A Movie A Day: Quint on THE HELLFIRE CLUB (1961) ’What d’you got in there? A dwarf?’ How’d you guess?
Published at: Aug. 14, 2008, 2:28 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we follow Peter Cushing over from yesterday’s great little over-looked gem THE SKULL to today’s rightfully overlooked and forgotten THE HELLFIRE CLUB.
I should have known this was going to be a dud when I saw it was the second feature as part of a double feature DVD put out by Dark Sky. Now, Dark Sky has put out some great stuff… A great edition of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, a Special Edition of EATEN ALIVE and other great genre stuff, including the Jess Franco Dracula that we’ll be hitting in a few days on this very column.
It’s not them, but that this was the second feature on their double feature disc, which I’ve usually found to be filler. Like the B side to singles back in the day, these double feature discs tend to have one main feature and treat the rest as special features.
Let’s hope BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (which we hit tomorrow), the A-side as it were, is better.
My second set of internal alarms went off when the opening credits began and Peter Cushing’s credit came in as “Guest Appearance.”
The film is co-directed by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman who had a long career aping Hammer flicks and you can tell they’re going for that visual style with the color photography here, except not coming close to replicating it.
They do have a great title here, though, and an interesting premise… or at least you’d think so.
In the 18th Century a series of connected hot spots for immoral activity sprang up, an interconnected network where the rich and powerful could induldge in blasphemy and other pleasures. It was called The Hellfire Club and the members would joke about it being run by the devil, which is why it’s normally associated with the macabre.
Here the club is essentially a den for orgies and is barely seen. Instead it serves as a backdrop for light-hearted fight for a title as our lead (played by Keith Michell) returns to his castle in order to take his rightful Lordship from his wormy little bastard cousin.
Peter Cushing figures in (for his maybe 2 or 3 days of shooting) as Michell’s lawyer who instructs him on what he needs to steal from his old manor to prove his heritage. He has maybe 5 minutes of screentime spread out through the whole flick.
Michell uses his circus friends to help him along his way… that’s how he’s spent his youth, by the way. He’s an acrobat so he can jump a lot during the many swordfights, which would have been actually really entertaining had they not been filmed with the same skill as a bunch of teenagers staging a fake fight in their backyard with their dad’s video camera.
I know this is starting to sound snarky. It’s not an offensive movie, just completely misses on every level. It’s cheap, but not fun. It’s convoluted without having much story. There are interesting plots happening all around except for where we’re looking. Much of that has to do with Michell’s completely lack of charisma.
There are a couple of good-looking redheads in Adrienne Corri and Kai Fischer, but as characters there’s not much there, so even that’s only a surface distraction.
But no matter the movie’s flaws, there is indeed a midget… a bouncing midget no less. So that means I have to give it at least 2 stars.
Final Thoughts: Dull, sloppy, but not offensive. The inclusion of a midget makes me not hate it. I don’t know if that’s the movie’s doing or my unhealthy obsession with little people. Other than that… uh… avoid. Skip. Nothing to see here…