Monster Club (1980 film)
"You'll meet some interesting people and hear some great songs at The Monster Club!" A vampire invites a horror writer to a secret club where monsters gather to drink and dance. He soon regales the amused man with three tales of terror involving a lonely creature, hunters of the undead and a mysterious village.
- Release Date: 1981
- Country/Language: UK, English
- Genres/Technical: Horror, Fantasy, Black Comedy
- Setting: Modern (1970s-1980s) UK
- Runtime: 1 hr 44 min
- Starring: Vincent Price, John Carradine, Anthony Steel, Donald Pleasence
- Director: Roy Ward Baker
- Writer: R. Chetwynd-Hayes (novel), Edward Abraham and Valerie Abraham (screenplay)
- Producer/Production Co: Chips, EMI, ITC, Sword and Sorcery, Rank, Milton Subotsky
- View Trailer: (link)
- View Film: (link)
- TVTropes: (link)
- IMDB Page: (link)
- Rated: unrated (perhaps equivalent to a PG or even G for very mild Violence and Adult Content)
A strange sort of "neither fish nor fowl" kind of movie: it has a lot in common Aesthetically and in terms of storytelling with the sort of gory and exploitative AIP and Hammer horror movies of the 1970s that frequently included stars Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleaseance, and Klaus Kinsky, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing (who were planned to have starring roles in this movie, but turned them down), and a lot in common with the even sleazier, MTV/New Wave-fueled 1980s direct-to-video horror movies that would start appearing only a few years later, only with a more kid-friendly level of violence and adult content than either of those sorts of movies; meanwhile, though nominally a kid-friendly tongue-in-cheek parody of the earlier AIP and Hammer horror movies, this movie actually plays half of its anthology horror segments rather straight as quite atmospheric and creepy horror stories of an earlier decade.
The result is in many ways both more kid-friendly AND more adult-friendly than the 1960s and 1970s horror movies it was supposedly parodying/homaging, and the 80s horror movies that would come afterward.
There might have been some very mild "strong language", but if so it was barely noticeable, and there was some very mild off-screen violence with very little gore (the only really gruesome effect being a scene of a woman with nice but TV-friendly melting face make-up of the sort that would have been common on The Night Gallery), and a scene involving a strip-tease in which the dancer strips down to her underwear before stepping behind a screen where we can see her, in cartoon silhouette, removing not just the rest of her clothes, but her skin as well, leaving just the shadow of a dancing skeleton: a fun and clever little scene, and probably nothing that most kids wouldn't be able to handle quite easily.
A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:
- SS___ (Two Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian; vaguely similar in tone, could have almost been a very loose adaptation)
For a film that basically pokes some gentle and well-meaning fun at standard monster movie monster conventions, the result is surprisingly Lovecraftian, perhaps because the same sorts of gothic horror cliches that this movie subverts to well-meaning humorous effect, are the sorts of tropes that Lovecraft subverted in the process of making a new type of gothic horror story. The third segment, "Ghouls", in particular comes off as remarkably Lovecraftian, for its creepy small town in the middle of a busy highway from London, and its interesting similarities to such Lovecraftian tales as "The Shadow Over Innsmouth (fiction)", "The Lurking Fear (fiction)", etc., while the first segment ("The Shadmock") comes off as something of a pastiche in the spirit of "The Outsider (fiction)"....
Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.
- Review by Mitch Lovell at The Video Vacuum (2 Stars) (link)
- Review by George Pacheco at 10,000 Bullets (link)
- Review by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (2/5 Stars) (link)
- Review by Chris Wood at British Horror Films (link)
Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)
- The Monster Club (wrap-around segment) - Vincent price, in his only vampire role in a long career of horror films, plays a kind-hearted vampire that only drinks blood with his victim's permission, who meets an agreeable horror story writer; in exchange for a drink of (quite excellent) blood, the vampire introduces the author to the Monster Club (exactly what it says on the tin), as research for his stories in the form of the short segments of the anthology film; the pair realize by the end of the film there might be trouble: is it possible for a human to join the Moster Club?
- The Shadmock - A surprisingly eerie story about a kind of tender-hearted monster, not quite fully werewolf, vampire, or ghoul, whose monster quality is looking scary, and whistling; horror ensues when the innocent Shadmock invites a pair of scam artists to help inventory his collection of rare and priceless artifacts....
- The Vampires - A charming (if disposable) story about an awkward boy whose father, a European count evicted from the Old Country under mysterious circumstances, sleeps by day, and goes out to eat by night, and what happens when some vampire hunters trick the boy into revealing where his father sleeps.
- The Ghouls - The anthology ends on a high note with a tale that begins with a gentle "take that" to the movie's producer, who insists on getting the perfect location for his next horror film, even if he has to find it himself - which he does, when he takes a wrong turn into Luohgville, a creepy little town less than two miles off a major highway, where the weird locals get all of their wood, clothing, and food out of boxes - dug up from the cemetery at the edge of town!
Comments, Trivia, Dedication
- The author bitten by Vincent Price's character is meant to be R. Chetwynd-Hayes, nick-named "Britain's Prince of Chill" by British horror fandom. R. Chetwynd-Hayes wrote the stories this anthology film was based on, as well as numerous other short stories, novels, and story anthologies, and edited over 20 horror anthologies including horror anthologies for children besides.
- The character of "vampire film producer" Lintom Busotsky is a tongue-in-cheek anagram of the movie's producer, Milton Subotsky. The original book the film was based on, The Monster Club by R. Chetwynd-Hayes, contains references to a film-maker called Vinke Rocnnor, an anagram of Kevin Connor, the director of that author's other 1970s-1980s era horror anthology film, From Beyond the Grave (1974 film)
- Artist John Bolton painted the picture of the Shadmock before the film was cast; he was amazed when the producers found an actor, James Laurenson, who matched it. Milton Subotsky claimed he planned the film to include all six of the top horror stars of the day in leading roles - that is to say, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski, Donald Pleasence and John Carradine. Cushing, Lee and Kinski all turned him down, but the others appear in the film. Christopher Lee was approached to play the role of R. Chetwynd-Hayes, ultimately played by John Carradine, who was second choice for Hayes. Klaus Kinski was replaced by Richard Johnson. Vincent Price was second choice for the vampire Eramus; this is the only film, in a long career of horror and other roles, where Vincent Price played a vampire.
- In the UK, the movie attained a limited theatrical release. While information about the upcoming release was covered in American publications like "Famous Monsters of Filmland," the film never secured theatrical distribution in the United States; instead, the movie was sold for regional television airings in 1982, and it eventually surfaced on a home video hosted by Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) in 1985. Tie-in merchandise for the film is very rare and highly sought after: Dez Skinn, John Bolton and David Lloyd produced a graphic novel adaptation which was given away at the Cannes Film Festival, and only 1000 copies were printed; the soundtrack LP issued by Chips Records seldom surfaces and tends to sell in the triple-digits; a paperback edition of the source R. Chetwynd-Hayes novel boasting artwork featured in the film was printed in 1981 and reprinted in 2013.
Associated Mythos Elements
- races: many kinds of monsters apparently frequent the club, but the three main stories feature...
- fiction: compare/contrast with...
- film: compare with...