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Case Number 26854: Small Claims Court

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The Monster Club (1980)

Scorpion Releasing // 1980 // 97 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // January 17th, 2014

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All Rise...

If you're looking for Judge Jim Thomas, he's having dinner at The Dork Club.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Monster Club, published May 26th, 2004, is also available.

The Charge

For the love of Boris Karloff, I have no freakin' idea why I like this movie.

The Case

Renowned horror author R. Chetwynd-Hayes (John Carradine, Stagecoach) is walking past a bookstore displaying his work when he is accosted by a desperate man (Vincent Price, House of Wax). When Chetwynd-Hayes assures him that he will do anything he can to help, the stranger takes him up on the offer by sinking his fangs into his benefactor's neck. A few minutes later, the vampire, named Eramus, thanks his benefactor for the pick-me-up and offers to repay him in kind by taking him to an exclusive night spot for the supernatural—The Monster Club. As they enjoy the entertainment, Chetwynd is regaled with three tales:

The Shadmock
Raven (James Laurenson, Pink Floyd's The Wall), a recluse whose only companions are the pigeons who come to be fed every day and his collection of priceless antiquities, hires an assistant to help him catalog his collection. Though she's initially put off by his appearance, she gets accustomed to it, mainly because she's running a scam with her lover to steal as much stuff as possible. So she's quick to accept when Raven proposes marriage—but what she doesn't realize is that Raven is a Shadmock—a monster with an odd yet devastating power.

The Vampires
The son of a vampire (Richard Johnson, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and a human (Britt Ekland, The Man with the Golden Gun is having trouble fitting in with school. But his problems are about to get worse, because a vampire hunter (Donald Pleasance, Halloween) is stalking his father.

The Ghouls
A movie director (Stuart Whitman, The Longest Day) is scouting for a location for his next movie when he stumbles across a town of ghouls. Can he direct his way to freedom?

Amicus Productions was a small British film company that had a number of classics during the 1970s, including Asylum and The House that Dripped Blood. The Monster Club was their last hurrah—so much so that while the movie was filmed as an Amicus Production, the company folded during post-production.

The movie itself is, shall we say, unique. The stories themselves are at best a mixed bag. "The Shadmock" works despite itself, primarily on the strength of James Laurenson's performance. He sells Raven's isolation and pain, and almost sells his devastating power—a diabolical, uh, whistle. Yeah, I said it. He whistles and you die. "The Vampires" is straight-up stupid—but filmmakers know that it's ridiculous—it's a parody of filmmakers' autobiographical films—and plays it to the hilt, to the point that you feel as though you're laughing with the filmmakers, not at them. "The Ghouls" has wonderful atmosphere, and is the closest thing to a true horror story in the bunch, but the plot itself is one-note and predictable.

And yet, this is a fun movie. A lot of that has to do with the framing device—something that distinguished most of the Amicus anthologies. They take the idea—a monster's nightclub—and go all in on the concept, with all manner of monsters populating the place, dancing, songs (some pretty good ones, actually—and let me tell you something: When a Monster Club stripper takes it off, she really takes it off! Price and Carradine play off one another well, and there's a nice twist at the end when Eramus decides to put his new friend up for membership in the august assembly, arguing that as a human, Chetwynd-Hayes represents the greatest monsters of all.

The movie is also supported by a strong soundtrack, not just in the atmospheric music cues that accompany the tales, but also the performances in the club. Popular local bands of the time perform complete songs, which not only sells the idea of the club, but it also pads out the run time. The result is a fairly eclectic array of music—you're not likely to see both John Williams and UB40 on the same soundtrack very often. Copies of the soundtrack album-that's a vinyl album, just to be clear—go for over $350 on eBay.

If the screener disc we received is any indication, the finished disc will be fantastic. Rich, vibrant colors without bleeding—and keep in mind that we're talking a late 70s palette, very little in the way of noticeable film damage. Of course, there is a price for that level of definition, and in this case, the makeup pays the price, particularly in the confines of the club itself, which is basically a prosthetic head convention. The audio is equally good, with strong stereo imaging and dynamic range.

Scorpion also serves up an excellent helping of extras, though they are focused more on Price than the movie itself. This is part of the Katarina's Nightmare Theater line, so the movie has an intro and epilogue from host Katarina Leigh Waters. There's also a music-only audio track, which is particularly welcome.

The remaining extras feature film historian David Del Valle:
* A 60+ minute interview with Price, recorded in 1987, that is essentially a retrospective of Price's career to that point.
* A 40+ audio interview with Price, also on his career.
* A 10 minute interview with Waters that focuses more on the film.

A word of warning: Price and Carradine put their boogie shoes on at the end of the movie. What has been seen cannot be unseen.

The Monster Club is, in a way, a last gasp from a dying age of horror movies. Halloween came out in 1978, but it understood the value of restraint and atmosphere. But with the releases of Friday the 13th and Prom Night the same year as The Monster Club, the age of restraint was gone, and all that remained was the quest for more blood, higher body counts, and continuing sequels to milk the last drop from the cash cow. That's why The Monster Club, for me at least, works despite its many flaws. You simply have a group of talented professionals coming together to try and make a good movie. They're not out to make art, they're not out to make a fortune—they just want to entertain and have fun doing it. And there's a lot to be said for that.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 84

Perp Profile

Studio: Scorpion Releasing
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Cult
• Foreign
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Interviews
• Isolated Score
• Trailer


• IMDb

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