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The Monster Club (1980)

Some films are always going to be unfairly maligned, and The Monster Club is one of them. Granted, it didn't have the best advertising campaign in the world - I dimly remember seeing it promoted in the comics of my youth, and the poster is basically a cartoon - making it come across as some kind of comedy kids film.

And some of the film is very much played for laughs - the inclusion of a Bela Lugosi-like vampire wearing a "stake proof vest" is pure end-of-The Generation Game sketch material. Plus you have the "monsters" who frequent the "club" of the title, who are basically a bunch of kids in those full-head rubber masks you can buy from joke shops. Yes, it is that bad. They actually make BA Robertson's blue face make-up and fangs look classy. His music still sounds shite, though.

Ah yes, the music. Having a nightclub scene in any movie can be a mistake, and when it's an 80s film it's even worse. Just take a look at such neon daubed nightmares in supposed "classics" like The Terminator and Robocop to see exactly what I mean. They may be able to create believable unstoppable killing machines and ultra realistic exit wounds, but can they make people dance and look good on camera? Nope.

And The Monster Club, as you'd expect from the title, is no exception - the entire framing sequence for the film is set in just such a place. To make matters worse, we're also "treated" to a bunch of musical "acts" who "treat" us to entire versions of their turgid soft-rock bollocks. Oh, the horror.

But don't despair, it's not all bad. As a last gasp attempt at an Amicus-style anthology, as a whole it may not hold a candle to the certified genius of From Beyond The Grave or Asylum, but two out of the three stories are excellent - and actually knock spots off some previous segments (Lucy Comes To Stay in Asylum, for example).

And as a trump card, and saving the club-bound scenes, you've also got sheer class in the stately forms of Vincent Price and John Carradine - who absolutely sparkle. They may have some inane gibberish to spout, but the pair do it with class - not for them just taking the money and running. Plus you get to see both of them disco dancing at the end, which is worth the price of admission alone (and actually proves that perhaps people can dance and look good on camera, providing they have style in the first place).

The film starts with author R Chetwynde-Haynes (Carradine) getting attacked by a vampire (Price), who realises he's just bitten the neck of his favourite writer and as an apology takes him to The Monster Club, where he regails him with three tales of terror. Well, two spooky stories and one Peter "Crackerjack" Glaze would turn his nose up at, anyway.

Using a handy illustrated guide on the wall, Price shows that inter-monster mating is rife - and by taking any two of the initial four ingredients of a Vampire, a Werewolf, a Ghoul or a Human, you can come up with a Shadmock, or even a Humgoo (bear with me...)

Shadmocks can maim or even kill with their whistle, which is an interesting idea which the first story exploits to its full potential. By turns touching and horrifying, this segment is a tour de force which, if shown as a self contained drama on BBC1, would probably win an award or something.

The "monster" of the title is a rather pathetic figure, shuffling around in his mansion and looking after his pigeons. His power is shown to devastating effect when a cat decides to munch on one of his pals, but its full force is only brought out when his heart is broken.

This segment has many memorable images, especially the masked ball where the monsters (sensibly) never show their faces. The final scenes are by turns sad and horrifying.

The second story involves the aforementioned vampire, and even this one starts off promisingly, with the vampire's half-human son being pursued by zealous vampire hunters (among them Donald Pleasence and Anthony Valentine). But it soon descends into farce. Britt Ekland (the vampire's wife) has never been the world's greatest actress, and Pleasence shows that when the script calls for it he can be bloody awful, too.

Luckily, the final story is another tour de force as an American horror movie producer takes a wrong turn and ends up in a forgotten village peopled by cannibalistic nutters. Taking refuge in a church with a friendly Humgoo (a product of union twixt human and ghoul, although why anyone would want to shag a carrion eater is beyond me, their breath must smell horrible), he fights off sundry villagers (including an almost understated Patrick Magee) before making a break for it, only to find that it's not going to be that easy to get away...

Finally we are informed that Carradine is to become a member of the club, because "humans are the biggest monsters of all". Not a very selective entrance policy, then.

The Monster Club is a mish mash of good and bad, and when it's bad it's very, very bad. Luckily, when it's good it's superb - so ignore the rubber masks and the dodgy names, and get down and groove to BA Robertson and his crap band.

Director: Roy Ward Baker Writer(s): Edward Abraham, Valerie Abraham, R. Chetwynd-Hayes (book)

Cast: Vincent Price - Eramus, John Carradine - R.Chetwynd-Haynes, Anthony Steel - Lintom Busotsky, Film Producer, Roger Sloman - Club Secretary a Werewolf, Fran Fullenwider - Buxom Beauty, B.A. Robertson - Entertainment, Suzanna Willis - Stripper, Barbara Kellerman - Angela, Simon Ward - George, Angela's Boyfriend, James Laurenson - Raven a Shadmock, Geoffrey Bayldon - Psychiatrist, Donald Pleasence - Pickering, Chief of the B-Squad, Richard Johnson - Busotsky's Father, Britt Ekland - Busotsky's Mother, Warren Saire - Lintom as a Child, Anthony Valentine - Mooney, Neil McCarthy - Watson, B-Squad Member, Stuart Whitman - Sam, Movie Director, Lesley Dunlop - Luna a Humghoul, Patrick Magee - Innkeeper (Luna's Father), Prentis Hancock - Policeman, Liz Smith - Villager

 

Last updated: February 25, 2010

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