This blog is a place for Me to review classic British films (in particular horror films) by Hammer, Amicus and the like. But I will occasionally branch out and review international films as these are the international counterpart to the British films, some of which will include works by American International Pictures, Mario Bava et al. I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Oblong Box


After being disfigured by a voodoo curse whilst in Africa, Edward Markham is locked away from the public in his brother, Julian's mansion. After an attempt to escape goes wrong, Edward accidentally gets buried alive, but fortunately for him some grave robbers dig him up and bring him to Dr Neuhartt who experiments on dead bodies. But Edward is still alive and blackmails the doctor into allowing him to stay at his home while he goes about taking care of business along the way causing havoc for the local people.

The Oblong Box is a 1969 American International Pictures production. It stars Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Rupert Davies. It was directed by Gordon Hessler. It is credited as being an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's story The Oblong Box, when in actuality it only bares the same title.

FOOL! The guy was warned several times not to get too close to Edward. Since his disfigurement he can't control his anger and can lash out. But no the guy still went close enough for Edward to grab him by the throat, luckily for him he's in league with Edward and they are both plotting his escape. So the strangling malarkey was just a threat. The guy's still an idiot though, he knows Edward is troubled and was warned several times to be careful.

After Edward escapes he begins taking care of business, thusly by killing people who have wronged him. Now I presume being stabbed is a nasty experience, but this guy has a great “being stabbed face” and from the look of his face it must have hurt yet not even a whimper of pain left his lips.

Poor Dr Neuhartt, everyone threatens to use the knowledge of his experiments against him. First, Edward blackmailed him into letting him stay at his house otherwise he'd tell the town about his methods of experimenting on stolen corpses. Then there's Sally the maid, who does the same when he tries to discharge her, she says she'd need money and that he best make it worth her while to leave otherwise she'll tell.

This film depicts what must be the secret origins of Sadomasochism, after all it's set in 1865. “You can leave your mask on, I don't mind.” says the prostitute to Edward who is parading around town wearing a red cloth mask.

WHY DOESN'T ANYBODY EVER LEARN?! DON'T FUCK WITH THE GUY WEARING THE CREEPY RED MASK. He'll end up cutting your throat or smashing a vase over your head. So whatever you do, DO NOT REMOVE HIS MASK! He doesn't like it.

Even by these type of films' standards the throat slitting effect is pretty poor. It's obviously getting sprayed from the knife. There's even a point were you can see the “blood” has been smudged on the victim's throat, and ends up just looking like a mucky mark. But the worst one is on Christopher Lee as he is at the time filling the screen so we can clearly see his throat hasn't been slit, it looks more like a nasty knick if anything. It looked best on the prostitute, but even then it didn't look great, I suppose at least when it was on her it didn't look like a smear.

Vincent Prices' Julian Markham is so impatient when knocking on someone's door. “Hello. Anybody there? Hello, Hello.” then just opens the door and walks in anyway. How rude.

The big reveal of Edward's face at the end was so naff. The film was made so cleverly as to not show his face at any point, we only see glimpses whether it be from the back of his head or the top of his head. And the build up was great, it left you imagining horrifying ways in which his face must look, due to people who see his face screaming and falling to the floor because their legs have gone weak from fear. It's even stated at one point that Edward's face is inside out, which added to the horror of how disfigured he must now be. So to see that his face instead looks like he has a slight case of Eczema or some form of rash accompanied by him keeping his eyes closed, was more than slightly disappointing. Infact at the very end after Edward has bitten Julian and it's revealed that he has passed on the disfigurement to him, we see this by the fact that the cheek on one side of his face has began to blister and presumably turn inside out, the effects on this were much better than the BIG ONE we were all looking forward to and also dreading (due to how extreme they made you think his face was going to appear.)

We don't get to see Edward's face before the voodoo curse is put upon him, this, I suspect, is because when audiences see his disfigured face they would then realize “Hey he looks pretty much the same except for the Eczema and the fact he's walking around with his eyes closed.” So for various characters to scream in fear of his so called “inside out face” is just uncalled for. The man has Eczema, so give him some ointment.

The big appeal of this film is that it stars not one but TWO horror legends; Christopher Lee and Vincent Price. The problem with that is they only appear in one scene together, and in that Christopher Lee's Dr Neuhartt is kind of in the middle of dying, so it's not a big exciting scene containing two great horror icons. It's certainly not what you would expect from a film that has acquired these two actors to star in it.

