The Year of the Sex Olympics

Damn you, London 2012! Since you’ve started the amount of visitors has severely decreased, I noticed the other day – right after posting my Hunger Games review. Another ‘discovery’ was that in the previous week, the movies with the less innocent titles were looked at most (along with anything to do with Marina and the Diamonds). So by way of comeuppance, here’s my review of The Year of the Sex Olympics.

“This is the year of the Sex Olympics. Sex Olympics year.” In a nondescript but nevertheless bleak future, TV is the new King – or rather God. Thus spoke Nigel Kneale, for it is he who has written this feature. Movie might’ve been the wrong word as Sex Olympics was written for “Theatre 625”, a series of feature-length one-offs and movielike plays made for BBC2. I can’t help but wonder how the announcer in 1968 must have sounded when introducing this particular programme. Anyway, don’t get too excited: there’s no nudity and the sex is hinted at, but never much “on screen”. Some sounds and images may look erotic, but that’s mainly your dirty mind at work. We do get a look at the shows “Artsex” and “Sportsex” being made. The former looks very much like the tamer movies of Betty Page, the latter is a competition wherein couples take part. They are the Sex Olympics.

According to Kneale, Sex Olympics was a comment on both recent developments in television and a change in sexual morals. “At the time, the population explosion was a very hot topic and it was also the time when hair was on and people were saying ‘let’s put porn on stage’. So I put these ideas together and took them to their logical conclusion, using porn as a socially beneficial element that turns people into the ultimate passive audience by hooking them on a substitute for sex rather than the real thing and so keeping the population down.” (Video Watchdog n°47)
Eerily enough, what Kneale described looks surprisingly a lot like Big Brother – and don’t forget that in almost each country this “reality” show had at least one edition where one or two contestants stepped over sexual lines. In a way, the ‘sick’ thing is that I wanted to get past the sex olympics scenes to get to the couple that decides to get away from the real world to survive on a remote island – so very much like Survivor thenbecause that part of the feature seemed (and proved to be) ‘meatier’. That the couple does so is because an incident proves the test audience (which is always keenly monitored by the tv producers) reacts more to the incident than the actual show. They believed that this was because there was something hard-wired in their brains that triggered the impulses, something “emotional”. Emotions and impulses and all the words relating to them have been abandoned in this society and therefore almost forgotten in favour of some “new speak” (a yuppie-like language). But if emotions spark the viewers’ interest, then let’s bring them back. In a way, the title of “Sex Olympics” isn’t too odd: this past fortnight, there’s a good chance you’ve been glued to your television (or computer), watching a sport you’d never heard of and that won’t get any more broadcasts until Rio 2016.

The biggest drawback of the DVD is that the original footage of the show has been lost and all that remains is a B&W master. At the time, it wouldn’t have mattered much as most viewers didn’t have a colour set, but especially the outfits of Misch (Vickery Turner) seem to lack some colourfulness in their fifty shades of grey. (I believe this pun grants me an internship on Bargain Hunt.) Now this feature looks a bit like the episodes of The Avengers, not the Emma Peel era but the Cathy Gale episodes – a very peculiar B&W combination that instantly makes you pinpoint it as “1960s television”. I even spotted the occasional reflection of a camera during the show.

Never mind all that, this was all written by the same pen as Quatermass (the movies as well as the tv series) and a couple of cult movies. At the time, The Year of the Sex Olympics was well received and it’s not hard to guess why. This is a take on an Orwellian tv society set in another “Brave New World”. (That book was also sparked by questions on sexuality, but the main difference is that Huxley wrote his work at the end of the pre-code movies whereas Kneale wrote his script at a time the flower power generation was very much alive.)

Speaking of the script, that is included as an extra on the BFI release. It also features a feature commentary by Brian Cox (who played one of the producers) and an introduction by Kim Newman. If you wonder why a horror lover introduces The Year of the Sex Olympics, then stop wondering: once Ugo (Leonard Rossiter) and Deanie (Suzanne Neve) are on the island, it soon dawns upon them that the producers didn’t keep their promises (no suprises for us, 21st century connaisseurs of reality tv) and that living on their own (accompanied by a little girl) brings back a lot of emotions, which are quite frightening if you’re not used to them. (“I think that’s called despair,” a tv producer notes while observing the footage.) It wouldn’t be a dystopian tale if it was gearing towards a happy end, so expect none. Sex Olympics may start with some playful cuddling, but ends with something on the other side of the scale.

