This is no mere slasher movie - the suspected killer is a magical, mythological, supernatural creature: a Gorgon named Magera.
Eventually Christopher Lee ( Dracula ) investigates.
When a man dies in mysterious circumstances, his brother inherits a remote cottage in the English countryside. The neighbour is a sinister Doctor (of Divinity), with a beautiful daughter ( Jacqueline Pearce ) and a creepy Indian servant.
The protagonist (Joan Fontaine) is a missionary who falls foul of a witch-doctor in Africa. She somehow escapes back to England, and accepts a job as a schoolteacher in a remote country village. As with most horror movies, some of the locals are a bit creepy and she begins to suspect supernatural goings-on.
Naturally, as the story progresses she needs the attentions of psychiatrist Dr Leonard Rossiter (Reginald Perrin). Is she re-living the trauma she suffered in Africa, or has she uncovered a genuine satanic conspiracy in Middle England? More importantly, how can the same Sh*t happen to the same guy twice?
Unfortunately the film loses its way in the final act. Today's audience expect a Pagan blood-sacrifice ceremony to resemble the one in The Wicker Man . Unfortunately, this film's portrayal brings an unintentionally comedic tone to the proceedings.
This is based on the Dr Syn books. Unfortunately Disney was working on Dr Syn, Alias The Scarecrow so Hammer decided to change the main character's name.
Jekyll decides his serum is ready for human trials, and injects himself. Mr Hyde looks just like Jekyll, except he is not sweltering under a wig and false beard. Yes, Jekyll's wife and friends do not recognise him clean-shaven!
Hyde gets Paul to show him the perverse corruptions of London night-life. Unfortunately this consists of losing money at poker and watching showgirls dance the can-can. At least he gets to pick a fight with the young Oliver Reed ( Curse of the Werewolf ).
As the film's title suggests, the locals have been turned into zombies. First they are killed by voodoo magic, then they are revived as the undead and put to work in a tin mine. These are pre-Romero zombies, they do not crave human brains. Rather they have to be forced to work by men with whips. For all the work they do, it might be more efficient to forget about using zombies and just get the men to do the mining work instead.
The story is set on Pitcher's Island, off the east coast of Ireland. The local policeman wears the uniform of the Garda Siochana, so we can deduce that it is in the Republic of Ireland's jurisdiction. However, with the exception on the Garda's light brogue there are no actual Irish accents to be heard. The local doctor is an American immigrant, and the experts he calls in to help him are English. The locals' surnames and accents are lowland Scots at most.
A local farmer disappears. When his body is discovered, his bones have been removed somehow. Peter Cushing gets called in to investigate. He and his associate launch a rogue investigation, and neglect to keep either the Garda or the mayor up to date. As a result, the monsters virtually take over the island.
This is basically a monster movie. It seems the prime inspiration for modern parody Grabbers . However, we have to be fair to it. The second-rate special effects are a product of its time, reminiscent of the worst creatures from Doctor Who , but in all fairness are no worse than the CGI monsters of today's low-budget efforts.
Does this film pass the bechdel test? The only female cast member is one of the doctors, girlfriend. Sorry, excuse the punctuation error - I meant to write one of the doctors' girlfriend. She is shoehorned into the plot by means of her having a rich father. The men complain about having to take her into a quarantine zone. In all fairness they are right to do so - not because of her gender, but because of her lack of relevant skills. These days, we hope that the writers would create gender-blind characters who would be defined by their actions and then cast according to ability.
A French schoolmistress takes a stagecoach through Transylvania. She gets abandoned in a remote village, and ends up as a guest at the mysterious castle on the hill. The owner is the mysterious Baron Meisner ...
Luckily, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) is in the area. Not to give away the ending, but Van Helsing uses the best-ever version of putting two sticks together to make a cross you can possibly imagine.
Despite the advice of Father Shandor, Demon Stalker (Andrew Kier - Quatermass ), the aristocrats end up at the creepy old castle. Dracula has an Igor-type manservant, and soon Drac himself is up and about.
Shandor's monastery is believed impenetrable to the vampires, not because it is holy ground but because a vampire cannot cross a threshold without an invitation. It has another victim of Dracula, a bug-eating fellow named Ludwig. It never occurs to Shandor that a brainwashed victim like Ludwig is exactly the kind of person who could be compelled to invite Dracula across the threshold!
The student's brother (Denis Waterman - Minder) and fiance come looking for him. Luckily, the fiance's cleavage-enhancing dress comes with a silver crucifix - which entrances Dracula (and the audience).
