The Monster Club is a 1980 British comedy horror film directed by Roy Ward Baker and starring Vincent Price and John Carradine.
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.
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 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 relentlessly 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.
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 captured again and returned to the village by ghoul policemen.
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 to 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 signaled the end of Subotsky’s career.
“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
“If The Monster Club has accrued a certain cult status it’s mostly down to its sheer awfulness” Film 4
“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
Cast and characters:
- Vincent Price as Eramus
- John Carradine as R. Chetwynd-Hayes
- Donald Pleasence as Pickering
- Stuart Whitman as Sam
- Richard Johnson as Lintom’s father
- Barbara Kellerman as Angela
- Britt Ekland as Lintom’s mother
- Simon Ward as George
- Patrick Magee as Innkeeper
- Anthony Valentine as Mooney
- Anthony Steel as Lintom Busotsky
- James Laurenson as Raven (The Shadmock)
- Geoffrey Bayldon as Psychiatrist
- Lesley Dunlop as Luna
- Neil McCarthy as Watson
- Warren Saire as Young Lintom
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