The bad news is that the DVD seems to be out of print, but that may be one of the reasons you can watch this on YouTube. Look up the title and watch it. I’ve already seen it, so I can go back to London 2012. Women’s handball and men’s 10m platform diving are up next!

Lonesome released soon

Occasionally, we post an additional extra article when there’s a longer gap between the 30th of a month and the 5th of the next. As this is post 404, the idea of a short movie or clip about internet error 404 looked like a good option, but then there’s sometimes news that’s too good and/or important to be shelved until the next scheduled update. Such as this…

One of the victims of the Avenue’s hyperbusy activities (Sept 2010-June 2012) was Paul Fejos. Not that he’ll mind – he’s been dead since 1963 – but we never had the time to add him to the Vault (our list of 30 movies that didn’t get enough praise). Apart from not enough time, there was another issue that delayed that post. Which movie should we put in the Vault: Marie, Légende Hongroise or Lonesome?

Good news on one of those movies: Criterion has already made their decision and will release Lonesome at the end of this month. If you’re now not jumping up with joy, it’s clear that you don’t know this movie. Personally, Fejos’s movies manage to grip in ways few movies of the 1920s and 1930s can. In a fair world, some of his movies should be next to lists which include King Kong, Der Letztste Mann or La passion de Jeanne d’Arc.

Because this is just an extra post and it’s summer time, we’ll not bore you will a long essay on why this is great news  about a great movie. Instead, Criterion themselves will give you three reasons why you should be saving already.

Criterion’s release is also memorable for its extras:

  • New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary featuring film historian Richard Koszarski
  • The Last Performance, director Paul Fejos’s 1929 silent starring Conrad Veidt, with a new score by composer Donald Sosin
  • Reconstructed sound version of Broadway, Fejos’s 1929 musical
  • Fejos Memorial, a 1963 visual essay produced by Paul Falkenberg in collaboration with Fejos’s wife, Lita Binns Fejos, featuring the filmmaker narrating the story of his life and career
  • Excerpt about the Broadway camera crane from an audio interview with cinematographer Hal Mohr
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by critic Phillip Lopate and film historian Graham Petrie and an excerpt from a 1962 interview with Fejos

It’s mainly thanks to the Italian show Fuori Orario that I’ve heard of him: they occasionally show some of his movies. The only movie by Fejos that’s easily available on dvd is his Fantomas movie (not the one with de Funes, of course).

The Ex-Mrs. Bradford

If ever this blog tended to persuade you I was too busy to write a decent review, it was nothing more than a lie. Compared to these weeks, I mean. Do not forsake me, oh my darlings, the Avenue will be updated with brand new review, albeit it not regularly. However, in an attempt to not make this blog look cobwebbed, the Avenue will find a creative way to continue regular postings: there will be 7 posts in June and the first one will be in just five days (1 June). Find out more then… for now, a brand new mini-review.

And tonight it’s time for a classic screwball comedy. Fans of this site may remember that we’re deeply in love with The Thin Man, mostly because the comedy salvoes were served by William Powell and Myrna Loy, good friends and therefore blessed with wonderful chemistry. In The Thin Man Powell played a detective, very much on the way to becoming a former detective. Sadly for him, events didn’t allow him to retire.

In The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, William Powell plays a detective who desperately wants to become a former detective. Sadly for him… hang on, this sounds familiar…
The big difference is that Powell’s co-star is not Myrna Loy but Jean Arthur and that, unlike Loy’s character in The Thin Man series, Arthur’s character actually wants Powell (or Mr. Bradford) to investigate the death of a jockey. Not only did the jockey die of a mysterious death, he’s not the first to die this way. Who better to shed some light into this murky business than a former detective…?