The story picks up three years later. Frankenstein has moved to a new town, the city of Carlsbruck, and carried on his work. His cover is as a doctor in the town hospital, and the pseudonym he uses is ... Doctor Stein. Presumably his first name was Frank.
Frankenstein's cover is as a general practitioner of medicine. He has a private practice where he caters to wealthy hypocondriacs, and uses the money to subsidise his work in a free clinic for peasants. Not everyone is happy with this arrangement. For example, the local Medical Council feel he has poached half their clients. It says a lot about their Oligopoly pricing system if a new competitor can dominate half the town's medical industry.
Frankenstein's work is on surgically transferring a living brain from one host body to another. Yes, he actually perfects the full-body transplant. There is, however, one unfortunate side-effect.
As always, Frankenstein's great flaw is his hubris. He refuses to flee, even when his own discovery is imminent. Will he evade justice again?
Once back at the castle, Frankenstein tells his sidekick about his original experiment. Instead of giving us an extended clip of the original Hammer movie, this version shows us some re-imagined scenes. Gone is the Christopher Lee monster, and in its place we see the flat head and big boots we associate with the generic Frankenstein monster. However, when this film was made that appearance was anything but genetic. It was the intellectual property of Universal Pictures, and Hammer got the rights to use it in this movie by ensuring it had international distribution through Universal.
In this re-imagined version, Frankenstein has not yet been convicted of killing anyone. The most they got him for was assaulting a policeman, for which the punishment was permanent exile. Unfortunately the corrupt burgomeister also looted - oops, confiscated - all the Baron's furniture and clothes. Everything that was not nailed down was relocated to his home.
Frankenstein, with the aid of a mute beggar-girl, finds his old monster. Luckily the machinery in the castle has not been sabotaged, stolen or just rusted in the previous decade. However, the creature's brain is unresponsive. Frankenstein recruits another ally - Professor Zoltan, a hypnotist who has also fallen foul of the local authorities.
Zoltan gets drunk and decides to use the monster to even a few scores. He fails to realise that the monster has no grasp of subtlety, and that the local police will not find it difficult to trace the source of the problem.
Frankenstein realises you can resurrect the dead after flatlining for an HOUR because the soul does not leave the body on the instant of death. He then manages to create a bulletproof forcefield that will trap the soul in the body after death.
Apart from Frankenstein's exposition, we also see the soap-opera life of the small town. The young assistant is in love with a deformed barmaid who has a stereotypical aggressive father. They are harrassed by a trio of young hooray henrys. One person gets murdered, and an innocent party gets sentanced to death and guillotined the next morning. This tragedy is compounded with a suicide.
Frankenstein views the double tragedy as an amazing opportunity, and ends up putting the executed man's soul in the woman's body. Of course, no good can come of this ...
Frankenstein's fan ends up getting sent to the same Asylum. Unfortunately, Frankenstein (Peter Cushing - Star Wars ) has supposedly died in the meantime. The medical student soon sets about creating a new monster ...
Instead of re-animating a complete person, he decides to make a jigsaw of human parts. The resulting monster looks like Dave Prowse ( Star Wars ).
Naturally, everyone Viktor comes in contact with seems to learn to much, so he has to bump them off in order to keep his secret.
A new girl named Mircalla ( Yutte Stensgaard ) arrives at the school. If she looks like she is too mature to play a teenage girl, this is not because she is a vampire. It is because Hammer used the typical Hollywood process of casting someone in their late 20s to play a character ten years younger.
This was made by Amicus Productions in the early 1970s, playing on the success of Hammer Horror Films. It is from the same year that The Exorcist was released, and it seems to encapulate every reason that the Hammer-type horror movies died out. It is a period costume drama in an age that was embracing grittier stories set in the modern age. It is based on a book, Fengriffin - not one that has made best-seller lists recently. The Scream Queen has to contend with the then-cliches of the draughty old mansion, haunted portrait and severed hand.
Bijou Philips is a college student who gets pregnant. This is not a normal pregnancy - the foetus mysteriously doubled in size. And during the birth, something kills the entire medical team. The Sheriff is suspicious, as is the psychiatrist and the best buddy. Yes, a succession of visitors for the house with the murderous baby.
The kid's father has a younger brother who is crippled and has to use crutches to walk. Easy prey for the man-eating baby, right? What is the brother's life expectancy? Or will he be protected by the Hollywood law that under-18s are exempt from death?
The Inspector goes undercover, and takes his daughter along as stage-dressing. This does make sense, from a certain point of view, but is also very convenient for the Damsel in Distress school of film-making.
It turns out that the ability to turn into a giant man-eating moth has a single glaring down-side. I mean, how many centuries has it been since man discovered fire?
