This attempt by Milton Subotsky at resuscitating the horror anthology formula that he started back in 1965 with Dr Terrors House of Horrors, but in a semi-comic vein, proved a disappointment on its release (it had a London premiere on 2 April 1981 before having a short run on 24 May 1981) and was the final film from his Amicus outfit. But the film has since attracted a cult following.
The first story deals with a shadmock, the professor of a lethal whistle (James Laurenson), and the woman (Barbara Kellerman) who tries to steal from him. The second is an autobiographical film by producer Lintom Bustosky (Anthony Steel) involving his vampire dad (Richard Johnson) and the cop (Donald Pleasance) trying to kill him. The final episode concerns a film producer (Stuart Whitman) whose ideal horror movie location proves to be populated by real ghouls…
Vincent Price (who shot his scenes between 15 and 19 May 1980) appears in the framing device as a vampire who inducts John Carradine’s horror writer into a club for monsters, and it’s these scenes where the film is at its weakest – mainly due to the cheap make-up effects used for the club’s denizens and an embarrassing final dance scene (check out my monster mash-up on YouTube here). But there are some stand-out moments, namely Kellerman’s grisly demise, the fog-shrouded town that Whitman tries to escape from, and Price’s big speech in which he declares that man is the biggest monster of them all.
Author Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes was struck dumb by how badly his source material was rewritten, while the great Roy Ward Baker (who’d been pulled out of retirement) directed without his usual flair. It was his final feature film, and also that of Subotsky.
The music, which ranges from the dub sounds of UB40 and the rock of The Pretty Things, was also released on record – now quite collectable, fetching up to US$400 on e-Bay.
The film also appeared in comic form (pictured below) in Issue 25 of Dez Skinn’s legendary UK Hammer horror fanzine Halls of Horror, which was drawn by John Bolton and David Lloyd.
THE HOME ENTERTAINMENT RELEASES
In the US, the Scorpion Releasing Blu-ray (October 2013) features a brand new HD transfer, a 62-minute interview with Vincent Price conducted in 1987 by film historian David Del Valle, a 40-minute audio interview between Del Valle and Price, on camera interview with Del Valle, Original Trailer, and isolated ME track.
Network Distributing‘s UK Blu-ray restoration release (August 2014) comes from ITV Global and is a sparkly fresh delight (it also shows up just how bad those masks are).
The special features includes the film with isolated music score – where you get to hear all of the songs featured (Barbara Kellerman and Simon Ward having breakfast while listening to a punk vampire song on the radio is hilarious), plus Douglas Gamley’s lyrical instrumental music and Alan Hawkshaw’s stirring synth score; two theatrical trailers (one textless); textless film elements, comprising the opening scene of the bookshop without sound, and the John Bolton/Dez Skinn colour promo poster (see below); promo, featuring the best bits on Blu-ray accompanied by The Viewers’ theme tune; and an image gallery, featuring UK and Spanish lobby cards, as well as lots of pictures you may not have seen before – all courtesy of Stephen Jones.
What is missing are the extras you get on the US Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing, which included George Reis’ detailed production history liner notes, and the two Price interview. But considering I’ve only ever had the film on DVD in French before – it came with an issue of Mad Movies – I’m not complaining.