The lines between Powell and Arthur are almost as good as the chemistry between Powell and Loy. If you’ve always been sad they never made more Thin Man movies, then The Ex-Mrs. Bradford is an unmissable movie. Even if you don’t like old movies but you’re addicted to contemporary shows like Castle, this movie is great viewing as well as a historical lesson as to where this sort of series got its inspirations. No, The Ex-Mrs. Bradford can’t be compared to the best of the Thin Man series (which is still so watchable they’re about to remake the film), but do not forget that not all the films in the Thin Man series were masterpieces: it may not be as good as the original film, but it is better than a lot of its sequels. Too bad then The Ex-Mrs. Bradford never got the same status. This is not a movie by MGM, Powell’s usual studio: it’s produced by RKO Pictures. Powell briefly abandoned his regular studio because he liked the script and wanted to work with Jean Arthur again. The result shows this was not a bad decision.

In this scene Bradford’s dinner is interrupted by the doorbell. Disappointingly, it’s his former wife:

A quick search – even as much as clicking on this video to open it on YouTube – may help you find this movie and save it from obscurity. There are less nobler causes in the world.


R.I.P. (Bill of) Onar Films

The promised regular updates in April didn’t happen and you don’t have to expect them to return this month either. The Avenue will have to update whenever I have a free moment. I don’t mind the busier life as much as I hate the fact of missing important news. Like the death of Bill Barounis in October. Bill was the man behind Onar Films, a small Greek company releasing Turkish cult movies from the 60s and 70s. I say “releasing”, but Bill liked to call it “saving them from obscurity”. Bill’s real name was Vassilis, but he preferred using the American-sounding name Bill to his international customers (he also sold videos on eBay as “deathland”) and correspondents, so in his honour, I’ll stick to Bill throughout this article.
The last I’d heard (from the man himself) was that he’d ended up in a wheelchair after suffering a stroke (caused by a brain tumor). Even that didn’t stop the man from dreaming about a next release.

In his short life, Bill gave 13 dvd releases to the world under the name of Onar Films. He was the mastermind behind the company and got the help from three other people. Bill outlived Metin Demirhan and now, the two remaining men, Turkish director Kunt Tulgar and film journalist Ali Murat Guven, do their best of sell the remaining stock of the Onar Films releases. All the money earned from this will go to Julia, Bill’s widow and their child.

Regular releases cost 25 Turkish lira (approx. 11 euro/14 dollar) and double bills are available for 30 lira (13 euro/17 dollar). You can contact Ali at if you’re interested in a title.
All the movies are down to their last 90 copies or less, apart from Cellat which is finally sold out. If you’ve always wanted to get your hands on dvd releases of Turkish Spiderman (3 Dev Adam), Turkish Superman, Tarzan in Istanbul, Turkish James Bond (Altin Cocuk) or Turkish giallo movies, it’s thanks to Bill that this became possible.

The website to go to is in Turkish, but you can mail them for further information and you’ll get a reply in English (including an estimate of the shipping costs to your country). The link is here, and if you can’t see the list of movies, click on “Filmler” in the tab under the introduction.
I have contacted Ali and he told me they’re trying to get all the stock from Greece to Turkey, but they can only take as many as Customs control allows them. That’s why three of Onar releases will only become available in May. They are Kadin Dusmani (a Turkish giallo), Karanlik Sular (an odd one out for Onar as it was a 90s release) and Demir Pence Korsan Adam (with a Turkish Fantomas as evil mastermind).

Throughout my time as a DV reviewer, I occasionally got my hands on a book or movie to review. I can honestly say that I’ve never corresponded by anyone as passionate about his releases as Bill. This becomes evident in the releases: the first suffered from bad English subtitles and Bill didn’t rest until he found better translators. There is a world of difference between the first and final release of Onar Films. That in itself is enough proof that Onar Films was a labour of love. If you can spare some money, this may be a good way to spend it on. The movies will not be pristine (Bill often worked with the only available prints in order to get something on dvd that was as decent as it could get), but it’s impossible not to watch a dvd of Onar Films and feel the dedication put into this project. If you’re unsure about the films, “Onar Films” is a tag at the Avenue now, so you can get some further information on the movies.

