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dwatts
06-28-2004, 10:31 AM
As a horror fan, one likes to imagine that they've seen all the major films (and for that matter the minor ones), especially when it comes to certain actors, Director's, and/or Studios. However, in this wonderful world of DVD, films occasionally turn up that plug gaps from yesteryear. Films that you knew about, but had somehow missed, get a release on the shiny silver, and we can expand upon our experience. Such is the case for me, with "The Monster Club".

How did I miss The Monster Club? Well, it's likely it's because it came at a time when the studio from which it evolved was dead and buried. Or that with a release in 1980, it sat in an uncomfortable time frame. It looks for all the world like a 70's movie that has just been found, and hurriedly pushed out.

The Monster Club was put together as a last gasp Amicus type effort. Milton Subotsky produced, wanting to give one last anthology a push before giving up on them. Amicus was gone by the time it was made, so he formed a new company for this effort. Everything else reeks Amicus through and through.

Story

A writer of horror stories Chetwynd-Hayes (John Carradine) meets an old gentlemen Eramus (VincentPrice) in the dark streets near a bookstore. The gentleman looks ill and is hungry, and asks for help. Chetwynd-Hayes obliges, and helps the old man, and as payment, is invited to the "Monster Club", a disco where the denizens of the night get to dance, eat, drink blood, and find a new date.

Over dinner, Eramus repays Chetwynd-Hayes with stories that he might be able to use for subsequent books. This gives us our anthology of three tales:

Shadmock Story

A young couple live by stealing from the rich, and giving to themselves. After a drought of adequate victims however, things arn't looking so good. That is, until George (Simon Ward) see's an advertisement in the local newspaper for a person to catalog a collection of antiques in a remote mansion. Taking the job, his partner, Angela (the beautiful Barbara Kellerman) meets the single resident of the house, Raven (James Laurenson). Before she is able to complete her theft however, Angela will find out the origins of her employer, and learn his secret. You see, Raven is a Shadmock! (if you want to know what a Shadmock is, watch the film!

Vampire Story

Lintom Busotsky (Anthony Steel) is a film Producer. He is visiting the Monster Club to give a viewing of his latest film, based on his own childhood. The story covers his period of going to school at a young age. He is a thin waif of a boy, and is the victim of much bullying. Lintom's father only comes out at night, and even then doesn't get to spend much time with his son. Even when Lintom asks why this is, his father is vague, and appears not to want to give an answer.

Lintom's mother (Britt Ekland) is a pretty normal woman, and she cares for the boy during the day. She warns Lintom to never talk to strangers, which his father follows up with, "Beware of men with violin cases!" However, after a days bullying, Lintom is approached in the street by a member of the clergy (Donald Pleasence). The clergyman seems overly interested in Lintom's family, especially his father?

Humegoo Story

A filmmaker, Sam (Stuart Whitman), is working on a new horror film. He's frustrated that his crew has yet to be able to find a suitably creepy village for him to use in one important segment, proclaiming, "I'll find it myself at the weekend!" Sure enough, Sam drives off, searching country roads in search of a perfect location. Finally, driving through some strange mist, he comes upon a spooky village, a village that seems to have transported him 100's of years back in time. It's a perfect location, but will the locals allow him to leave? And perhaps more importantly, why does all the food and clothes "arrive in boxes?"

Commentary

When Amicus was in the business of anthology films, they turned out classics of the genre. However, no-one could accuse them of going for all out horror. Instead, they kept their tongue firmly planted in cheek. More often than not, there were equal measures of comedy and horror. With one exception, The Monster Club changes the balance a little bit - humor is most evident here.

With a cast that is a veritable who's who (Vincent Price, John Carradine, Anthony Steel, Barbara Kellerman, Simon Ward, Donald Pleasence, James Laurenson, Britt Ekland Stuart Whitman, Patrick Magee) it's just as much fun to see familiar faces as it is to absorb the stories.

Still, just because comedy is high on the agenda, does not mean the film itself doesn't have some moments that go beyond the funny bone. The Shadmock Story is actually quite a sad affair. Its story deals with loneliness, with being different yet trapped forever in a hostile world, and its repeated line "you could learn to love me" is not without pathos.

The final story, Humegoo, is actually spooky in parts. With a comedic denouement, the rest of the segment is quite horrifying and scary. Stuart Whitman does a good job portraying an overly self-confident man, marooned by the simple cutting of wires. Stuck in a remote location, with nothing but fear to keep him company, he quickly learns that he's fighting for his life. If you're in it for the horror, this is the tale that will most impress.

