Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968).
Dir: Vernon Sewell.
Cast: Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Michael Gough, Rosemarie Reede, Virginia Wetherell, Barbara Steele and Mark Eden.
|"It's like Boris Karloff is going to pop up at any moment!"|
You have to feel sorry for square jawed antique dealer Robert Manning (Marco Polo himself and latter day Corrie mad man Eden), not only has his better looking brother Peter gone missing - kidnapped by a pervy tea towel wearing Satanic cult led by a turquoise breasted witch named Lavinia (swinging sixties sex goddess Steele), we got to see this amazing spectacle in the pre-credits teaser - after sending him only one of a matching pair of candle sticks but, and this is much more important, his attempts at flirting with his assistant Esther (Reede) have all the erotic pulling power of your dad pissed up and trying it on with a bridesmaid at a wedding.
The mighty man tits don't really help either if I'm honest.
With only a hastily written note detailing Peter's last whereabouts - which if you think about it is more than most folk have to go on - Robert heads off to the typographically odd Craxted Lodge in the quaint English village of Greymarsh, which by some bizarre twist of fate and plot convenience is where his family originally hails from, for some answers.
And maybe even a shirt or two that fit from the local tailors.
|Barbara Steele: Ask yer granddad.|
Wouldn't you know it tho', it's all a huge misunderstanding and the group are actually playing a grown up version of hide and seek possibly called run and ravish .
Sounds reasonable I guess.
Making his apologies for trying to punch everyone involved our hero is surprised to find himself invited along to the annual whacked-out witch party - of the type that only exist in the minds of middle aged film producers in the late '60's - being held at the Lodge.
Cut to ten minutes of saucy body painting, exotic types pouring cheap Cava over their overripe breasts, besuited Brylcream boys smoking dope and girls timidly touching each others thighs whilst licking their lips.
Robert, realizing that with all the drinking going on he might actually pull immediately grabs a large one and proceeds to fire into the first girl he sees, blonde bombshell Eve (Weatherell, best known for playing dishy Dyoni in the first Dalek story and waving her breasts at Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange) who just happens to be the niece of J.D. Morley (Christopher 'the kids school fees are how much?' Lee), the man he's there to see regarding his missing brother.
|Christopher Lee tries out Mark Eden's new Ronco anti-mooth shite-in mask.|
Which is thoughtful of him.
Thanking his host before heading off for a quick Pot Noodle, Robert is waylaid by the arrival of the wheelchair bound local witchcraft expert Professor John Marsh (Karloff, nuff said) who, armed only with a bottle of home brewed tonic wine and a back of torture instruments proceeds to regale our hero with the tale of the luscious Lavinia Morley, a witch burned by the towns folk a hundred years ago that very night.
The party it seems is the locals way of celebrating the event because nothing says community spirit like a good burning.
Except maybe pedo baiting.
|How your mum earns the money for all your Christmas presents.|
Now that the entire cast have been introduced we can get on with the plot good and proper.
And my word what a plot it turns out to be featuring as it does a Joe Orton style mute manservant with a gun fetish, LSD fuelled dream sequences full of middle-aged men in bondage gear alongside tassle-titted butch babes in animal masks, horrible bri-nylon Kung Fu style pyjamas and, most disturbingly a bizarre sixties style revolving lamp that communicates from beyond the grave using Barbara Steele's voice.
Which is weird seeing as not even he appears to be using it in this film.
They must have secretly recorded her answer phone or something.
|Tonight live on stage....One Direction!|
It's not all breasts, booze and beasts tho' as Robert is soon dragged headlong into an hallucinogenic hellhole of soul selling and rare silverware that even Bargain Hunt's Tim Wonnacott would be wary of.
Tho' saying that he'd have had absolutely no problem bedding at least half of the party goers by now.
Even Christopher Lee would have been tempted.
So, will Robert find his brother and manage to get a good price for the candlesticks?
Will bubbly Barbara pop out of her gravity defying dress?
And most importantly will Robert's frankly over aggressive pulling technique of attempting to force himself upon Eve culminate in a kissing session or a restraining order?
|Five miles...roughly speaking.|
I say should be because what we end up with is a gloriously cliched and convoluted pot boiler of a 'B' picture that's so simplistic in it's plotting as to make Scooby Doo look like Eraserhead.
|Barbara Steele: She'll have plenty of energy left for me long after you've crawled into a corner for a cry.|
|That's not to say it isn't still wildly entertaining and worth a look tho', if only for the legendary Karloff and Lee sharing screen time.|
It's just a pity we don't get to see more of the magnificent Ms. Steele in all her technicolour glory which frankly would be far more attractive than a topless Mark Eden grubbily pawing at Virginia Wetherell's flimsy nightie with his massive sausage fingers.
Erotic as that maybe for your grannie I'm sorry but it does nowt for me.
|Wetherell: Nip slip and side shed.|
Adequately directed in a workman-like manner by 'B' movie stalwart Vernon Sewell, director of The Blood Beast Terror - the film that Peter Cushing decried as his 'worse ever' - Crimson Altar isn't necessarily bad or unwatchable it's just that with hindsight and seeing the film as the last gasp of the whole Roger Corman led/Hammer following gothic horror cycle of the fifties and sixties before gruesome realism and grittiness took over that both the audience and the actors deserved a wee bit better.
Bloody Hell that's a bit of a downer to end on isn't it?