In one of the mails Ali wrote about Bill (which I found on a forum), he wrote: “If you don’t have a deep love for the trash genre, you cannot be a second Bill.”

Bill Barounis will be missed.

Kokuhaku (Confessions)

If there’s one word that manages to link this review to the previous one (In Time) and the next (Crazy, Stupid, Love.), then it’s this one: climax. Having a climax (or anticlimax) is essential to a film, but finding one that doesn’t damage the film but actually lifts it up to a higher dimension is quite a quest. Let’s start with the bad news: Confessions has a climax that ruined the film for me. “Ruined” may be a big word, but it did manage to turn this film from the best film of 2011 to a possible contender for that title.

Strictly speaking, Confessions is a film from 2010, but it was released in German cinemas this summer (right about the time when I was visiting) and as far as I can remember, it wasn’t even released in Belgium at all. So let’s all be social and welcome Confessions to Film 2011.

Speaking of “social”, the teacher who opens the film with her confession can’t count on the social attitude of her pupils. But she doesn’t cut her farewell speech short and by the end of her confession, everyone is all ears. Not because she’s such a good orator (fear not, this is not Dead Poets Society) but because she confesses her little daughter didn’t drown in a pool as was suggested. She has clear proof that the girl was murdered and not just murdered: the culprits are two pupils from that classroom. She only hints at who the pupils are, constantly referring to them as A and B, but soon everyone knows who they are. And even if they didn’t, at that point the teacher reveals that the milk she distributed to everyone at the start of the lesson was lovely healthy milk for everyone, apart from the cartons of the culprits: their milk was spiked with HIV-infected blood. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that the two pupils who are suddenly vomiting milk are very likely the murderers.

As far as opening scenes go, Confessions makes sure it enters with a bang. The opening monologue lasts almost half an hour but not a second of it disappoints. Why the film is called Confessions and not Confession soon becomes clear: next up are characters who have to deal with the teacher’s action.
What makes this film outstanding is the level of depth that’s been given to those characters. The second confession comes from a girl from the class, who may or may not have feelings for Shuya (a.k.a. A) and we learn more about Shuya, herself and the other pupils through her story. Next up are the mother of “B” and Shuya himself. Each story doesn’t just keep the film going, it reveals more about the people. Confessions is based on the novel Kokuhaku by Kanae Minato. Director Tetsuya Nakashima (who also made the movie Kamikaze Girls) is also responsible for translating the book into a movie. (And one with quite a British tone: the soundtrack has prominent tracks by Boris and Radiohead.)

The only thing that didn’t work for me was the climax, for which computer effects had to be brought in. Not only were they not the most convincing effects, they also didn’t fit in with the rest of the movie. More than once, the director chooses to hold back the pace of the film by using a slow motion technique that’s reminiscent of Blue Velvet‘s opening scene. In the rest of the film, it helps the film become more beautiful, but in the climax the slow motion – in combination with the effects – actually damage the scene. Had the director been content with only half of the effect used in the film (in order to keep this review spoiler-free, I won’t reveal which part), the result would’ve been a lot better.

In the end, the failed climax cost Kokuhaku a competition-free first spot on this year’s list. But on the plus side, we now have a new climax ourselves: which will be the best film of the year?


Confessions is out on DVD in the UK. The double disc release also includes interviews with the directors and soms of the actors.

Great moments in cinema: Queen of Black Magic

Long before the Mondo Macabro DVD release, I was happy to own a VHS copy of Queen of Black Magic. This wonderful Indonesian horror movie from 1979, directed by W.D. Mochtar, boasted great dialogue (don’t play the drinking game for the number of times “magic” is used in this clip or you’ll be drunk within seconds) and superb effects.

It looks as if this clip is also taken from a Belgian VHS tape (given the Dutch and French subs), so it may even be my copy. Now that would be magic…

P.S. Feel like playing a game? Let’s go then: here are clues to the next three reviews. Feel free to reveal the answers or check in on the 15th, 20th and 25th to see if you were correct.

1. It’s about time someone casts Amanda in a decent movie.
2. Milk is good for you… allegedly.
3. Seriously, it’s not photoshopped.

