Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Thriller Video: The Monster Club, Hosted By Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, presented The Monster Club twice. Once on the evening of February 6th, 1983, as an episode of Elvira's Movie Macabre, then again as Thriller Video release on VHS and Beta. The Movie Macabre version is unavailable, so here are some pictures from the Thriller Video release of The Monster Club.

"Well, hello darlings. Yessiree bob, it's little ole me, bob. The gal with the set you won't soon forget. And I ain't talkin' about your basic Trinitron. (That gal with the set you won't soon forget, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.) And welcome to another edition of good old Thriller Video. If it's spills, chills, and thrills you're lookin' for then Thriller Video is just the ticket. And speaking of tickets... you might want to take note of that clever segue there, folks... speaking of tickets, you just paid the admission to The Monster Club, the Thriller Video treat for this time around. Yep, the Monster Club... they have a two drink minimum, but that's not the bad news. The bad news is the bartender is Count Dracula (Bloody Mary's, anyone?). It's a ghoulish goulash starring a pair of macbredom's finest... my old pal John Carradine, and Vincent "Vinnie the P" Price. Warning, warning, warning, this motion picture is rated more than X. It's rated X ray. What is it they say? Forewarned is forearmed? Well, believe me honey, most of the characters in this movie have at least four arms. So, what'ya say, let's just all have ourselves a tall one, kick on back, I'll be back later, you're watching the Mosnster Club, exclusively from Thriller Video. 

"Whoa, what about that crazy Monster Club? Wasn't that somethin'? You know, it sort of reminds me of the club I stumbled into the other night in West Hollywood. Ya, let me tell ya about it. I swear half the people in there reminded me of me. They had on my makeup, my wig, my jewelry, and my dress. And the heck of it is, I'm only talkin' about the guys. Ah, ya, golly. But let me get serious, okay? While this movie has been going on I've been sitting here trying to figure out my own darn family tree. Gee, I sure hope somebody doesn't come along and shake it, because I'd hate to have a falling out with my family. If my daddy was a Shaddy and my mammy was a shammy, wonder if I'll end up becoming something weird. Vincent Price: don't worry, you won't become one of us. I won't? Oh, gee, but I wanted to, Vinnie. I've never felt like I belonged in my life. I mean, I've always been on the outside looking in. Just a big nose pressed up against the window of life. Want to know something? I was even turned down for membership in the book of the month club. Oh, well, whatya gonna do? If I'm not being rejected, I'm being ejected. I see your figure there quivering, ready to punch that eject button, well, before you do, let me tell you about some of the other Thriller Video treats available for your viewing displeasure. You won't want to miss Witching Time

Witching Time was a Hammer House of Horrors episode that became one of the 24 Thriller Video releases in 1982. Several episodes of Hammer House of Horrors, along with episodes of Movie Macabre, made up the bulk of the Thriller Video tapes. 

"And then there's The Silent Scream." 

VHS of The Silent Scream, another episode of Hammer House of Horrors, starring Peter Cushing and Brian Cox, that became a Thriller Video. The original episodes of Hammer House of Horrors were less than fifty minutes long, because they were made for television, so deleted scenes had to be added to make them long enough to warrant release on video tape. The Silent Scream is probably my favorite of these episodes that was released. 

"And here's one to keep you howling... Children of the Full Moon.

"Okie doke, that's about a wrap. Ready to punch? Be my guest. Oh yeah, before I forget... Unpleasant Dreams..."

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dark Dungeons and Monster Clubs

Religious propagandist and founder of Crusader Comics, Jack Chick, passed away earlier in the week. That didn't mean anything to me because I hadn't heard of him, Chick Tracts, or Crusader Comics. But there was a lot of noise from third generation role playing game types that he was the one responsible for the Satanic Panic of the 1980's. 

Since I was there, and since I had never heard of him, I'd have to conclude this just isn't true.

After reading the stories by the AV Club and others, I can categorically say he may have riled up a few evangelicals already primed to go whacko, but in the small town I grew up nobody needed any help creating a Satanic Panic. They were always ready for the next witch burning.

Later in the night I did some research on Chick Tracts and immediately went to Ebay to buy Dark Dungeons, which is unintentionally hilarious. I remembered I had seen it on the internet, but had assumed it was some sort of meme. But it's real.

I recently bought a VHS copy of Mazes and Monsters and remembered unfondly those days. 

The same English teacher who later made us watch the final episode of M.A.S.H. made us watch this, and warned us of the perils of Dungeons and Dragons. For me it was too late, as I had attained many of the books at a local hobby shop next to the Ben Franklin, and was absorbed. I loved mythology, and I couldn't get enough. 

I formed a Dungeons and Dragons club about the same time I saw The Monster Club on Elvira's Movie Macabre and two great obsessions were born for me. Well, three. And the crackdown was immediate. Dungeons and Dragons books were banned from our school, and my parents were soon visited by a youth pastor from the Baptist church who gave them a good speech about how Dungeons and Dragons led to Satanism and witchcraft. The Satanic Panic was in full bloom, and according to Geraldo Rivera secret Satanists were everywhere. No mind that I had no idea where I would have found a Satanists if I wanted to, my books were gone. I returned to sports.But I maintained my love of mythology and horror movies, watching Movie Macabre every Friday. 

Now in my late forties, I have slowly been re-acquiring those Dungeons and Dragons books. I got a first printing of the Dungeon Masters Guide and World of Greyhawk last week. 

I expect next week I will receive the package of Dark Dungeons tracts I ordered directly from Chick Publications tonight. I will open them up... and laugh.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Milton Subotsky, Producer of The Monster Club

Legendary British producer Milton Subotsky founded Amicus Production with partner Max Rosenberg in 1964, and together they were responsible for many classic horror movies, including Torture Garden, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Madhouse, The Beast Must Die, From Beyond The Grave, Tales From The Crypt, Vault of Horror, The Uncanny, The House That Dripped Blood, and so on...

The Monster Club, released in 1981, was one of MIlton Subotsky's last projects

In short, he produced most of the best classic horror anthology movies of all time.

So, it is no surprise many horror experts consider The Monster Club, his last horror anthology, to have been a complete disappointment. 

In my opinion that criticism is completely invalid, as I consider The Monster Club just another classic to add to that list. I understand why the charge is leveled, as many of the movies on that list are personal favorites of mine also, but so is The Monster Club.

Subotsky was actually born in New York City, but emigrated to England in 1960, where he immediately began producing horror films. The company he formed with Max Rosenberg, Amicus, was dissolved in 1975, 

Soon after he formed Sword and Sorcery Productions with a few partners, but several slated projects failed to materialize, including a live action version of The Incredible Hulk. It was not until 1980 that they were able to finish their first project, a movie titled Dominique.

The Monster Club was finished in 1981, and was not Subotsky's last anthology film as he co-produced Stephen King's Cat's Eye in 1985, then went on to produce four more of Stephen King's movies before his death in 1991.

I think many fans of the Amicus anthology movies found The Monster Club not up to par for reasons that don't hold up on inspection. No, it was quite different from thos movies in many ways, including the campy costumes, punk rock music, and tongue-in-cheek feeling, although humor certainly was employed in movies such as From Beyond the Grave, but by and large those movies were rather straight and classic tellings of horror stories, and done at an extremely high level. The Monster Club is a fun movie. 

The aforementioned Amicus films were typically brooding and darker than the standard fair, and often based on grim stories by the likes of Psycho's Robert Bloch and Edgar Allan Poe. As opposed to much of what was being done in a business-like manner at Hammer, Amicus had a real feeling of affection for the horror genre. 

Subotsky was motivated by a hatred for Hammer, as they rejected one of his scripts, Frankenstein and the Monster, only to release a similar film later. Subostsky once exclaimed that Hammer made the same movie over and over, and tried to create variety in his films, which often got him into trouble. He was considered a nerd with lacking people skills. 

The Amicus films Subotsky produced with Rosenberg were not only pleasing to horror afficienados, but also made money. Tales From the Crypt was the second most profitable film in America in 1972, second only to The Godfather. Subotsky split with his partner in 1975, and there was a lengthy court battle.

The Monster Club has a quartet of classic all-stars in Milton Subotsky at producer, Roy Ward Baker at director, Vincent Price in the lead role, and R Chetwynd Hayes at writer. It is hard to imagine that roster of talent making a disappointing film. Which they didn't. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Monster Club Is a Perfect Film To Watch With Your Kids For Halloween

Movies that strike that balance between being entertaining for an adolescent audience and their parents are difficult to find, especially in the horror genre. The 1981 horror anthology film The Monster Club is such a movie. In the British tradition of films such as The House That Dripped Blood, Asylum, Tales From the Crypt, and Vault of Horror, the Monster Club is mostly good, clean fun without the violence and nudity of modern horror films. 

And it should remind one of those classic Amicus and Hammer Horror films, as the director Roy Ward Baker, writer, R Chetwynd Hayes, and producer, Milton Subotski, are responsible for many of those movies. Sadly for fans of this genre, The Monster Club was the last of these British anthologies, but certainly holds its own with those undeniable classics.

What The Monster Club has that some of those films don't is a camp aspect, a great soundtrack, and heaps of collectibles that fans of the movie can look for forever. Among them are the British quad poster, the vinyl soundtrack, one of the most collectible soundtracks ever, comic book art from John Bolton and Dezz Skinn, the book by R Chetwynd Hayes, the Beta and VHS tapes from Thriller Video, and a comic book of the screenplay that was given to all cast and crew at the wrap party. 

There are three stories in The Monster Club. The first tells the story of a tender-hearted monster named Raven Shadmock. He is a meek and retiring creature who wouldn't hurt a fly... normally. But if something really gets a Shadmock angry, they have this power. A power that frightens even other monsters. The power to... whistle.

What happens when a Shadmock whistles is one of the more disturbing moments in the movie, but in my opinion still PG13. 

Then there is a musical interlude of a song titled "I'm Just a Sucker For Your Love" by B.A. Robertson, which leads into the second tale, a story of a domestic vampire in LOndon just doing his best to raise his family. Actually the story focuses on Lictum Bosotski, an anagram of producer MIlton Subotski, who is milquetoasty and bullied at his school. His fortune changes when his mother, played by Britt Ecklund reveals to him of his noble nature, but vampire hunter Donald Pleasance soon catches on and follows the boy home to eradicate his father and the curse of vampirism. The violence in this story is mostly comical.

Then we go back to the Monster Club where the band Night, fronted by iron-lunged belter Stevie Vann plays a song with the lyrics "I'm a stripper," which might not mean exactly what you think it means since the final tale is about a village of ghouls. This final story is the bleakest and most frightening. You might want to watch it first, especially the ending, to see if it is appropriate for your children.

There is a marvelous animated interlude in this story where the history of the village and how it came to be inhabited by ghouls is explained. The artwork by John Bolton here is magnificent, and reminiscent of the best illustrations in Dungeons and Dragons books.

Ghouls are so misunderstood and underreprsented in the horror genre that this vignette is just a gem. The blue filter and gray garb will no doubt turn off a lot of viewers, but this is easily my favorite of the three stories. I'd suggest this final shot will stick with everyone who says this movie has no scares.

But wait, the movie is not over. Not by a long shot. You still get an outro by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, an impassioned speech by Vincent Price nominating R Chetwyn Hayes as a member of the club, and the playing of "Welcome To the Monster Club" and then a complimentary playing of "Monsters Rule, Ok?" as the credits roll. If you're lucky enough to be watching the Thriller Video version Elvira returns and pitches some other Thriller Video delicacies for your viewing displeasure. 

Audiences of all ages should find the Monster Club to be good, clean fun. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Halloween Is a Very Dangerous Time For The Monster Club Collectors

As I sit here after doing my cardio workout for the night, I have one laptop tuned to Mexican dubbed episodes of kolchak: night stalker, and my VHS player playing Night of Dark Shadows. Both are Dan Curtis productions, and I saw a completely new to me Dan Curtis movie last week called The Norliss Files. It was clearly a parallel show to Night Stalker, but without the cheesy camp and yucks. I have already purchased three Thriller Video tapes today on Ebay, so t feel like the safest thing I can do the rest of the night is talk about Monster Club collectibles I do not yet possess in my collection. 

VHS and movie memorabilia collectors on Ebay save their best auctions for October, and sometimes the bidding gets out of hand. Speaking of, a copy of Thriller Video's The Human Duplicators, the only one I've ever seen for sale anywhere, is now in triple digits with two hours left. I haven't yet seen a Thriller Video hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, go for over two hundred dollars yet, but I have a feeling this may be the first time, and at that price I'll just bow out and hope to find one later. 

The Monster Club by R Chetwynd Hayes 2013 reprint Valancourt Books

The Monster Club soundtrack on vinyl 

A1 –The Viewers (2) Monsters Rule O.K.
A2 –B. A. Robertson Sucker For Your Love
A3 –Night The Stripper
A4 –U.B.40* Valentino's Had Enough
A5 –The Pretty Things The Monster Club
B1 –John Williams (4) With The Douglas Gamley Orchestra* Pavane-faure
B2 –John Georgiadis Transylvanian Terrors
B3 –Georgiadis Ensemble* Vienna Blood
B4 –Alan Hawkshaw Ghouls Galore

B5 –The Viewers (2) Monsters Rule O.K. - Reprise

With the popularity of Stranger Things and that type of musical genre, this soundtrack should be a must listen to fans. I own it, and it's one of my prize possessions. This copy has been on Ebay for over $250 for three years now. I have seen it sell for nearly $200, but this might be just a little too much.

Side A consist of several contemporary English punk bands playing songs that are actually seen being performed in The Monster Club as buffers between the stories. Side B consists of the electronic music played during the stories, and listeners will of course note John Williams who also composed the Star Wars theme. 

I have room for more Monster Clun memorabilia in my collection, and probably my most sought after item is a graphic novel of the screenplay created by British comic book artists John Bolton and Dezz Skinn. 

Maybe next Halloween. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Raddies, Shaddies, and Maddies, Oh My!

As explained by the vampire Aramus, portrayed by Vincent Price, to the horror writer R Chetwynd Hayes, played by veteran horror actor John Carradine, the monster's genealogy is quite simple: "There are your primate monsters: vampires, werewolves, and ghouls..."

From there things get a little murky, as monsters interbreed with the primate monsters, their offspring, and even humans. The results are almost always disastrous, but they will do it.

Shaddies lick, Maddies yawn, and Raddies blow, but Shadmocks only whistle. But back to Shaddies, Maddies, and Raddies. What do they look like? We had an expert police sketch artist brought in to imagine it, and this is what he came up with.

Add caption

The only known images of a Raddy, a Shaddy, and a Maddy from The Monster Club. 

Although Raddies, Shaddies, and Maddies make it into the book The Monster Club, by R Chetwynd Hayes, aside from this reference to them by Vincent Price, they aren't in the movie at all. That we know of. In the third story in the movie, the village of ghouls, it's possible there might be some Raddies, Shaddies, and Maddies, and of course it's always possible some of the monsters in the Monster Club could be Maddies, but we don't know that from the film itself, the script, or the credits. No Raddies are credited. 

Perhaps a sequel to The Monster Club is in order. Certainly a plethora of lesser movies have been remade. The results are almost always disastrous, but they will do it. I'm still waiting for the remake of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things Tom Savini was supposedly working on. but maybe that's never coming.

Will we see any of the hybrid monsters this Halloween? It doesn't seem likely with all the creepy clowns and Harley Quinns, but I'd give a kid a whole bowl of candy if they showed up in full Maddie makeup. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Monster Club On Thriller Video

I have seen The Monster Club on television, on DVD, on You Tube, on Netflix, Hulu, on Beta, and VHS, and it's possible there are formats I am forgetting, but my favorite way to watch The Monster Club is on the VHS tape I made from the Thriller Video VHS I copied from one VHS player to another in 1991 from a video I rented at Video Outlet. That was when video stores still existed. I remember how exasperated I used to make my first girlfriend by taking an hour, maybe two hours to look over videos she knew I had seen a dozen times. Back then to get a stack of videos and maybe a box of Milk Duds and disappear for a weekend was paradise. 

I will now retell in brief the story of the first time I saw The Monster Club. I believe in our area Elvira's Movie Macabre was shown on Friday night. I believe this to be so because I remember watching my favorite movie, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things then going to run in a cross country meet at Stronghold Castle the next day. 

The Monster Club originally aired as episode 66 of Movie Macabre on February 6, 1983, and the reason I was probably allowed to choose what we viewed on the television that night was because the next day was my birthday. My father worked second shift, and if he didn't go out to the bar for a few drinks, which he normally did on Friday night, we'd get to watch Friday's or wrestling or Movie Macabre or whatever we decided on after the fistfight. I think Movie Macabre may have re-aired on Saturday or Sunday in the late morning. But I saw most of the episodes I remember on Friday night.

Most of the movies in Movie Macabre had a signature moment or character that made them memorable, but The Monster Club had so many it became an instant classic for me. The ending I know we saw with our uncle who stayed with us off and on, because we re-enacted that scene with the two ghouls in that cop car forever.

It may seem goofy now, but this was the one legitimately scary scene in the movie, and it happened at the very end. Another moment that I'll never forget was the first time I saw the Shadmock whistle.

This is the result of a Shadmock's whistle. I have since bought the book and will forever regret not making more of an effort to bid on the Dezz Skinn comic book that was handed out at the wrap party and signed by Vincent Price. I do have the French and English movie posters, and the Thriller Video and the soundtrack and I intend to get more memorabilia eventually but I'm sort of on to other things like vinyl records right now.