Released by: Scorpion Releasing
Released on: September 30th, 2013.
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Cast: Vincent Price, Donald Pleasence, John Carradine, Stuart Whitman, Richard Johnson
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The final nail in the coffin of Amicus Studios, The Monster Club was a flop when it was released in 1980 but has since developed, and deservedly so, a solid cult following. And it makes sense. The star power of Vincent Price, John Carradine and Donald Pleasance ensures that the film has to have some redeeming qualities, and with experienced Hammer/Amicus director Roy Ward Baker behind the camera, it should at least look nice, right? Well, more or less. Except that by the time of this film’s release, Amicus Studios had pretty much run their anthology films into the ground. The glory days of The House That Dripped Blood and Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors were behind them and there wasn’t really much left to work with.
The film was based on the anthology book by Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes (whose work also served as the inspiration behind the studios earlier effort, From Beyond The Grave), which follows the story of the author himself, played here by Carradine. One night, the scribe encounters a vampire named Eramus (Vincent Price) who invites him to a literal Monster Club, where he hopes the author will find some inspiration for his work. Here, he’s told three stories, all of which are linked back through to the club where the two are talking and in between each song, we’re treated to a song by the band playing in the club that night. It’s this premise that provides the wraparound story.
The first story revolves around Angela (Barbara Kellerman) and her boyfriend George (Simon Ward) who meet up with Raven (James Laurenson). Raven is a Shadmock, a monster if you will. George, a rabid antique collector, convinces his girlfriend to work as Raven’s secretary so that he can get her to leave the safe open in hopes that he’ll be able to rob it. When Raven catches George red handed, a transformation occurs… much to George’s dismay.
Next up, an American film producer named Lintom Busotsky (Anthony Steel) introduces us to his next project in which a younger version of himself (Warren Saire) deals with some issues at school while trying to figure out just what his nocturnal father (Richard Johnson) is up to. When
vampire hunter named Pickering (Donald Pleasance) and his comrades show up, things get complicated.
Last but not least, a film director named Sam (Stuart Whitman) is out doing a location scout in England hoping to find the right place to shoot his next picture. He finds a strange old village that looks like it would be perfect but soon learns that the village holds a secret.
Something about this movie just works, even when it shouldn’t. Yes, it is corny and over acted for the most part and a lot of the makeup effects haven’t aged very well at all. The music is ridiculously dated (but completely enjoyable) as are the fashions of the club goers and the musicians (look for UB40 doing their thing). But how can you not love a movie with a werewolf secretary and a stripper (Suzanna Willis) who truly takes it all off?
The black humor works more often than not. Price, though looking rather frail, is still Price and that counts for a lot. He’s got that charm and that charisma and that screen presence that really made him one of a kind. Carradine is Carradine, we can’t ask him to be anything else and his performance is exactly what you’d expect it to be but he too is able to bring his own certain quirks and instantly identifiable style to his role. The interaction between the two is playful and comedic but sinister at the same time, never going overboard with the hamfistedness you might expect them to deliver. Pleasance intentionally hams up his part here and the movie is all the better for it while a salty Stuart Whitman is fun to watch too. On top of that we get supporting work from Patrick Magee, Richard Johnson and Britt Ekland to really round out that cast in a big way.
Additionally there’s a lot of really nice visual style here. The scenes that take place in the club where the various bands play have a lot of great primary colors that give those scenes some fun and spooky atmosphere that is just a whole lot of fun. And that more or less sums it up – fun. It’s not particularly scary and it’s not gory but it is pretty quickly paced and just ridiculously entertaining.
Scorpion gives The Monster Club a very nice looking 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that really brings out the excellent use of color in the movie. Detail is good, the picture is clean and sharp without looking to have been artificially boosted or scrubbed. Black levels are solid and all in all things look very good, making this quite a noticeable visual upgrade over the previous Pathfinder DVD release from years back.
The original English language Mono track is included in Dolby Digital Mono format. Clarity and balance are fine here while dialogue stays clean and clear. The musical bits in the movie have good depth to them and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. No alternate language or subtitle options are provided.
The main extra is the inclusion of an hour long interview with Vincent Price. Basically, in 1987, film historian David Del Valle self-produced a pilot which he intended to use to get his TV show off the ground. The pilot was the only episode filmed, however, and the show, titled The Sinister Image, never took off. All Day Entertainment previously released it on DVD but that disc has been long out of print for years. It’s quite an interesting piece and it serves as a fascinating and in-depth interview with the one and only Price. The two men speak at great length about Price's career, and not only his work for AIP and Roger Corman for which he is probably best known, but also about his work on stage, television and radio as well. Price, the perfect gentleman here, maintains how important it is for those who might be typecast at times to always have a sense of humor about yourself and what you do. He relates anecdotes and stories about working with all the classic actors he was involved with throughout his career, from Peter Lorre to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The end result is an interesting and wonderful trip down memory lane for those of us who grew up on Prices' films, and Del Valle conducts the interview with a lot of respect and a genuine love for the material, which is nice to see. Also previously included on that aforementioned All Day Entertainment DVD and carried over for this release is a forty-one minute long audio interview that Del Valle conducted with Price. It covers a bit of the same ground but offers up enough new information and recollections from the actor that it’s absolutely worth your time.
Del Valle himself shows up in a new video interview that clocks in at about ten minutes. Here he speaks to Katarina Leigh Waters about his experiences getting to know Price and offers up some thoughts on the man and his work. Outside of that we get an isolated score track, a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Additionally we get the option to watch the movie with or without introductions from Waters that offer up a nice mix of humor and trivia in regards to the movie’s history and reception.
The Final Word:
The Monster Club remains a whole lot of goofy, campy fun and this new DVD reissue from Scorpion Releasing offers it up in excellent shape with some great supplemental extras too. A really fun release overall.