John Carradine, playing real-life author R. Chetwynd-Hayes (on whose book the movie isvery loosely based), is ambushed by vampire Vincent Price. Price drains only a bit of his blood,and upon realizing that he has met his favourite author, invites Carradine for drinks at theMonster Club. Here Price spins a trio of tales: a young woman ill-advisedly plans to steal froma lonely “shadmock” (a creature with a fatal whistle); a family-man vampire is stalked byunpleasantly bureauc…atic vampire hunter Donald Pleasance; and horror film director StuartWhitman, scouting for a suitable location, lands on a town inhabited by real ghouls. In betweeneach tale, a rock group (UB40 for example) performs a number.
In the 60s and 70s, producer Milton Subotsky’s Amicus pictures pumped out a raft of theseanthology films: Torture Garden, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Asylumand so on. One, From Beyond the Grave (1973), also used Chetwynd-Hayes stories, tomuch greater effect. These are not towering classics (the greatest horror anthology film remains1945’s Dead of Night), but they are wonderful fun. The Monster Club was madein 1980, after the demise of Amicus, and the result is dispiriting. The framing narrative, set in themonster club, is embarrassingly inane; the songs are wildly out of place; and the storiesthemselves are lackluster. There is always some pleasure in seeing Price, Carradine, Pleasance etal on the screen, but this sad end to a form is worth seeing only if it makes you re-watch theAmicus films.
The sound is the original mono. There is no hiss, but the dialogue is sometimes a bit muzzy.At least there is no stereo remix, which likely would have made matters a lot worse. The musicis decently served, coming through clearly, with no distortion or gurgles.
The film is prefaced by a screen informing us that the original elements of the film were notavailable, and so the transfer was based on a video master. The honesty is commendable, andthe picture is certainly not as bad as the warning might lead one to believe. Still, the 1.85:1 imageis not anamorphic, and is rather soft and grainy. The colours are decent, but the blacks arevariable, ranging from very solid to quite weak. There is some dirty and speckling present, andsome of the contrasts could be stronger (though the nightclub scenes are good).
The commentary by critics Luke Y. Thompson and Gregory Weinkauf is irritating and notterribly illuminating. Their witticisms are sporadically amusing, but you won’t learn much aboutthe film. As an example of how uninformed the commentary gets, during the credits, we see that“John Williams” has provided some of the music. “Not the John Williams,” Thompsonsupposes. Weinkauf points out that Williams plays an instrument, and the music is by somebodyelse. A cursory glance at one of the other extras (the entire soundtrack album, which is a nicetouch) reveals the piece in question as Gabriel Fauré’s “Pavane,” played by the celebratedclassical guitarist John Williams. The other extras are a bit better. The strongest, if only for campvalue, is the soundtrack album, but you also have the original press notes from 1980, anaffectionate essay by George Reis (he’s altogether too easy on the film, but at least this is betterthan the commentary), a still gallery, the trailer, and bios for the cast, director Roy Ward Baker,and Milton Subotsky. The menu is scored with the song “Monsters Rule OK,” which should giveyou some idea of what you’re in for.
A very weak example of its type, the film is still hard to hate completely, largely due to itsblinking, wide-eyed innocence.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Soundtrack Album
- Press Notes
- Still Gallery
- Cast and Crew Bios