Overall, I'd certainly say that the film is watchable but nothing at all special. The story is decent enough, it keeps you guessing as to what Edward's appearance is going to be like, even if it is a disappointment. Regardless of the disappointment of Edward's face, the build up is great it keeps you pondering for the whole film. I also liked the twist at the end, the reason why the voodoo curse was put upon Edward, what he had done to deserve such a fate. It's just unfortunate that I found the film to be a disappointment. Just don't expect too much from it, infact watch it with no expectations otherwise you'll end up being disappointed with it like I was.

The Oblong Box 2/5

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Vampire Circus


The children of a village have been going missing, the villagers then discover that it's the doing of a vampire called Count Mitterhaus with the help from a wife of one of the villagers who has joined the vampire. The villagers lay siege to the castle and slay the vampire but not after he puts a curse on their village and swears his return. 15 years later, the village is dying of the plague and a circus comes to town, unbeknown to the villagers the circus is a group of vampires who are using the blood of the innocent to reawaken Count Mitterhaus.

Vampire Circus is a 1972 Hammer production. It stars Adrienne Corri, Thorley Walters and Anthony Higgins (as Anthony Corlan). It was directed by Robert Young.

The battle at the start of the film is pretty good, especially by Hammer's standards. The vampire Count Matterhaus takes on a group of villagers one after the other, biting their throats, cutting their throats with a knife and so on. It also has to be said that Robert Tayman is great as Count Matterhaus, he is at times very creepy looking and makes you feel quite uneasy. It's just such a shame that he only appears at the beginning and the end of the film.

I could swear that guy just staked him in the crotch.

He DID! He DID stake him in the CROTCH! I realise it didn't hurt him because it wasn't a stake to the heart, but you'd think surely even a vampire would react to getting a stake to the goolies. But no, not him, he's a bad ass vampire with balls of steel!

Now I know it's a circus but the film is set in a time when people would yell “WITCHCRAFT!” if someone was good at holding their breath under water. So for them to think nothing of a panther transforming into a man or a pair of bats transforming into a twin brother and sister is more than a bit odd. Surely this would be a call for “WITCHCRAFT!” They should at least be suspicious, especially seen as 15 years earlier they fought a vampire, and vampires are commonly associated with bats and that of the ability to transform between human and bat.

The graphic violence seems that bit more graphic than usual for Hammer, notably when we see the remains of 3 people after they were slaughtered by the panther. Another strong moment was when we see a female victim with blood oozing out of her throat after being bitten by one of the vampires.

I think this is the only other thing I've ever seen Lalla Ward in other than Doctor Who, and it's quite a change from the family friendly Romana she would go on to play several years after the role of a seductive, kidnapping vampire in this.

It's evident that this was one of Hammer's experimental films, made when they started experimenting with their greatest asset; period vampire tales. Around this time they continued to make vampire tales but changed them slightly to give them a fresh new angle, to try and branch out and keep with the times, because in the 1970s audiences were growing away from typical period horror films. Other experimental films Hammer made around this time were Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter which tells the tale of Captain Kronos who was once a vampire but cured himself of it and now hunts vampires, it was a sort of Gothic style Blade. There was also Dracula AD 1972 which does exactly as it says in the title, takes Dracula and plonks him in 1972. After that there was The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, which crossed Gothic vampires with Kung Fu. HAI YAH!

Awesome Moment Number 1: Lalla Ward's character getting staked by a giant falling cross. Which not only kills her but also her twin brother because they're twins they are for some reason connected so they feel each other's pain. She gets staked and he gets a huge puncture hole in his chest, killing them both.

Awesome Moment Number 2: Count Matterhaus getting decapitated by the wire of a crossbow. He gets his head put through a crossbow then the guy holding it fires causing the wire to go straight through Count Matterhaus' throat, taking his head clean off.

Overall, I rather liked it. It was different to other Hammer vampire tales, the violence seemed to step up quite a bit compared to usual. The story was fresh and original and succeeded in what Hammer had intended; a fresh new take on classic vampire tales. I would definitely recommend this to fans of Hammer and other classic British horror films.

Vampire Circus 4/5