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A Movie A Day: Quint on THE HELLFIRE CLUB (1961)
’What d’you got in there? A dwarf?’ How’d you guess?

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…

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Thursday, August 14th: BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (1963) Friday, August 15th: TERROR OF THE TONGS (1961) Saturday, August 16th: PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER (1962) Sunday, August 17th: THE DEVIL-SHIP PIRATES (1964) Monday, August 18th: JESS FRANCO’S COUNT DRACULA (1973) Tuesday, August 19th: DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) Wednesday, August 20th: THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY (1960) Here’s hoping tomorrow’s BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (on the same disc) is a more entertaining movie. See you folks then. -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull

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