Welcome to the penultimate entry in the 2020 UnitedMonkee Halloween Scene It’s All Connected experiment! As I said last time, the decision to watch Food Of The Gods immediately after Frogs added a bunch of movies to the process. The final film I watched would have been seen much earlier, but it all worked out in the end. Today I will discuss the trio of British films I watched to get to my ultimate destination!
Okay, so, screenwriter Robert Bloch got me from The Night Walker to the awesomely titled The House That Dripped Blood (which was and might still be streaming on Amazon Video). I’ll be honest, I was not excited to watch this 1971 Amicus anthology helmed by Peter Duffell. Though I’ve always been intrigued by the title and knew that legends like Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and John Pertwee starred, I just don’t find myself enjoying many anthologies these days (aside from Escapes, apparently).
This one revolves around a cop investigating the disappearance of a famous actor played by Pertwee from a house that has had a lot of other incidents uncovered by said cop. One story finds a writer dealing with his murderous character in real life. Another shows Cushing dealing with a waxwork recreation that looks like his dead beloved. Then Christopher Lee plays an overbearing father who hires a nanny to watch his daughter who may or may not be troubled. Finally we get back to Pertwee who gets entangled with something supernatural while filming a cheap Gothic horror film!
I was admittedly not excited about this film in the first place, but also found something wildly off-putting about mos of these installments. The killer in the first looks like a total caricature (see two images above), the wax-based drama did not hook me even as much as Terror In The Wax Museum, the Lee installment is actually great and could have been it’s own movie though with a different kid lead and the Pertwee stuff has some super corny effects make-up. Also, it felt like there was way too much air in this thing and not nearly enough urgency.
From there, I followed Cushing and Lee to their last project together under the bloodsucker banner in The Satanic Rites of Dracula (a.k.a. Count Dracula And His Vampire Bride). Why did I choose this 1973 Hammer Horror picture directed by Alan Gibson? Well, last year I really enjoyed Dracula A.D. 1972, so I figured that this follow-up could also be pretty cool. In that flick, it was super fun to see the swinging 70s of London come into conflict with the vampire count. In this one, Lee barely shows up as the reclusive Howard Hughes-esque Count so you get some crazy cult stuff overseen by vest-wearing minions and then a police procedural that brings in expert Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing (Cushing). He helps the bewildered cops figure out how to stop Dracula’s evil rites from destroying the whole planet.
There’s very little life in this vampire flick. You get the feeling that everyone involved has gotten to the end of their ropes when it comes to doing Dracula pictures. The cult stuff is interesting, though very out-there when you think of Dracula and vampire lore, but is fun seeing future Absolutely Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley playing Jessica Van Helsing. Still she can’t save this flick with a disappointing ending that’s spoiled in about 77% of the posters I saw while looking for art for this very post! I got this DVD from the library, but only later realized that I had a DVD copy of it in the Mill Creek Drive In Movie Classics set.
Finally, for the purposes of this post at least, I followed Cushing and Lee once more to the 1957 Hammer production, The Curse Of Frankenstein directed by Terence Fisher which I watched on TCM. I’d actually checked this one out for the first time just last year, but it was still a nice watch. Cushing plays Victor Frankenstein, who we see has been dedicated to scientific exploration over morality going back to his boyhood. As an adult, he decides that bringing someone back from the dead isn’t enough, but instead wants to build a perfect being from the parts of dead folks. He finds conflict in the form of his former teacher Paul (Robert Urquhart), the maid he’s having an affair with Justine (Valerie Gaunt) and his cousin Elizabeth (Hazel Court) who he wants to marry. Oh, and the rampaging monster he creates played by Lee, of course.
Cushing really captures the obsessive nature of Frankenstein and becomes the blueprint for the kind of calm, focused and morally bankrupt scientists that populate fiction (and sometimes reality) to this day. Everything from Jeffrey Combs’ Herbert West to the lead in Larry Fessenden’s fantastic first feature No Telling owes a debt of gratitude to this man. And Lee does a nice job recreating a monster that had already been visually established by Boris Karloff and his Universal Monster predecessors. At the end of the day, though, this film is kind of dry and boring, especially on the second watch! I hate to say this, but the big thing I realized from watching both Hammer horrors as well as Roger Corman Poe pictures is that they’re great to watch while you’re working on something. They’re not hard to follow and it’s very clear when you need to pop your eyes back to the screen.
But what do I know? Curse Of Frankenstein not only broke new ground for horror, but also made Cushing and Lee legitimate horror stars! For that, I could never be mad because, even in a film that feels like it could have been a killer 45-minute TV episode instead of a breathy feature, those two guys are always captivating! The final installment for this year’s It’s All Connected might not feature any horror icons, but it does include so many connections to the other films I watched this year, that it’s a bit mind-boggling.