Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Monster Club: Classic Horror 80s-Style

by G. Jack Urso

The Monster Club is a 1981 film directed by Roy Ward Baker and starring Vincent Price and John Carradine. Based on the works of the British horror author R. Chetwynd-Haye, the film provides a platform for a series of vignettes of horror stories and horror-inspired 1980s rock. It was intended for a general theatrical release, but its low budget sent it right into television syndication where it became an underappreciated cult classic. Clips from the film are posted below from the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel.

The main features are three short stories featuring classic, and not-so-classic, monsters. Among the better known actors featured in these segments are Britt Ekland, Patrick Magee, Donald Pleasence, Simon Ward, and Stuart Whitman.
The Shadmock: A lonely and sensitive man (played by James Laurenson) living in self-imposed exile on his wealthy estate invites a beautiful young woman to work as his secretary. Each has a secret she is a thief, and he is a monster who does not suffer a broken heart in silence.

The Shadmock — Whistling Death!
The Vampires: Donald Pleasance is a vampire hunter intent on destroying his prey, even if he has to use the monster’s child against his own father. Blood is indeed thicker than water in this slightly demented take on middle-class suburban family life. 

The Ghouls: In this truly terrifying tale of terror, a movie director (Stuart Whitman) scouting a location for his new horror film finds exactly what he is looking for a village of flesh-eating ghouls. His only hope for survival is a young girl who is a humegoo, a cross between a human and a ghoul, but can they both escape the village before dinner time?
Guess what's on the menu . . .

The horror-themed soundtrack features classic 80s rock/new wave/punk, some of which are performed on-screen between the dramatic segments: 
  • “Monsters Rule O.K. ”: Performed on-screen by The Viewers.

  • “Sucker for Your Love”: Performed on-screen by B.A. Robertson.

  • “The Stripper”: Performed on-screen by Night; Sung by Stevie Lange (credited as Stevie Lang).

  • “25 Per Cent”: Performed by UB40.
  • “Valentino's Had Enough”: Performed by The Expressos.
  • “Monster Club”:  Performed on-screen by The Pretty Things.

  • “Pavane (Op. 50, Pavane)”:  Composed by Gabriel Fauré; Arranged by Douglas Gamley; Performed by The Douglas Gamley Orchestra; Guitar played by John Williams.
  • “Transylvanian Terrors”: Performed by John Georgiadis.
  • “Vienna Blood”: Composed by Johann Strauss; Arranged by John Georgiadis; Performed by The John Georgiadis Ensemble.
  • “Ghouls Galore”: Performed by Alan Hawkshaw (credited as John Hackshaw).

The Monster Club is alternatively campy and terrifying. Vincent Price’s soliloquy nominating humans into The Monster Club is a classic exercise in comic social commentary:

Vampire [Vincent Price]:

Can we really call this a monster club if we do not boast amongst our membership a single member of the human race?
What can he do? In the past sixty years humes [humans] have exterminated over 150 million of their own kind! No effort has been spared to reach this astronomical figure and the methods they have used must demand our unstinted admiration.  

You know, humes began with certain very serious disadvantages, but these they overcame with wonderful ingenuity not having even a fang or claw or even a whistle worth talking about! They invented guns and tanks and bombs and aeroplanes and extermination camps and poison gas and daggers and swords and bayonets and booby traps and atomic bombs and flying missiles. Submarines, warships, aircraft carriers, and motor cars. They have even perfected a process whereby they can spread a lethal disease on any part of this planet not to say anything about nuclear power.  

During their short history, you know humes have subjected other humes to death by burning, hanging, decapitation, strangulation, electrocution, shooting, drowning, crushing, racking, disemboweling and other methods far, far too revolting for the delicate stomachs of this august assembly. 

Monster Club Secretary [werewolf]:

I never realized he was so talented! 

Human [John Carradine]:

 We don’t like to boast. 

The soundtrack, particularly the rock video productions of “Monsters Rule O.K.,” “Sucker for Your Love,” “The Stripper,” and “Monster Club” provides the film energy and pacing between the campy bits with Price and Carradine and the horror stories. By any standard, the segments "The Shadmock" and "The Ghouls" are outstanding on their own merits and worth viewing. The Monster Club hides some real treasures and is a must-see film for the die-hard horror fan.


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