Halloween Highway: The Stuff

In 2008 the Avenue hosted a week of horror movies called Halloween Highway. As of this year, Halloween Highway will be back around 31 October. This year it’s a double offering, the recent Dutch horror film Sint and today it’s cult classic The Stuff.

Why Larry Cohen, the director of a.o. The Stuff hasn’t been in the Avenue’s spotlight is even for us a guess. Even at DV, where the Avenue was hosted from 2004 to 2011, Cohen never got the mention he deserved. This is something we’ll soon change and one of Larry Cohen’s movies will be allowed into the Kurtodrome Vault but one thing is sure: it won’t be The Stuff.

I didn’t like The Stuff when I first watched it. Oddly enough, I remembered it more fondly than I usually do for unpleasing movies. Maybe that’s why, when I was recently given a chance to buy The Stuff for a bargain, I whopped out my wallet.

The Stuff is a yoghurt-like substance that’s absolutely yummy and quite healthy too… apart from the fact it eats you up from the inside. Well, we can’t have it all, eh? A former FBI officer (hey, didn’t we tackle that cliché yesterday in Sint?) finds a couple of like-minded souls and tries to get the world to understand eating the Stuff is not good for you.

That is the short summary. There are a couple of things I’ve always found strange about the film: how, supposing The Stuff is so lethal, does it keep harmless enough to get in the shops? Why does an avid opposer of the product eat it (or else, how could he be eaten up)?
Those are just two examples of a plot that doesn’t always make sense and then we’re  glossing over the special effects that don’t always deliver. As Larry Cohen mentions in the dvd commentary, the film was made on a tiny budget and the time of digital effects wasn’t yet upon us. And it’s true: those cruder effects sometimes do look more realistic than sophistically made digital effects. That is why the unconvincing effects don’t bother me. Cohen also mentions they used lots of things for The Stuff and this is something I also noticed the first time I watched the film: the product doesn’t always move in the same manner.

Nitpicking aside, the tiny budget and occasionally apparent lack of convincing effects actually works in the favour of Cohen, the maverick director of “guerilla cinema” – something that’ll be the main focus in the upcoming Vault entry and therefore we won’t spend too much time on it now. The dvd commentary reveals that because of the shoestring budget Cohen sometimes had to improvise and that storyboards were hardly ever made. The film continued itself once a location was discovered, much like The Stuff seemed to find its own ways.

The commercials for this delicious product are a clear satire on our consumer behaviour and that’s something Cohen evidently wanted to show. The producers didn’t allow the director to put some fake commercials up before the credits of the film and I have to agree with Cohen that this was a bad decision. Nevertheless, you can’t deny the tongue-in-cheek mockery of 80s culture. Maybe that is what helps The Stuff sell itself these days. Then again, it’s The Stuff. Of course it’ll manage to be sold.

The Region 2 dvd is as basic as it gets: there are not even subtitles, but there is a short text on Cohen’s career, a trailer and there’s a director’s commentary that is somewhat entertaining. It’s mainly useful if you haven’ t seen the film in 10 years and want to hear some details while rediscovering the film. That’s the way I watched it and though I liked the film better than the first time I’d watched it I don’t think it’s essential horror – or even essential Cohen.


That’s it for 2011’s Halloween Highway. The next regular update of Avenue Kurtodrome will be on 5 November.

Easy A

My busy work schedule of the past months has one advantage: by the time a movies is finally reviewed, I’m able to incorporate the DVD review. Today Easy A, branded as just another modern version of classic literature – a genre which really took off with Amy Heckerling‘s Clueless and is now so old it’s allowed to have sex in lots of countries.

Talking about sex, that’s the big issue in Easy A, with an “A” referring to Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s classic novel The Scarlet Letter. The book has been filmed before, with a good silent version and a lacklustre adaptation starring Demi Moore. And for once, you don’t need me to tell you this: protagonist Olive (Emma Stone) reviews them for me. And they are not the only movies mentioned in the film: Olive – and, let’s be honest, director Will Gluck, have a soft spot for the romantic teen movies of the 80s, the John Hughes era.

