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By Phil Hall | April 26, 2004

“The Monster Club” is a 1980 British horror anthology which never received a theatrical release in America. While not a great film, it is a richly entertaining bit of horror hokum with a fine cast and enough energy to keep fans of the genre (especially younger ones) pleasantly entertained.

The film opens with the noted horror writer Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes getting a neck bite from the vampire Erasmus, who immediately realizes his ghoulish faux pas and tries to make amends by inviting the writer to visit the infamous Monster Club — where the spooks, gremlins and goblins party down. The interaction here is priceless as the writer is played by John Carradine and the vampire by Vincent Price, and too much pleasure is generated by watching these peerless hams try to out-do each other with a variety of eyebrow arching, tics and vocal inflections.

Price’s Erasmus relates a trio of tales regarding the bizarre results of inter-monster breeding. The first involves Raven the Shadmock, who lives alone in a vast mansion with his pet pigeons. A Shadmock is the cross between a vampire and werewolf, which is not a pretty sight, and Raven has problems attracting friends of the opposite sex. When the lovely Angela (Barbara Kellerman) agrees to work for him as a secretary, he assumes she has fallen in love with his inner spirit. But upon learning Angela is conspiring to steal his vast fortune, the distressed Shadmock exacts a horrific revenge.

The second tale involves a suburban vampire-human family. The son of the house is half-vampire, but that’s enough to get the attention of the local vampire hunters (led by Donald Pleasence, who is so over-the-top that can barely control himself on screen). The mother of the child is Britt Ekland, who has problems keeping a straight face while this admittedly silly horror story unfolds.

The third and best tale finds a gruff American film producer (Stuart Whitman) scouting locations for his next movie. He winds up lost in a hostile region where cannibals thrive and he seeks refuge in a church which is occupied by a Humgoo (half-man, half-ghoul, total nightmare). The carnivorous villagers, led by veteran Irish actor Patrick Magee, wants the filmmaker for dinner — literally! Can he make a daring escape?

Linking these stories are a riot of garage rock bands (including the then-unknown UB40) who sing loud tunes while extras wearing rubber monster masks do 1980-style dance moves. It is actually a lot more charming than it sounds, trust me.

“The Monster Club” is not, by any stretch of the imagination, very scary. But it has enough creepy moments that will entertain children who love ghost stories — and it won’t upset parents who don’t want their youngsters exposed to excess violence and gore. Fans of the genre will also get a kick out of late-career Carradine and Price, who play their elder statesmen roles perfectly. Ultimately, “The Monster Club” is sensible enough never to take itself too seriously. A good time is had by all, and Price’s final speech about the world’s greatest monster (three guesses there) is a deranged mini-masterpiece which needs to be seen and cherished. Party on, monsters!

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  1. Henry Wolfsburg says:

    Good stuff about The Monster Club. I have a whole blog dedicated to one character in the movie Shadmock

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