decent and the actors are fine, but the structure is very mediocre, ultimately ruining part of the film experience. In some ways the film falls into the trap of “modernizing” the old horror-concept to a particular time (in this case, the 1980s) and the pointing finger is firmly headed to the rock-music that plays in-between the stories. I pretty much hated the first two “performances”, but fortunately the last two are a bit better (the song “Stripper” by the band “Night” works best - with “skeleton stripper”, and I kind of enjoyed it). The other problem for me was with the extremely phony rubber masks that the “audience” had. At least I assumed that they´re “real monsters” having a good time, not some costume party. But sure, there were the obvious budget-limitations, so some things just had to go (like proper make-up effects with the club-sequences). Fortunately both Price and Carradine are still witty and quite natural in their roles (they appeared together at least also in “The Ten Commandments (1956)” and “House of the Long Shadows (1983)”) and it´s always heartwarming to see such legendary genre-actors doing a good job - no matter how low the budget is. Price was such a natural talent and Carradine was a real veteran, ultimately acting in over 300 films (give or take). These type of actors rarely fail.

If we get past the “club”-premise of the film, the short stories are well worth seeing. None of them offer any unique stuff and they´re quite mild in terms of horror, but you probably find them at least partly entertaining and intriguing. “Shadmock Story” is too predictable, but the end scene strongly reminded me of the horror-stories by the legendary “EC Comics”, so that´s the reward in my book. “Vampire Story” is just a plain silly parody of the vampire myth, taking too much time to reach on the “comedy”-part of the story. But, when it does, you´ll have a few laughs (and find out what´s e.g. “stick-proof west”). At least I did, so sue me. “Humgoo Story” is probably the most ambitious story in the film (also sets and props-wise) and it includes some effective drawings that are used to tell part of the back-story. I just would´ve hoped those “ghouls” would be more menacing, since the opportunity was there to do something scary. Now it falls short, but you still get the nice twist at the end. The last section of the film (back in the club) also ends the film on a clever note (with even a minor “message”, if you will), when Eramus explains why their “Monster Club” should have at least one “human”-member. Who has killed, tortured, exterminated and destroyed more than humans? Yep, at the end of the day, the humans are the “real monsters” of our world. Can´t argue with that.

Video

“Network” presents the film in 4:3, in what I assume is the “open matte”-version of the OAR 1.85.1. While the proper Anamorphic 1.85.1-transfer would´ve been the ideal way, 4:3-ratio didn´t prevent me for enjoying it, since eventually it doesn´t seem to be “cropped”. The transfer leans more on the dark - even a bit murky - side of the spectrum, details are a bit restless and the compression is not spot on. The colours are still quite strong and the transfer is relatively clean (there are still some film artifacts). Not that great transfer, but not that bad either. “Single layer” disc is coded “R2”, and the film runs 93:33 minutes (PAL). There are 12 chapters.

Audio

English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with no subtitles, that´s the name of the game. The audio sounds surprisingly solid, with loud music and relatively clear dialogue (which sometimes seems to be get buried under the music, though). There´s some background hiss, but not severe. Quite basic Mono-track, that eventually does its job.

Extras

No extras.

Overall

“The Monster Club” offers some decent horror-stories, but they´re slightly shadowed by the odd mixture of “Horror anthology” and “1980s rock”. That just doesn´t work. It´s still nice to see actors like Vincent Price and John Carradine back in the genre that they helped to shape and even for that reason alone the film is worth a look. The DVD-presentation is more on the mediocre side, but not a bad choice if you just want to see the film.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Network DVD.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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