Still, if you think this is simply an Amicus wannabe with more humor, you're missing a key element - The Monster Club itself. You see, The Monster Club is a disco for werewolves, ghouls and googly-eyed monsters. And what is a disco without music? In a first, each story is broken up by a live band, performing a song (a couple of which have horror-related themes). We get to see a performance of the songs, interspersed with monsters on the dance floor.

Now, I actually found myself singing along to the songs, which have good hooks. However, the names of these bands have mostly been lost in the sands of time. Among them are B.A. Robertson (Sucker for your Love), Night (Stripper), and The Pretty Things (The Monster Club). Modern day audiences won't likely appreciate 80's pop, and the bands look dated and rather silly. Still, it's a new element, and believe it or not, the songs are catchy and fun.

The framing device is Carradine and Price, sitting either side of the coffin table, sipping blood from glasses and exchanging stories. In between the stories we hear about the genealogy tree of monsters (that's where you'll learn what a Shadmock is), and even get to see Price boogying on down on the dance floor.

The final scenes of the film is moralizing to the extreme, as a human himself is admitted as a member of the club. Brushing aside complaints that humans are not horrible enough, Price goes off on a campy tirade about the atrocities man has wrought both upon himself and the planet. From "gas chambers" to 'nuclear bombs", everything is brought to the fore. Once done, the other monsters are more than pleased to admit humans to the monster club - case proven, they really are HORRIBLE.

dwatts
06-28-2004, 10:32 AM
The DVD

The Monster Club is put out by "Pathfinder", which to be frank, is a new one on me. Pathfinder appears to be a DVD maker wannabe. This release has all the markings of a company just starting out, wanting to compete with the big guys without the resources to truly get it done. That's not to say it's bad, but once you get Pathfinder people on the screen, it comes across like silly Troma footage.

The first thing that should be noted is that we get a warning before the film starts:

"The original film elements for 'The Monster Club' were not made available for this release. The film is presented in the highest quality video master available at the present time. We hope that any flaws or defects in the picture quality will not detract from the opportunity to view 'The Monster Club'"

One has to wonder what effect such warnings will have on sales of the disc. Is it better for the companies to be honest up front, and admit that their release is a bit weak, or to lure in the crowd and hope they don't complain too loudly? Personally, I admire their chutzpah. This is only the second time I've seen such a warning (Anchor Bay gave a similar one in their US release of Quatermass II). So, good for Pathfinder for being honest up front.

So how bad is it? Well, the good news is that it's a letterboxed film. The bad news is that it's non-anamorphic. There is further bad news once the feature starts. The transfer is mostly clean, but it's murky and soft, with low contrast. In bright daylight scenes (which are few) it actually looks good, but in dark scenes, things suffer. Sound though is great, crisp and clear.

No-one is going to mistake this for a high-definition master, that's for sure. It's along the lines of a high-grade video tape. I watched this on the big screen, and surprisingly, it didn't deteriorate too much. Despite being non-anamorphic the (apparently) 1.85:1 transfer held together quite well. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised. Without the warning up front, I admit I'd have been bashing the release. So kudos to pathfinder for winning respect, despite having a master that is less than perfect.

Pathfinder clearly knew that people like extras, so they have gone to quite a bit of trouble in that department. Included are an excellent Trailer, Audio Commentary by two critics, and two longish text articles that are quite informative.

That's a pretty packed release for a film with a smallish audience, and a poor transfer. One complaint, if you do an audio commentary for a disc, stay on topic. The two people here are trying to be comedians, and it doesn't work. Juvenile remarks and "witty" asides are best left to the professionals. Frankly, the commentators come across as fools - although they do have some interesting things to say.

There is also an unadvertised extra, the entire musical soundtrack. Recorded in low-fi, they don't make your speakers pound, but it's another nice addition. Given that the likes of UB 40 contributed to the soundtrack, some might find other gems to like here. For me, Night's song - Stripper - is a highlight.

Also on the disc is a strange easter egg. On the special features menu, go down to the bottom of the entries on the left, and then hit RIGHT. You'll highlight a skull. This easter egg is a 12 minute on camera interview with a member of the cast. Which member, you ask? Maybe Price, Eckland, Carradine? Nah, an extra. This guy has virtually nothing to say about the film, and he has some not-very-funny funny stories to tell you. The anecdotes from his acting career (it seems that for some, once a bit player, always a bit player) probably explain why we?ve never heard of him (get this, his best story is that he was on the set when Ingrid Pitt laughed). Still, it?s an easter egg and not an advertised feature.