The stand-out character is the morgue attendant who advises Inspector Cushing.
Somewhere in rural England (everyone has a West County accent) a group of peasants discover the devil's bones. Apparently it is a demon named Behemoth, and needs human sacrifice to reconstitute itself.
The Judge (Patrick Wymark) drinks a toast to James III, the Old Pretender - so he is obviously not to be trusted. The Reverend (Anthony Ainley - Dr Who ) has a weird obsession with snakes.
Wendy Padbury falls victim to Sunday School bullies, in the worst ways imaginable. The village children start to become a satanic coven.
A Black Mass ceremony is conducted by satanic priestess Lavinia ( Barbara Steele ). The film's production design team must have had a field day, because the costumes are so OTT even the torturer has massive antlers on his hat.
An antiques dealer goes looking for his brother. He visits the mansion where he was last seen, and wanders into not a Roman orgy but a party from the Swinging Sixties. The lord of the manor (Christopher Lee - Dracula ) seems helpful, and orders his butler (Michael Gough - Satan's Slave ) to help the dealer.
The film has an acknowledgment of genre cliches that pre-dates Scream by almost three decades. In a self-knowing scene that removes all genre-blindness one character compares the mansion to a creepy old house in a horror movie. Boris Karloff ( The Raven ) gets a name-check, especially ironic because he gets top billing in the film. Nobody points out that the two leads both played the monster in Frankenstein - Karloff in the 1930s Universal effort, and Lee in the 1960s Hammer version.
The main story is that Lavinia was caught by witch-hunters and executed, but cursed them and their descendants. If this sounds familiar it was previously used in another Barbara Steele movie, Black Sunday (by ground-breaking Italian horror director Mario Bava ).
The mansion, like the modelling agency, is secretly owned and run by a coven of satanists. They use it to select potential sacrificial victims. The two young women have to remain virgins, so there is an element of cock-blocking.
It is 1685, the reign of wicked King James II. Judge Jeffries (Christopher Lee, who previously worked with Jess Franco as Fu Manchu ) persecutes beautiful young women who are associated with anachronistic pagan rituals. Lots of soft-core sado-masochism is shoehorned in, to prevent it from being a dry historical drama.
Nayland Smith and everyone else still think that Fu Manchu was killed off when his evil lair was destroyed at the end of the previous film. However, the Yellow Peril has no intention of laying low. He sends out his dacoits, clad in their trademark uniforms of black pajamas and red bandana, to kidnap a woman in front of the Tower of London! Naturally, none of the oriental villains display any martial arts talents during the poorly-choreographed fight scenes. How sad to think that Christopher Lee later starred as villain in a James Bond movie that epitomised the chop-socky genre.
Burt Kwouk (Return of the Pink Panther) is Fu Manchu's sidekick. Their evil plan is to use a radio wave as a death-ray to incinerate buildings in London.
In the Edwardian era, an English gentleman explorer (Christopher Lee - Dracula ) has recovered a mumified body from the mountains of Manchuria. It has been frozen in ice for two million years. He crates it up and puts it on the train from Vladivistok to St Petersburg.
Also on the train is the explorer's friendly rival (Peter Cushing - Frankenstein ). Normally they are antagonists, but this time it is a good thing because when the monster starts to bump people off, they team up and fight it.
The passengers and crew on the train are a forgettable bunch of Spanish actors who only a hardened viewer of European genre film would recognise. However, along the route our heroes get reinforcements in the form of a band of Cossacks led by Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas - ). It turns out that Savalas worked on the spaghetti western that featured the train set, and like it he was recycled in the new project. If only British film-makers would use their initiative in such a way.
Soon, women start to turn up dead. Salem may be a murderous psycho, but he actually has a plan. He does not want to prove his innocence, he just wants to kill everyone.
A Police Detective (Trevor Howard - Who? ) is assigned to the case. This makes it something akin to a police procedural, but with far more attention paid to the killer's perspective.
The film was shot on location in Denmark and Sweden, and while it is not technically a UK film it was made in the English language and certainly feels more Hitchcockian than Giallo. In fact the nearest thing to compare this to is Frenzy , a far superior film with a similar storyline that Hitchcock himself made around the same time.
This film's director has a Hungarian name, but he spent his entire working life in the USA. He was not an experienced film director, but instead worked as a director-for-hire on a lot of American 1960s TV shows. This explains why the movie is so boringly filmed. There is only one original camera-shot, where a prospective victim's gaze falls upon an axe-blade. Beyond that, it is just a poor imitation of the master's work.