Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Curse of the Crimson Altar

   Somehow I had missed out on even the existence of the 1968 horror film, THE CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR, which featured Boris Karloff (in his final role) alongside Christopher Lee. Yes, Lee and Karloff in a film together and somehow I was unaware of it. So of course, as soon as I learned of it, I spared no time in ordering a copy.
   Let me tell you folks, this is a SIXTIES film. The clothes, the music, and parts of the plot. It begins with antiques dealer Robert Manning (Mark Eden) searching after his brother who has gone missing in the English countryside, and whose last know whereabouts was a house called Craxted Lodge. Manning arrives at the house while a swinging sixties style party, with sex, drugs, and body-painting, is going on and is invited to join the festivities. The owner of the house, Mr. Morley (Lee) and his sexy niece Eve (Virginia Wetherell) claim to have no knowledge of Manning's bother, and invite Manning to stay the night.
   Manning has a nightmare about a cult of devil worshipers who want him to sign his name in a weird book. This has led several people to link this movie to H.P. Lovecraft's THE DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE because the hero of that story was coerced into signing "The Book of Azathoth" in his strange dreams. It's possible, but if so the link is tenuous at best. There's no mention of any of the Cthulhu Mythos Old Ones or anything of that nature.
   Boris Karloff looks tired but he still says his creepy lines with that distinctive voice, and it's good to see him one more time. Christopher Lee's star was still on the rise when he made this film and his performance is somewhat subdued.
   All and all though, I really enjoyed the movie, and recommend it to horror fans. Just be aware that it is, as I said, very much a product of it's time. Groovy baby. Fab and gear.


Chap O'Keefe said...

Just recently I came across a Boris Karloff movie I'd never seen, although perhaps with some excuse since it was a long-lost curio from 1933. Like the THE CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR, you would have to say THE GHOUL was "very much a product of its time" but none the less enjoyable for that ... indeed, quite the opposite with pleasing performances from Karloff, Ralph Richardson, Ernest Thesiger, Dorothy Hyson, and Kathleen Harrison. The Network DVD (2009) came with a neatly produced booklet of pictures and viewing notes by horror buff Stephen Jones, who explained that the movie had been beautifully restored from the original nitrate negative and a sound master print "found languishing in the archives of the British Film Institute." Special Features on the DVD included a commentary by Jones, author of THE ESSENTIAL MOVIE MONSTER GUIDE, and Kim Newman. I bought my copy for the ridiculous price of $1 in a chain store in Taupo, New Zealand. Not even damaged or shop-soiled stock, it looked clearly worth more, and so it proved to be. If you spot the DVD in your area, I would recommend you snap it up at any reasonable price.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Sounds like my sort of thing, Keith. Thanks for the recommendation!