Summary

If you've read the above and think I disliked the film or presentation, think again. I couldn't help patting Pathfinder on the back for their efforts here. Clearly, the only copy of this film they could get was subpar - but did they give up? Nah, they treated it like an SE. Packed with features, and a transfer that isn't stellar, but definitely workable, they have delivered a missing part of the Amicus puzzle. Hey, should we really complain when another Roy Ward Baker film gets a release?

The Monster Club itself is not a film that takes itself seriously, so the tone of the disc kind of suits. The film itself is a ton of fun, the songs are great, and we have some fine actors strutting their stuff. The bottom line with this one is, despite some issues, I just found myself having a very good time. That's what it is all about, after all!

studio1
06-28-2004, 05:51 PM
I quite like the Monster Club, but those songs are absolutely terrible.

BA Robertson :lol:

maybrick
06-28-2004, 06:12 PM
Man, you're one overly-critical person, dwatts! Judging from this review and past comments on DEAD AND BURIED, as well as others, you have way too many unrealistic expectations for low budget movies. MONSTER CLUB looks gorgeous, and with the exception of it not being anamorphic, it could pass for an Anchor Bay or MGM release.

dwatts
06-28-2004, 07:48 PM
Well, of course I accept people have different expectations. However, if you read my review, even Pathfinder saw fit to have a disclaimer notice before getting into the movie. I say that confirms that this is a less than stellar release.

Still, I don't deny I have high-standards. The important thing is the film, and I truly enjoyed it, and look forward to visiting it again.

ps: I saw 21 Grams recently - that's yet another reference quality DVD.

maybrick
06-28-2004, 08:26 PM
Comparing 21 GRAMS to THE MONSTER CLUB is idiotic. It would be even more idiotic if I have to explain WHY it's so idiotic.

I have the disc, so I know about the disclaimer, however, every other person besides you who I've talked to or read reviews from agree that the dislaimer is unnecessary and I really question whether you would have noticed had they not included it, but the point is moot since we'll never know for sure. The only thing the disclaimer proves is that Pathfinder is obvious and judging from the quality, I'd bet lot of "more respectable" companies do the same and aren't as open about it.

Lyle Horowitz
06-29-2004, 01:58 AM
I'm a huge Amicus fan, and Vincent Price is my favorite actor, so this was a no-brainer for me, picked it up at a liquidation sale the other day for less than ten bucks. Watched the first half, it's good fun. Not on the level of Dr. Terror's House of Horrors or any of the other Amicus films, but it's good, worth getting if you're a classic horror fan.

dwatts
06-29-2004, 07:49 AM
--Comparing 21 GRAMS to THE MONSTER CLUB is idiotic. It would be even more idiotic if I have to explain WHY it's so idiotic.--

Nice you're keeping it mature Maybrick. When we're talking about a scale of quality, it's hardly idiotic to compare great with bad. This gives us scale upon which people can judge for themselves. There's nothing idiotic about that.

--I have the disc, so I know about the disclaimer, however, every other person besides you who I've talked to or read reviews from agree that the dislaimer is unnecessary and I really question whether you would have noticed had they not included it--

Firstly, do you think I really care about "every other person" you know or have read? I bought the disc, and I watched it. It's as simple as that. For all I know these other people were watching it on a 14" portable TV or a laptop computer. I have no idea. Myself, I watched it on my projector with a screen 11 feet wide - and it's a low quality transfer - PERIOD. Whether it is sufficient for you is another matter, and one that only you can comment upon.

--The only thing the disclaimer proves is that Pathfinder is obvious and judging from the quality, I'd bet lot of "more respectable" companies do the same and aren't as open about it.--

I have a feeling that you didn't even read my review. For instance, what I wrote was: " This is only the second time I've seen such a warning (Anchor Bay gave a similar one in their US release of Quatermass II). So, good for Pathfinder for being honest up front." This gives kudos to Pathfinder, and gives an example of someone else who has done the same thing.

Further, I wrote this: "The transfer is mostly clean, but it's murky and soft, with low contrast. In bright daylight scenes (which are few) it actually looks good, but in dark scenes, things suffer. Sound though is great, crisp and clear." Which is hardly condemning the disc.

Then I wrote: " In the end, I was pleasantly surprised."

It's not like I stuck it to the film endlessly. However, you'll never convince me this is a transfer that can compare to AB, BU or SS. It isn't. The disclaimer is all the proof I need that pathfinder knew this, and were upfront about telling us (which is what I commented on).