Ned and Stacey and Sideways star Thomas Haden Church teaches Olive and her classmates about the classic book where a scarlet “A” indicates the adultery of a woman. Soon thereafter, Olive saves a gay boy who isn’t ready to come out of the closet by fooling everyone into thinking he’s her boyfriend. Sadly, one good deed leaves to another and soon the outcasts line up to be her boyfriend. By this time, Olive’s reputation has gone from being invisible to being the school slut and Olive chooses to wallow in her new reputation: she pins up a giant red “A” on her chest and “sluttifies” her wardrobe. The new Olive has been born.

Sadly, that’s the most credible part of the film: girls still can’t do a fourth of what boys do before being labelled a slut. Then again, Easy A doesn’t aim for credibility: it’s a moral play rather than a documentary. The biggest proof of this is by having someone who’s over 25 portraying a pupil. Before the movie was released, the film received a lot of criticism for this, by people who didn’t realize the film was actually satirizing the tons of movies and shows where 30-year-olds still pretend to be students.

It’s just one of the things you can learn by listening to the commentary track on the dvd, done by Will Gluck and Emma Stone. Easy A is one of the few examples where the commentary track is better than the film. Gluck and Stone don’t take the commentary too seriously and seem to have a lot of fun. Too much fun for the censorship committee, who occasionally stop the recording and tell the duo to start again. In the track this means you’ll hear a short pause, followed by the duo’s announcement that they are “back again”. Emma Stone occasionally jokes about the real and uncut commentary they’ll also record, which is why someone purchased this domain name. The duo also mention the many fights they had on the set: apparently the best way to communicate was by calling each other names. A bit like the “leaked” tantrum by Emma Stone in this clip then:

Listen carefully and you’ll hear Emma Stone laugh.
The commentary also singles out goofs and Gluck’s obsession with oranges (there’s apparently one in every scene) and makes it an easy task to sit through the film again.

Which is oddly enough not always how I felt during my initial viewing of the film as some of Easy A feels too artificial. Maybe it would’ve helped if I’d known the film wants to be a moral commentary rather than a modern comedy version of a classic novel. Keep that in mind if you want to watch it and there’s no reason why not to. It even allows you to access the bonus treat: the commentary track.

7.5/10 (My initial score was 7, but time and the commentary track have forced me to be more kind. Now there’s a first…)

Repo Chick

To say Repo Chick was critically loved would be somewhat of an exaggeration. In fact, between the actual first screening (somewhere in 2009) and its proper release (on DVD in 2011), not many films were given such a bad press as this film. Surely all those critics couldn’t be wrong… Or could they…?

Repo Chick shouldn’t be reviewed as any other film. Not even as any other film by Alex Cox. Cox is of course famous for hosting a BBC2 movie show in the late 80s to mid 90s as well as directing a string of cult movies. With Sid and Nancy and Repo Men, he even helmed two cult classics. You might want to see Cox’s movies on DVD, but it’s not always easy. Walker was deemed so controversial the distributors would rather leave it rot on the shelves than allowing the fans to watch it. In the times people still watched films on VHS, Cox himself once found his film in a store… it cost 80 pounds.

Then again, Alex Cox isn’t the easiest man on the planet. Nevertheless, it is he who wrote and directed a cult classic such as Repo Man, so what did the distributors do when they heard Cox was thinking of a sequel to said classic?

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The Monster Club

DV members who roam around in our shoutbox will have noticed my message that British director Roy Ward Baker has died. If you’d play the association game with me, two things would pop up: the television series The Avengers (for which Baker directed eight – good to stand-out – episodes) and Hammer. Here at DV I already reviewed Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde as well as The Anniversary, but Baker also helmed Quatermass and the Pit, Scars of Dracula,The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires and The Vampire Lovers.
But it’s not just Hammer Roy Ward Baker directed for: he gave Amicus Asylum, The Vault of Horror, The Monster Club and And Now The Screaming Starts. Just rest your eyes for a second and look at that list. Aren’t you aware we’ve lost an icon of British horror?

