Monster Club (1980)
By: Michael Helms on May 17, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
MRA (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 4:3. English 2.0. 94 minutes
The Movie
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Starring: Vincent Price, John Carradine, Anthony Steel, Barbara Kellerman, Simon Ward, James Laurenson, Donald Pleasance, Richard Johnson, Britt Ekland, Stuart Whitman
Screenplay: Edward and Valerie Abraham
Tagline: Trilogy Of Terror
Country: UK
At night on a darkened street a man idenitified as author R.Chetwynd Hayes played by John Carradine, is approached for help by Vincent Price who immediately flashes his fangs and sinks them into Carradine's neck. But it's okay because in the words of vampire Price, "I didn't bite deep so you won't become one of us". Price turns out to be a fan of the work of Hayes and offers to help him with his stories. Past the vampire door bitch and we're inside the titular night club that's populated by vampire waiters, a band singing, "Monsters Rule OK", a werewolf club secretary come-emcee, and a hoard of monster mask wearing punters who, as it turns out, didn't purchase their heads via mail order. With it's self reflexive tongue firmly in it's cheek it's on with the show as Price wheels out a handy monster primate chart which helps him to educate Carradine and illustrate his lecture on monsterdom with three shorts, all the while cracking jokes that take in everything from low budget film production to monster culture.

For the most part Carradine gets his lines out of the way quickly and sits back looking amused as Price takes centre stage in what was something of a comeback film for him.

The first short concerns a Shadmock, a product of inter-species monster breeding who looks like a middle aged goth (played by TV's BONEY) and is confined to eternally roaming his estate but who possesses a whistle that can melt cats at ten paces. When a girl hired to catalogue the possessions in his mansion tries to rip him off and then spurns his love he sends her home looking like she's been deep fried with the film's best example of the work of veteran Hammer make-up artist Roy Ashton. This story literally ends in tears (of the Shadmock).

Back at the club as the next band plays, "Just A Sucker For Your Love", a special guest is introduced as a Vampire Film Producer who turns out to be none other than the producer Milton Subotsky himself. He screens excerpts from his next film, a biographical number that revolves around a young boy growing up with Britt Ekland as his mother and a vampire for a father. Donald Pleasance turns up as the leader of a roving band of vampire killers but it quickly devolves into parody much like the wraparound sequences but unlike the two far more serious films that bookend it.

Night is the name of the strongest music act and appear just before a stripper who not only removes her clothes but her skin. The stripper precedes the last film sequence that spins the tale of a town that doesn't exist just like the Pleasant Valley of 2000 Maniacs. This story involves a director in search of a location and his encounter with a village of Humgoos who themselves are the products of humans mating with ghouls. Part of this story is told with graphics that look like they were ripped from a Victorian-era guide to demonology. Downbeat and like the other two films superbly shot, it powers towards it's elliptical ending and with the excellent electronic score by Alan Harkshaw stands out. The final framing sequence only serves to dilute it's power though as one of the worst incarnations of The Pretty Things play their reggae-tinged, "Welcome To The Monster Club", while Vincent Price elects Carradine as the first human member of the Monster Club.
Completely uneven the only real consistency to the visuals is that when they're good they're excellent and when they're bad, like nearly all of the club interior sequences which smack of haste, they're really bad. The wraparounds do little to enhance the performances of Price or Carradine and only serve to make the already excellent visuals of the stories look better.
The rock'n'roll component to the Monster Club soundtrack really moves it along despite it's severely dated new waved versions of British pub rock. The Alan Hawkshaw electronica deserves attention on it's own and wouldn't have gone astray amidst the Italian exploitation scene of the era and still sounds great today. While it lacks a surround mix it's probably better that some of the less than snappy banter of Price and Carradine isn't as audible as it should be.
Extra Features
The Verdict
You're unlikely to find a horror movie more maligned than Monster Club (besides the preceding commentary, Mick Martin & Marsha Porter's Video Movie Guide is just about the sole dissenter). So, it came as no surprise that this horror anthology is hardly unwatchable, not entirely unlikeable, and definitely not worthless, that is if you're not after raw, eviscerated, hardcore horror. The elements of Monster Club might sit together uneasily but that's where it's charm lies, as awkward as it might be. After all, the creation of unease is one of the core tenets of horror. With the exception of the second tale which goes all jocular in it's closing minutes, the stories are not without creepy atmospherics and the introduction of graphics into the final tale actually increases it's sense of dread although it dissipates quickly when we get back to Price and Carradine. For director Roy Ward Baker who had more than one go at crafting an anthology film and producer Subotsky who virtually had a career making them Monster Club might seem like an ignominious end to their big screen work (neither worked again) but I'd prefer to think of it as a fusion of elements that has yet to be more fully developed. Bring on the rock'n'roll horror anthology but start with this one.
Movie Score
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