As a general comment I'll say this. There is a new tendency on this board to attack people with different views. It started, I believe, in the political threads, and is now spreading out into movie threads. The point is, I seem to have a different opinion than you. It's much more fun to DISCUSS those differences, than to go on the attack and criticize me just because I don't agree. It's not life and death, it's a DVD. Goodness knows how you can learn anything when you start from such a negative and entrenched standpoint. It's ONLY A MOVIE.

maybrick
06-29-2004, 01:22 PM
You have a different opinion, I can respect that. But it's grossly unfair to expect a movie made 25 years ago to look as good as something made last year. It's that simple. Even if they remastered THE MONSTER CLUB from it's original negative and created an HD transfer, the detail of the print STILL wouldn't compare to the film stocks used nowadays. You also have a habit of whining how mono tracks aren't up to snuff with current 5.1 surround. Well, no shit. But it's not very productive to say so. Keep things in perspective, compare apples and apples, lemons to lemons, and not apples to lemons. Instead of using 21 Grams as a reference you should use an example from the same time frame, say BASKET CASE, THE FOG, PHANTASM or DEAD AND BURIED. I'm not saying the transfer couldn't be better, it no doubt could be, but if you watch everything on a screen 11 feet across, then of course most everything you watch is going to look like crap! DVDs just aren't created with that kind of overanalysis in mind. It's not good enough that this is the best it's ever looked on home video, if it dosn't look like it was made yesterday, then it looks bad. Whatever, it's your opinion. You may see my comments as attacks, I just see them as constructive criticism of your review.

I realize my comments have come across as harsher than I intended them to be. Sorry about that. I have a habit of being a bit too blunt.

dwatts
06-29-2004, 03:56 PM
--You have a different opinion, I can respect that. But it's grossly unfair to expect a movie made 25 years ago to look as good as something made last year.--

Maybrick, Maybrick, Maybrick. Why is it grossly unfair to comment on a transfer - when the very people who made it admit before the film even starts - that it's not up to snuff? How in the world is that "unfair"? Plus, you can post to question a judgment, which surely is adequate balance? No?

--You also have a habit of whining how mono tracks aren't up to snuff with current 5.1 surround.--

I'm going to have to call you on this one. When do I do this? Can you find one instance? Two instances? I've actualy posted the OPPOSITE. Please provide some supporting links.

In the context of this film - and more to the point, this review - I said the exact OPPOSITE thing. In fact, in the review I state: " Sound though is great, crisp and clear." So what's the beef? Look forward to those links.

-- Instead of using 21 Grams as a reference you should use an example from the same time frame, say BASKET CASE, THE FOG, PHANTASM or DEAD AND BURIED.--

Fine, Monster Club looks worse than all the films you mention. Satisfied now?

-- if you watch everything on a screen 11 feet across, then of course most everything you watch is going to look like crap!--

But they don't. How do you explain that? Most everything looks wonderful - unless it's a poor transfer. 11 Feet makes it easier to pick out problems, of course. But DVD easily has the resolution to deal with such a size, if done right. Heck, even the Kino "Metropolis" looks good. That was made a tad before Monster Club.

-- DVDs just aren't created with that kind of overanalysis in mind.--

This is utter and complete nonsense. All it tells me is, you've never seen a DVD blown up on a bigger screen. Are you really suggesting that the people who own home theaters can't enjoy DVD because DVD was not made to be blown up to that size? Maybrick, perhaps it would be better to make arguments based on things you know something about. We can debate the quality of the Monster Club release, but I'm afraid we can't debate whether DVD was made for big screens. They were, and they look wonderful (most of the time) thank you.

-- It's not good enough that this is the best it's ever looked on home video, if it dosn't look like it was made yesterday, then it looks bad.--

This is an over-statement. You're exagerating to make a point. I have never said it has to look like it was made yesterday. You seem to want to ignore that the makers of the DVD admit they couldn't get a good master. Perhaps it's not that my standards are too high, but that yours is too low?

I honestly enjoy criticism of a review. However, you seem to have been attacking me for acknowledging what the manufacturers of a DVD admitted themselves. This seems odd.

Lyle Horowitz
06-29-2004, 04:35 PM
It's so BORING when people argue over DVD transfers.

maybrick
06-29-2004, 05:30 PM
--
I'm going to have to call you on this one. When do I do this? Can you find one instance? Two instances? I've actualy posted the OPPOSITE. Please provide some supporting links.

I was thinking of what you said in the latest ZOMBI thread:


I don't care if Crazies always had bad sound, BU did a bang up job on the picture, how about a bang up job on the sound? Dead & Buried no doubt looks better than it's ever done - but it doesn't change the fact that it looks bad - and by some estimation, it's too dark.

Lyle is right, this is boring. I'm sorry I apologized. I'm bowing out of this one. You're right and I'm wrong. :rolleyes: