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Posted 24th April 2009 at 03:01 PM by Sam@Cult Labs
Updated 22nd April 2010 at 08:40 PM by Sam@Cult Labs

Curse of the Crimson Altar

Second division horror from the Hammer Studio's chief rivals, Tigon,The Curse of the Crimson Altar features three of the horror genres biggest stars, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Euro-Scream Queen, Barbara Steele, in a campy witchcraft tale for fans of kitsch 60s gothic.

Mark Eden plays Robert Manning, a man who finds out that his brother, Peter, has mysteriously disappeared. Robert visits an isolated country house called Craxton Lodge, where his brother was last seen. The house's owner claims never to have seen Robert's brother but invites him to stay, giving him time to discover that Peter was at the house but met with a dark end. He also finds that his dreams are plagued with nightmares about a witch called Lavinia Morley, a woman who was burnt at the stake in centuries past and vows revenge on the ancestors of those who persecuted her.

Crimson Altar is a weird product of it's time, drawing connections between drugs, youth culture and devil worship and featuring off key trip sequences because that's what people put into films in the late 60s, as the whole of the Western world succumbed to decadence and took hallucinogens (or, if you lived in the sticks, desperately tried to smoke banana skins while wearing a ratty Afghan coat...).

The cast are great but the film is an entertaining shlock curio, with plenty for bad movie lovers to enjoy. Karloff is definitely on his last legs here but is reliable as ever in his final mainstream role (He did some Mexican horror movies that never saw the light of day till the early 80s). Crimson Altar will delight genre fans who like melodramatic, old fashioned British horror.

Trollenberg Terror

(Alternate title: The Crawling Eye)

In the lofty Swiss town of Trollenberg climbers are mysteriously disappearing on a nearby mountain. A local observatory spots a cloud on the mountainside, which gives off radioactivity and remains motionless. One of two English sisters, who work together as a psychic stage act, claims to have a premonition of great peril on the lofty peak. As the cloud starts to move down towards the town it begins to slay people as it descends and the astronomers realize they have an alien invasion on their hands. The invaders have come from a dying planet and have selected the mountain's chilly atmosphere as the environment that most easily matched the conditions of their home planet.

More low budget UK sci-fi fun. The Americans genre entries from the same period always get the critical popularity but Britain produced some effective alien chillers during the 50s as well. Along with Quatermass this is a good example of a fun filled Sci-fi thriller with a top-flight hokey script.

Blood of the vampire

Blood Of the Vampire is an endearing copy of the Hammer style gothic romp that combines hokey horror with a few Sci-fi riffs. So it's back to Transylvania once more and don't worry, the locals still speak in quaint English accents despite being in the heart of Eastern Europe.

The film stars a tremendous old ham called Donald Wolft, who likes a good shout and bellow when he sinks his teeth into a role (pun intended), as the evil vampire Dr Callistratus, who we first meet being staked through the heart during the opening credits. Soon he has returned from the dead as a prison warder. Using the criminally insane inmates at his disposal as his personal blood bank, he takes to draining them to stay alive.

Featuring all the stereotypes of genre you could ever hope for, including deformed assistants and bodice sporting wenches, and the kind of overbearingly camp melodrama that UK horror films of the era really delivered well, Blood of the Vampire is a cheeky rip off of Hammer's house style that turns all the cliches the studio came to represent up to 11.
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