Thursday, May 14, 2015

Circus of Strange


"Dirty, smelly girl." Not just Final Girl but Only Girl, Ghost threatens Anna during the trek to her final destination. Director Alex Poray notes of his actress Donna Beeching: "she was a great sport and took it in her stride ... she didn't have a heads up on what she was going to be put through until we shot the scene!"

ALEX Poray's infectious indie horror is part shock-mockumentary, part snuff movie. Made for £3,000, it tells the story of Patrick (Poray, using the pseudonym Lex Ray) - the son of Rt. Hon. Stanley (David Poulter) - claiming his father murdered a woman during a satanic ritual and forced him to film it; victim Anna Thompson (Donna Beeching) is consequently presented as a meal to wife Olga (a gurning Georgina Richmond) and other sons Leech (Julian Poulter),Tommy (Matt Lemon) and Ghost (Marek Gruszczynski). The question remains: is Patrick - a mentally unstable individual obsessed with death - telling the truth, or is Stanley, who claims that the scenes of abuse, witchcraft and cannibalism where a Halloween-night exercise aimed at liberating his troubled son. The project itself acquired controversy during its staged abduction of Beeching into Lemon's decommissioned Ambulance. Several calls to the authorities by concerned onlookers later, the filmmakers were flagged down by a Police dog unit, who explained that four other deployments - including armed response - had been utilised, and stingers had been placed on the highway.

Filmed in North Devon and Cardiff - taking in talking heads from the 2013 Cardiff Comic Con and the Braunton community (including estate agent James Benning as the family accountant) - THE SLAYERS is a relentlessly bleak canvas, best viewed at midnight and played loud. Publicity-seeking Patrick spends most of the picture wearing a pig mask, a familiar horror motif that also reminds of Grant Morrison's Professor Pyg, the "low-rent" extreme circus boss enemy of Batman. This façade provides a startlingly effective moment, where a squealing Patrick provides the ident card for the snuff portion, DEAD GIRLS. THE SLAYERS has the same raw feel as Roger Watkins' 1973 American cult curio THE CUCKOO CLOCKS OF HELL, and also is thematically similar in its portrayal of a disillusioned youth who - together with the liberal use of masks for his sociopathic helpers - makes a snuff movie that culminates in gleeful intestine-based slaughter. Thankfully, Poray's film doesn't have the toxic vibe of Watkins' amphetamine-fuelled movie, but rather gives the viewer an admiration for a group of friends who have assembled to make a horror picture and got the job done.

"He beat evil into me." The head of the North Devon Slayer family, is Stanley a respected citizen fighting for what is right for his disturbed son, or actually a master of the black arts?

The film's real-life father and son combination David and Julian Poulter both excel; David in particular is heartfelt when talking about Patrick, while suitably wide-eyed when donning his ceremonial robes. In her thankless role as Thompson, Donna is stalked, drugged, bound, gagged, punched in the stomach and urinated on in her own makeshift grave, before being cut to pieces and eaten (Beeching is particularly effective when being dragged face-down through house corridors and muddied pools). Donna remembers that filming the Ilfracombe churchyard scene was particularly harrowing. "It was really cold being buried alive with a few worms and that water was even colder, and with no spare cloths it was a wet journey home. But the worst for me was the chainsaw. It was real and so close I could feel the breeze on my face, so I did not want to do that take twice, especially as David had drilled through his arm a week before and I was worried his arm might give out." When asked about Poulter Snr's off-set injury, Julian reassures that it was "ok for chainsaws over a girls neck."

Next up for Alex is an animated realisation of his comic book Level Above Human, scheduled for 2016. As he explains, "the story is about a hoaxed alien invasion in a fictional American city which has fallen into chaos." Quizzed on the eternal SLAYERS father and son debate, the filmmaker was unsurprisingly guarded; "that's not for me to say. Some people write Patrick off as a useless lying junkie, others feel Stanley is guilty as hell! Maybe they are both lying?"

Thanks to Alex, Donna and Julian for their feedback via Facebook.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Last Gothic


New Zealander Anouska Hempel bares her fangs. The actress also played "Australian Girl" in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE and the title role in Pete Walker's TIFFANY JONES. Now a hotelier and designer, she married Allied Dunbar chairman Mark Weinberg in 1980, becoming one of the richest woman in Britain. During 1998 Hempel bought the right's to Walker's film and Russ Meyer's slave picture BLACK SNAKE - where she stars as Lady Susan - in order to keep them out of circulation.

HAMMER’s bloodiest film, SCARS OF DRACULA is also one of its most beautifully shot, defying its typically meagre budget. Braking the sequence began with their original DRACULA, no attempt is made to link it to the conclusion of the previous entry, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA. The Prince of Darkness (Christopher Lee) is afforded more screen time and dialogue, uttering his lines in a dreamy tone (under pasty make-up) that could be the result of Lee’s oft-quoted desire to express “the loneliness of evil” and the curse of immortality. Alternatively, it could be the disenchantment of an actor tiring of a limiting role (John Forbes-Robertson was considered before Lee was persuaded to return, but would later be cast as The Count in THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES). Lee's verbose performance reminds of Bela Lugosi, but what is particularly grating is that the film dispenses with Hammer's renowned sensual lord vampire to create an atmosphere of brutal violence. The young cast are tepid at best (a miscast Dennis Waterman as Simon, the dubbed throughout Jenny Hanley as Sarah, and Christopher Matthews as womaniser Paul), but the real meat comes from the supporting cast, with Patrick Troughton transforming Dracula’s urbane butler Klove into a masochistic errant boy, and Anouska Hempel as concubine Tania.

The last of the studio’s Gothic Draculas - and developed as a double bill with Jimmy Sangster's equally misguided THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN - the film revels in 70s-style exploitation. Dracula is consequently transformed into a sadist, mystifyingly stabbing vampiric Tania to death, and branding Klove with a white-hot sword. He also impales Paul on a metal hook, and sends legions of bats to massacre an entire church of women and children; even the story is set in motion by a bat vomiting blood on the Count’s remains. Away from the general gore, Anthony Hind's screenplay is a plethora of nonsense: for example, the opening of "The Angry Mob" burning down the castle doesn't seem to have disrupted the interior. Director Roy Ward Baker’s preparatory work apparently drew him to actually read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, inspiring the filmmaker to add an "unprecedented" shot from the novel of The Count scaling his castle’s wall which he claimed was his “only contribution … to the Dracula cycle” (obviously he had never seen DRAKULA ISTANBUL’DA, filmed seventeen years previously). In fact, the film’s “only contribution” is to have the most laughable bouncing rubber bats in British horror film history.

During the climax, Jenny Hanley's cleavage is ravaged by a vampire bat, eager to tear away her crucifix necklace. This "blood on breasts" sequence would have been unheard of for less liberal times.

During the audio commentary on Optimum's R2 DVD of 2006 - woodenly moderated by Marcus Hearn - Lee and Baker wax lyrical about the classic cinema dictum "less is more," views that particularly contradict the nature of the film they are viewing. Comments on The Count's shift towards frenzied violence are almost an afterthought, with the duo more lost in their silver screen legacies and after-dinner like recollections. Its a particularly meandering and name-dropping vocal from Lee, who quite rightly highlights the standard of actors Hammer cast in bit parts (here, Michael Ripper as the innkeeper, Michael Gwynn as a priest and Bob Todd as the Burgomaster), but he also makes the amazing statement that not only is Dracula's stabbing of Tania nonsensical, that such a scene is troublesome in the annals of influencing true crime.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Don't Look Back in Anger

Kenneth Anger's chaotic relationship with British rock gods

A follower of Aleister Crowley's Thelema religion, Kenneth Anger's filmic influence can be seen in the emergence of the music video, and the work of David Lynch and John Waters.

SANTA-MONICA born Kenneth Anger is equal parts Aleister Crowley disciple, avant-garde filmmaker, and gay Hollywood gossipmonger. Fixated with fading silver screen stars and homosexual male icons, his scandalous tome Hollywood Babylon lifts the lid on an endless array of tinsel town drug abuse and depravity, stories of deviance and death that would befit The Great Beast himself. Anger considered Rolling Stones guitarists Keith Richards and Brian Jones - and Anita Pallenberg, who had been a lover to both musicians - to be at the centre of his provocative path. Perhaps the Stones themselves saw Anger as a possible conduit for the rebellious tone of the late 1960's, yet looking at the cover of their 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request, it isn't absolutely clear how serious the group were taking the magus (the band wear sorcerer garb that would only suit a pantomime).

Anger's infamous film LUCIFER RISING is a mesmeric ritual charting the shift of Christianity (Aeon of Osiris) towards a demonic land (Aeon of Horus). Anger considers movies as spell-casters, "a transparent excuse for capturing people," but this subscribes to Crowley's religious cycles, looking at a post-anointed faith. Mick Jagger was intrigued by Anger, and how occultism had the potential to inspire counterculture. The filmmaker tried to convince The Stones talisman to take the role of Lucifer, but Jagger baulked and offered his brother Chris instead. The more famous Jagger composed a gratingly discordant moog score, which would be used in INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER, a short that salvages initial LUCIFER RISING footage and splices scenes from The Stones Hyde Park concert for what is essentially a film about a funeral for a cat. Donald Cammell was also cast as Osiris in LUCIFER RISING, together with Marianne Faithfull as Lilith and Jimmy Page in a cameo as "Man holding the Stella of Revelation." On set, Anger repeatedly argued with Chris Jagger, resulting in the latter being fired, and Faithful fell off a mountain, luckily sustaining only mild concussion.

Mick Jagger's score for INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER was created from a newly acquired Moog synth and it shows; it has the much the same effect as turning on the instrument and leaving it running.

The soundtrack to LUCIFER RISING is another contentious affair. Anger met Page at a London auction where they were both bidding for Crowley memorabilia. Anger convinced Page to compose the soundtrack for his film, with the rock star giving Anger permission to move into the basement of his London mansion to use his editing suite. In October 1976 Anger got into an argument with Page's then wife Charlotte, who threw him out for allegedly giving guided tours to strangers. The magus consequently labelled Page as a washed out musician unable to meet deadlines, and removed him from the project. In fact the Led Zeppelin guitarist had the soundtrack in place before he ever saw any footage; Page had extended an existing piece that he thought would fit the film, centred around a "majestic drone" on a bass tanpura acquired from India. He then used chants and assorted instrumentation to create a twenty-minute track that takes up one side of the 2012 release Lucifer Rising and Other Soundtracks.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Suffolk Saucer Attack


Steve Bissette's trading card on the Rendlesham alien envounter, featured in Kitchen Sink's "Saucer People" set of 1992. Bissette's illustration focuses on one of the many traits of this infamous 1980 UFO incident: the observation by American and British personnel of creatures suspended in beams of light working on their spaceship.

SHORTLY after Christmas 1980, Suffolk became the location of an apparent UFO crash; dubbed "the British Roswell," mystery still remains what actually happened in Rendlesham Forest, near RAF Woodbridge. At around 3.00am on the 26th of December, RAF Watton in Norfolk registered an "unknown" flying toward the coast. Disappearing from scopes in the vicinity of the forest, security police at the RAF base - then under the control of the USAF - saw lights fall from the sky. Patrolmen discovered a metallic object with "a pulsating red light on top and a bank of blue lights underneath ... hovering or on legs." Case studies are blighted by witness contradictions and disparities, particularly the extent of people involved: one maintains that before a second sighting, a large number of personnel gathered to await the UFO's arrival at a prearranged spot. Consequently, facts have been shrouded by exaggeration and misperception; UFO researcher Jacques Vallee has even suggested that the story was a complete fabrication to monitor servicemen's reactions to a potential alien attack.

Since the Autumn of 1980, Eastern England had been a hotspot of UFO activity. Incidents included strange lights over Fylingdales radar station and the NSA communications base at Menwith Hill, and even a police officer was reported abducted from his patrol car in Yorkshire. On Christmas Day, the British Astronomical Association stated that sightings of moving lights were in fact meteors and inert space debris; even on the 26th December, the RAF Watton "unknown" coincides with the passage of a bright meteor. Yet by the following day, stories had spread between the twin NATO bases at Woodbridge and Bentwaters of aliens, ground traces from their craft, strange marks left on trees, and significant increases of radiation. USAF airmen claimed that they discovered triangular depressions in the clearing where the UFO landed, yet British police officers noted that "the impressions were of no depth and could have been made by an animal." Similarly, the marks on the trees were in fact made by forester's axes identifying trees due to be felled.

If you go down to the woods today ... THE RENDLESHAM UFO INCIDENT creates some wonderfully ethereal images.

While the facts of the Rendlesham UFO encounter are still muddied thirty-five years on, explanations follow two main paths. As Jenny Randles notes in her piece 'Rendlesham Evolving Theories' in Fortean Times #204 (December 2005), "there are hints ... that conditions could have made the [nearby Orfordness] lighthouse look more mysterious and difficult to recognise. The trigger for this confusion may have been a mirage caused by the lighthouse beam shining through a patch of low mist, splitting the light and smearing it. Some of the military witnesses were using night vision scopes to observe the glow, and these can cause optical distortion effects." Another plausible theory is that the lights were caused by a "fireball" created by the rocket-body of Soviet satellite Cosmos 749 re-entered Earth's atmosphere around the same time. Indeed, it was subsequently revealed that twelve satellites decayed during the week of this particular UFO flap.

Daniel Simpson - who made the squatter-horror SPIDERHOLE in 2010 - filmed THE RENDLESHAM UFO INCIDENT without a formal script as HANGAR 10. The picture is shot in found footage style, following metal detector enthusiasts Gus (Robert Curtis) and Sally (Abbie Salt) in their quest for Saxon gold. Their expedition is shot by Jake (Danny Shayler), who captures incredible UFO footage while the three drift increasingly lost into MoD land. Eventually stumbling upon a disused military complex and linking tunnels, mutations of a spiky viral-fungus are revealed, and alien life itself. Found footage pictures are thematically disadvantaged by generic characters and sluggish pace; THE RENDLESHAM UFO INCIDENT suffers from both these factors, but is saved by its sound design (metallic groanings and aircraft screeches) and SPFX (allegedly achieved by Simpson on his laptop) which are refreshingly non-obscured and genuinely eerie. The sheer vastness of the forest is photographed effectively with washed-out tones, but Ufologists expecting a film steeped in Rendlesham folklore will be disappointed. Its triptych of protagonists, disillusioning movement and foreboding are more direct lifts from the picture's real inspiration, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Behind Forbidden Doors


THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR makes the cover of German magazine Film Neues-Programm, where it was released under a title which translates to GOOSEBUMPS.

AN early attempt at the teen slasher movie that would explode a decade later, Michael Armstrong's THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR begins during a less than swinging shindig in Carnaby Street. A group of bored youths - including Chris (twenty-nine year old Frankie Avalon, in a role intended for Ian Ogilvy), Sheila (Jill Haworth), Gary (Mark Wynter) and Peter (Richard O'Sullivan) - leave the party and drive to a deserted mansion haunted by a killer who murdered his family in a frenzied knife attack twenty years previously. When Gary is slayed, rather than report the incident to the police, the group hide the body and try to solve the mystery themselves.

After all the problems with THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR, it is amazing that director/writer Armstrong had the inclination to continue in the industry. Developed from his script THE DARK from 1960, Armstrong envisioned the film as a vehicle to showcase the talents of then unknown David Bowie, who the filmmaker had worked with on the 1967 avant-garde short THE IMAGE. With this being a joint Tigon/AIP picture, American International's head of British productions Louis M. Hayward ordered a new draft to add sex scenes, Americanise characters, and include an ill Boris Karloff so the literally fading star could see out the last three days on his AIP contract. "Deke" Hayward also rejected any involvement with Bowie, insisting that Stateside audiences wouldn't except any songs unless they were sung by Avalon. Deke then butchered Armstrong's revised draft anyway, turning Karloff into a crazed Police Inspector in a wheelchair, somehow rampaging around a derelict house before proving to be a red herring; this was a similar synopsis for Karloff that actually reached some kind of fruition a year previously with CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR.

Michael Armstrong encountered endless front office interference while making his debut picture, but things didn't get better for his next project, filming the notorious MARK OF THE DEVIL in Austria. The Bolton-born filmmaker would later write numerous 1970's British sex comedies and Pete Walker's HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS.

To ease tensions between Armstrong and Hayward, Tigon head Tony Tenser intended to shoot two versions: essentially Armstrong's third draft, and Deke's AIP/Karloff version. But when it became evident that Karloff was too ill to participate - even in a desperately proposed introductory speech - the inspector role was awarded to Dennis Price. While Hayward was called away on problems with Cy Enfield's DE SADE, Armstrong shot his scenes while Tenser attempted to capture Deke's wheelchair killer; with a rough cut not ready for an international sales pitch by AIP heads Arkoff and Nicholson, Tenser cut together what he could - to disastrous results. With Tigon trying to appease AIP and Hayward attempting to hide his meddling, Armstrong then discovered that Gerry Levy was shooting additional scenes (essentially giving Sylvia (Gina Warwick) an affair with sugar daddy Kellett (George Sewell), a pub sing-a-long, and generally toning down the feel of the film - under the pseudonym Peter Marcus). Filled with clichéd lines ("I really dig this place", "Let's hold a séance!", "I think its a gas!"), Armstrong's intended darker, sexually edgier piece is not surprisingly lost in the mess.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sixties Sorcery


"You enjoyed it, didn't you?" In an allegory for the thrills of cinema itself, THE SORCERERS tells of an old couple who invent a machine to live vicariously through a young man.

MICHAEL Reeves was a true cineaste and perhaps the greatest lost talent of the British film industry. Although he only directed three pictures, the Sutton-born Reeves increasingly became frustrated about the difficulty of getting projects off the ground. Suffering from depression and insomnia, on the 11th of February 1969 he died at the age of twenty-five from an alcohol and barbiturate overdose which many - including lifelong friend Ian Ogilvy - believe to have been purely accidental (indeed, the coroner's report stated that the level of barbiturate dosage was too marginal to suggest any dark intention). There is nothing critics like more than to mythologise an untimely artistic death (Brian Jones would follow five months later), but there is no mistaking that Reeves was a precocious talent. This is a man who travelled to Hollywood at the age of sixteen, sought out the address of his favourite director - Don Siegel - and subsequently gained employment. But after the critical and commercial success of WITCHFINDER GENERAL in 1968, Reeves seemingly lost his way. Starting to drink heavily, the boy wonder was also taking uppers and downers, and those close offered a variety of reasons: the development hells, the strain of his on-set clashes with Vincent Price, a failed romance, and an underlying nihilism.

There is much to enjoy in Reeves' second feature under consideration here, which followed the British/Italian REVENGE OF THE BLOOD BEAST shot in 1966. THE SORCERERS is a trippy slasher movie made as the 1960s neared its dizzying end. Retired and discredited hypnotist Professor Marcus Monserrat (Boris Karloff) and wife Estelle (Catherine Lacey) are an elderly couple who, through hypnosis, can "live" through young people and feel their emotions. Marcus picks up a bored youth - Mike Roscoe (Ogilvy) - at a Wimpy bar, who partakes in a ground-breaking experiment at the Monserrat household. When the pensioners choose to 'tune in' their fun begins mundane enough - Estelle instructs Roscoe to steal a fur coat - but soon she becomes hooked on the strength of her manipulative powers, forcing the hipster into carrying out a series of increasingly gruesome acts (such as a scissor murder of Audrey (Susan George)). As Marcus becomes mentally and physically overpowered by his wife, the husband manages to break the spell by causing Mike to die in a fireball of a car crash; the film ends on the image of the Monserrat's charred remains miles away at their home.

"... as though Boris Karloff's going to pop up at any moment." Barbara Steele's only home-grown horror - and Boris Karloff's last - CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR also wastes the talents of a bored Christopher Lee, who wears his own tweed jacket throughout.

By 1967 exploitation guru Tony Tenser had left Compton-Tekli and formed Tony Tenser Films, which would soon be renamed Tigon. THE SORCERERS was a co-production with the American company Curtwel - run by the husband-and-wife team of Patrick Curtis and Raquel Welch - and it is an effectively edited and lively lensed film which confronts cinema's inherent voyeurism. It also deftly contrasts gyrating youth culture with the dreary existence and tired home décor of the older generation; quieter sequences are governed by the sound of a ticking clock, as if to signify the both the passing joy of youth and the beginning of the end. Reeves makes the most of a derisory budget (£11,000 of the total £50,000 went to Karloff), though Monserrat's laboratory set is achingly threadbare. Karloff - sporting a pinstripe suit and goatee - gives a strong performance in his twilight years, still managing to sustain a erudite presence but also very much under the shadow of past glories. But it is Lacey who is the star, her demented wide-eyed enjoyment of Roscoe's building mania made even more disturbing by the fact that it is portrayed through violence rather than sexual yearning.

If Karloff was fading here, Tigon nearly finished the star off totally during Vernon Sewell's CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR, where Boris contracted pneumonia during night scenes filmed in freezing rain. Based uncredited on H.P. Lovecraft's The Dreams in the Witch House, Robert Manning (Mark Eden) goes in search of his brother, who was last known to have visited Craxted Lodge, Greymarsh. Manning is invited to stay by Eve (Virginia Wetherell) - the niece of Lodge owner Morley (Christopher Lee) - but is haunted by nightmares. When wheelchair-bound Professor Marshe (Karloff) informs Manning about a cult based around Lavinia Morley (Barbara Steele), and Robert discovers that he is descended from Lavinia's chief accuser, Craxted Lodge is burned to the ground, and Morley - exposed as the head of the followers - is consumed in flames. Starting with a written extract about hallucinatory drugs, the film descends into an unintentionally hilarious attic ritual, where Lavinia is aided by a man wearing an antlers head cap and leather underpants, and a woman with nipple-patches and horsewhip. The camp continues at a swinging party at the Lodge, which includes an exotic dancer pouring champagne over her breasts, but this is where the fun ends. Eden and Wetherell are functional at best, and the climactic notion that Morley and Lavinia are the same person - which would have made sense under the shooting title THE REINCARNATION - is left unexplored.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bloodsucking Freaks


In a non-speaking role, Imogen Hassall is bewitching as the leader of a perversion-driven vampire cult.

DIRECTLY after THE BLACK TORMENT in 1964, director Robert Hartford-Davis and cinematographer Peter Newbrook quit Compton and formed Titan. After making the musical GONKS GO BEAT, Michael Bentine's THE SANDWICH MAN and Norman Wisdom vehicle PRESS FOR TIME, the studio turned out their lasting legacy in 1968 with the seedy CORRUPTION. A brutal picture which sees Peter Cushing as a surgeon killing in order to restore his young fiancée's facial tissue, Cushing departed to make another low point in his filmography with Tigon's THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR. Titan, however, went on to nearly complete their greatest folly, a take on Simon Raven's novel Doctors Wear Scarlet - INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED.

If you ever wanted to see Patrick Macnee and Imogen Hassall ride donkeys in a British vampire picture, then INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED is the film for you. Richard Fountain (Patrick Mower) - an Oxford don and the Foreign Secretary's son - falls into the clutches of Chriseis (Hassall) while researching ancient Minoan rites in Greece. Chriseis heads a non-supernatural bloodsucking cult of socialites who murder innocents as a form of sexual perversion. In an attempt to avoid a scandal, a search party flies to the island of Mikonos in a desperate search for Richard, which contains Major Derek Longbow (Macnee), British Foreign Office assistant Tony Seymore (Alexander Davion), friend Bob Kirby (Johnny Sekka), and Fountain's somnambulant fiancée Penelope (Madeleine Hinde). After apparently halting the cult's influence over Richard, the don returns to his sheltered life, but we discover that the marks left by Chriseis still resonate.

Also known as BLOODSUCKERS and FREEDOM SEEKER, INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED is based on Simon Raven's 1960 novel Doctors Wear Scarlet. Raven - a Luciferian provocateur who was also a journalist and television writer - rejected faith and possessed a deep contempt for the English unwillingness to offend.

According to David Pirie's The Vampire Cinema, INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED was a long-gestating project of Terence Fisher, who was never able to interest Hammer in its subversive content. With the rights acquired by Titan and Hartford-Davis at the helm, it was the beginning of a painful production and editing process. While shooting in Cyprus funds were exhausted, leaving the picture unfinished. With a compressed narrative and lame narration introduced to cover the cracks, the director disowned the picture and prints only exist under a directorial psydonym (Michael Burrowes) or with no director credit at all. The ending was also shot against Hartford-Davis' wishes, where Kirby and Seymore go to Fountain's coffin to administer a stake through his heart. This climax vilifies the rest of the film, which had explained vampirism as a psychological distortion, rather than reverting to cliché. Also jarring is an extraordinary six-minute sequence of a hallucinogenic orgy, which was either cut or excised completely for overseas prints.

Mower’s character is revealed as impotent - and possibly bisexual - making vampirism his only means of satisfaction. Richard's liberating climactic outburst at a Oxford dinner not only frees him from the stifling academic system championed by provost Dr Walter Goodrich (Peter Cushing) - Penelope's father - but also plays as a rousing counter-culture statement of the times ("the thieves who come to take our souls ... smooth deceivers in scarlet gowns.") As Tim Lucas points out in his Video Watchdog review, INCENSE would play well with Fisher's THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, where Mower plays another privileged upper class individual who falls under the power of persuasion. As well as Cushing - who is used far too fleetingly - Edward Woodward appears as an anthropologist who tries to explain vampirism where the drinking of blood serves as surrogate orgasm.