Roy Ward Baker, 1980
Starring: Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasance, Stuart Whitman
The final film of British studio Amicus, a competitor to Hammer, was fittingly an anthology film. Though it doesn’t quite live up to some of their best efforts, it is still an endearing, entertaining effort and features some nice work from Vincent Price and John Carradine, both towards the end of their careers, and director Roy Ward Baker (The Vault of Horror), a British horror regular.
Based on the work of horror writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes, this anthology film concerns a vampire, Eramus (Price), who snacks on an unwitting man (Carradine) that turns out to be R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Eramus’s favorite writer. Eramus brings the surprised man to a secret club full of monsters, so that he can give him plenty of material to be inspired by. First Eramus tells him about the Shadmock, a monster hybrid with a deadly whistle. Raven, a wealthy and reclusive Shadmock, becomes the target of a young woman and her greedy, manipulative boyfriend. Angela, the woman, comes to work there as an assistant and Raven eventually proposes marriage to her. Though she feels sympathy for Raven, her boyfriend convinces her to accept and she robs his safe on the night he has an engagement party and invites all his monstrous relatives...
The second tale is about a family of vampires. Their young son is picked on at school and becomes the target for a team of vampire hunters, who have been searching for the boy’s father for a long time. They stake the father, but he manages to bite one of the hunters, requiring him to be staked shortly after in a surprise happy ending. The final tale, “The Ghouls,” is the most serious and has some actual scares. A director looking for a new location stumbles across an isolated village. His car breaks down and he becomes trapped there with a small population of ghouls who feast on human corpses. Unfortunately for him, they are all out of corpses. Eramus concludes the stories by inviting Chetwynd-Hayes to join the club, because humans are the most horrible monsters of all.
This is one of Vincent Price’s rare roles as a vampire and the only time he played a blood sucker in a feature length film. As Eramus, he essentially carries the movie. John Carradine is likable as Chetwynd-Hayes in a role initially intended for Christopher Lee. He doesn’t have a whole lot to do here, as this is mostly the Vincent Price show, but it’s always nice to see Price and Carradine together. James Laurenson (Pink Floyd: The Wall) is memorable as the whistling Shadmock and Anthony Steel (West of Zanzibar) appears as producer Lintom Busotsky, an anagram of Amicus producer Milton Subotsky. Horror regulars Donald Pleasance and Britt Ekland (The Wicker Man) are also great in the vampire segment.
This was the last true British anthology film and though I love it, it should be regarded with a bit of skepticism. Someone thought it would be a great idea to put a bunch of live musical performances between the stories and these are just grating. Presumably this is to make up for the very low budget and pad out the running time a bit. The club itself is unforgettably cheesy with some terribly cheap monster make up and costumes. Another stupid moment is when Eramus explains to Chetwynd-Hayes the various monster genealogies, such as what happens when you mix a ghoul and a human, a werewolf and a ghoul, etc. It descends into ridiculousness very quickly. With that said, there are plenty of people - myself included - who will love the utter cheesiness of the film. It might be silly and stupid in parts, but it is unabashedly fun and Price was at least having a good time here. His enthusiasm is infectious, as always.
The Monster Club has recently been restored and released on Blu-ray. It comes recommended for anyone who loves silly, low budget horror and for anthology and Vincent Price completists.