The Monster Club may seem like an odd choice as a salute to a late director, but it was the last film he made. Throughout the 80s and the early 90s Baker was still productive, but he kept himself busy by directing episodes of television shows. The Monster Club is definitely not his best work, but it does have an interesting cast. Vincent Price! John Carradine! Donald Pleasance! Patrick Magee! Anthony Steel! Britt Ekland! And UB 40. The only way the cast could’ve been more impressive is if Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing had joined in. Well, it’s not as if they weren’t asked. They refused. Because they felt it would be a betrayal to be in an Amicus production, shortly after the Hammer studios had closed business. Two years later, one Pete Walker would manage to line Lee, Cushing, Carradine and Price up in one movie: House of Long Shadows. It also starred Sheila Keith.

The Monster Club, like Asylum, is an anthology film. The three stories are presented in the format of Erasmus (Price) inviting a famous writer (Carradine) to a monster club and telling him monster stories. They meet because Erasmus is hungry for blood, bites the writer (but not enough to turn him into a vampire) and only then does he recognize the author. Surely the man who’s written so many great horror stories could do with a visit to a club full of werewolves, ghouls and other four-eyed monsters. Well, at least that’s what we’re meant to believe: the awful special effects do make it look like the Monster Club is holding a macramé evening for the disabled.

The famous writer looks at a chart which shows the bloodlines of various monsters. It’s quite informative if you want to know the correct name for the child that’s the result of a werewolf and ghoul breeding. Erasmus tells the story of a Shadmock, a monster quite low on the chart and only capable of whistling… Doesn’t sound too awful? Well, tell that to Angela (Barbara Kellerman), who – together with her boyfriend – had the lacklustre idea of robbing the shadmock of his most expensive possessions…

The second story presents itself: film producer and vampire Lintom Busotsky (Steel) is the VIP of the night and he’s there to present his latest film, an adaptation of his own youth transferred to the modern day. “Lack of budget,” Price’s character whispers to the writer quite mockingly. The film shows Busotsky as a young boy, unaware of what his father does (he thinks he’s some kind of butcher). But while his mother (Ekland) tries to shield him from the truth, a group of government officials (led by Pleasance) try to hunt down the notorious vampire.

For the third and final story, the writer points at a seemingly harmless girl on the monster chart. She is a humghoul, daughter of a human and a ghoul. It is then Erasmus tells her story: she’s Luna (Lesley Dunlop), the innkeeper’s daughter in a foggy village. An arrogant director, in search for an ideal location for his horror movie, ends up in the village and is soon surrounded by the locals, who look as if they’ve been living since the fourteenth century. Things don’t look too good for the director but Luna wants to help him escape. Will they succeed?

It is not for me to reveal this, that is the job of Erasmus. When the story is finished, the writer wants to go home but Erasmus has one more suggestion. Why not have the writer, a human, become a member of the monster club? The other monsters protest: surely a human being is no monster! “Oh no?” Erasmus responds and mentions the several wars and torture methods the humans have thought of. The monsters agree: no monster even comes close to the awfulness of the humans and thus the writer is accepted into the club.

Are you sighing? I know I was. Or better, I was eating up my glass out of frustration having to sit through such a preachy finale. (Well, there’s one more scene after Erasmus’s plea, a song’n’dance that is equally horrible.) Opinions can differ, but for me the music intermezzos in the film were distracting and irritating rather than brief and welcome interludes.
And it’s not as if the film is worthy of a lot of praise. The first story is slow, the second lacks some atmosphere (apart from a couple of good scenes) and it’s only the story of the humghoul that managed to captivate me. But every time I thought the film was picking up pace and quality, we returned to the club for another excruciating number. (Unless you’re into The Viewers, UB 40, B.A. Robertson and The Pretty Things.)

All in all, I’d give The Monster Club a 5 out of 10, so it’s not a complete waste of time, but don’t you just wish a director’s final film would be better than a lacklustre production? It’s as if the producers thought adding a couple of hip young bands would turn their film into a hip young horror movie. None of it works. The stories don’t match and the coathanger story fails to wrap up the stories. It’s an ideal film for Halloween but stay away from this on the other 364 days of the year (or 365 if you’re reading this in a leap year).