Curse of the Crimson Altar aka The Crimson Cult – UK, 1968

Curse of the Crimson Altar poster

‘The high priestess of evil… a monstrous fiend with an overpowering lust for blood…’

Curse of the Crimson Altar is a 1968 British horror feature film directed by Vernon Sewell (Ghost Ship; The Blood Beast Terror; Burke & Hare).

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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.

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Buy: Amazon.com

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.

Plot:

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.

Curse of the Crimson Altar party

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…

Curse of the Crimson Altar Christopher Lee

Reviews:

“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

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Buy: Blu-ray | DVD from Amazon.co.uk

Curse of the Crismson Altar Barbara Steele

“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…” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!

shrieking sixties british horror films

Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

“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 under developed brew.” Alfred Eaker’s The BlueMahler

beasts in the cellar exploitation film career of tony tenser

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

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Filming locations:

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.

Trivia:

One of Dübreq’s late 1970s Horror Top Trumps game decks contained a card called “High Priestess of Zoltan” that was clearly modelled (unlicensed) on Barbara Steele‘s Lavinia Morley.

Curse of the Crimson Altar behind the scenes shot
Tony Tenser, Vernon Sewell, script lady, Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff

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Horror House + The Crimson Cult

Ghoul-arama Oblong Box + Conquerer Worm + Horror House + Crimson Cult

The Crimson Cult American International Pictures Super 8

Curse of the Crimson Altar DVD

Black Horror

Curse pf the Crimson Altar Michael Gough
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

Wikipedia | IMDb | Image credits: Alfred Eaker’s The BlueMahler | Button Face Blues

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