Thursday, October 1, 2015

"Wet with Terror"


"Imagine you are making love to this girl. Imagine you are making love to this boy ..." Also known as BIZARRE and TALES OF THE BIZARRE, SECRETS OF SEX is an omnibus oddity that has it all.

EXPLOITATION film distributor and director Antony Balch started with the moving image by writing subtitles for European movies and making adverts for Camay soap and Kit-E-Kat ("Your cat will stay younger, live longer.") While briefly living in France he befriended William Burroughs, before returning to run two movie theatres in London: The Jacey Piccadilly Circus, and The Times Baker Street. Balch made surrealist shorts in collaboration with the American beat poet, and Burroughs also provided narration for the distributor's 1966 re-packaging of HAXAN as WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES. With a proposed adaptation of Naked Lunch starring Dennis Hopper falling through, Balch found a more solid partner in producer Richard Gordon, which created cult favourites SECRETS OF SEX and HORROR HOSPITAL. Unfortunately future projects such as THE SEX LIFE OF ADOLF HITLER never materialised, and Balch succumbed to stomach cancer in 1980 at the age of just 42.

SECRETS OF SEX was Balch's feature debut, a dotty collection of tales fusing comedy, horror, spies and softcore using a framing device of a Mummy voiced by Valentine Dyall. There are six segments in total, each illustrating the age-old battle between the sexes: a female photographer asks her male model to straddle a 'Spanish Horse' torture device; an old man yearns for a son after a previous bereavement, only for his young scientist lover to keep a birth defect from him and deliver a monster; a man catches a burglar only to discover "Christ! It's a bird!"; Lindy Leigh is Mayfair's Special Agent 28, whose main talent is to shed her clothes at every convenience; a man beckons an escort in an attempt to have sex with his reptile; and an old women confesses to kidnapping the souls of past lovers and trapping them in her greenhouse. Amazingly, this inoffensive and often banal picture was censored by John Trevelyan to the tune of nine minutes, but the film was still a hit and shown up to seven times a day at the Jacey, often with an accompanying Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Graham Humphrey's DVD/Blu-ray cover for HORROR HOSPITAL, discs released in August 2015.

HORROR HOSPITAL sees songwriter Jason Jones (a pre-CONFESSIONS Robin Askwith) taking a break from London's cutthroat music business by going to "Hairy Holidays", a country spa provided by gay travel agent Pollock (Dennis Price). On the train journey there Jason meets Judy (Vanessa (actually Phoebe) Shaw), who is also travelling to the alleged health farm Brittlehurst Manor to meet her long lost aunt. Actually, the Manor is run by Dr Christian Storm (Lugosiesque Michael Gough), who uses lobotomy to turn wayward youth into zombie slaves ("fresh air, birds, flowers - and storm your way back to health.") The wheelchair-bound scientist is aided by Judy's Aunt Harris (Ellen Pollock), a former Hamburg brothel madam, comic-relief dwarf Frederick (Skip Martin), and two biker thugs; and if anyone escapes, Storm has a Rolls Royce fitted with a scythe to stop any such insubordination ("make a clean job of it Frederick, the car was washed this morning.")

Utilising Knebworth House exteriors and Battersea Town Hall interiors, HORROR HOSPITAL - released as THE COMPUTER KILLERS in America - is a washed-out but endearing pastiche of the mad doctor genre, complete with requisite fiery climax. Guest star Price shines as the lecherous Pollock, ogling Jones' package and as camp as Christmas on his visit to the Manor ("Mirror, mirror on the wall, don't say a word, I know it all") before his bloody demise. Askwith and Gough turn in solid performances in roles specifically written for them - Gough is overtly stern and almost a Bond villain  - and it is only a somnambulant Shaw that lets down the troupe. The influence of this piece of 70's schlock even extends to hip-hop, when in 2003 Norwich-based Stonasaurus recorded a concept album about the release; internally, actual 1960's psychedelic group Tangerine Peel appear at the beginning as 'Mystic', fronted by a cross-dresser who is actually co-writer Alan Watson.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Twisted Tales

INSIDE NO. 9 (2014 - )

SUPERNATURAL based two of its episodes around creepy dummies. After the death of her mother, and her father's re-marriage, a young girl becomes obsessed by a doll in the Peter Sasdy-directed VIKTORIA.

SUPERNATURAL was a BBC anthology devised by Robert Muller, who wrote seven of the eight tales. Muller intended the show to rekindle the flavour of early horror cinema, subtle tales of fear based around The Club of the Damned. Each week, a prospective member will tell a true tale of terror; if successful, they will be given lifetime membership, if they fail, murder awaits. It is certainly a series of two halves, with the first four stories suffering from verbal diarrhoea and two excruciatingly loopy lead performances by Robert Hardy (as a haunted actor in GHOST OF VENICE) and Jeremy Brett (who falls under the spell of Lesley-Anne Down in MR NIGHTINGALE). Amazingly the series then opens up considerably: Denholm Elliott and John Osborne expertly play brothers living with their paranoid mother in LADY SYBILL, and NIGHT OF THE MARIONETTES has Gordon Jackson a biographer of Byron and Shelly. Unfortunately this momentum is lost with DORABELLA, a straightforward Gothic where two travellers are ensnared to provide a new vampire blood line. The exterior scenes breath some fresh air, even though it relies heavily on matte shots from Hammer's SCARS OF DRACULA.

Inexplicably broadcast on BBC1 in the summer - and scheduled to clash with BBC2's popular Horror Double Bills - SUPERNATURAL was shot on then industry-standard videotape, and suffers from visible ghosting (the muted colours of the gloomy castles and Victoriana add to its tired façade). Muller's intentions may well have been "to set the viewer's mind into action" with a set of archetypal examinations, but the series was not re-commissioned, despite strong supporting roles by Ian Hendry, Cathleen Nesbitt, Catherine Schell and Vladek Sheybal. The Club of the Damned is also disappointedly underdeveloped, with members displayed as stuffy armchair dwellers rather than bloodthirsty Turks all too eager to literally wield an axe.

Graham Humpreys' poster for THE HARROWING, the final episode of INSIDE NO. 9 series one. Here, a unsuspecting schoolgirl housesits a Gothic mansion, but is actually the centrepiece for a demonic transfer.

During the Radio 4 documentary HOUSES OF HORROR, the observation is made that the main difference between Hammer and Amicus is that Amicus's dour, modern settings were what is revealed after Hammer's large-bosomed damsels and mist-enveloped castles evaporate into your romantic mind's eye. One of its commentators, Reece Shearsmith, really takes this to heart for his INSIDE NO. 9 - co-written with Steve Pemberton - a series of stand-alone thirty minute dramas that feel like TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED melded to PLAY FOR TODAY. The twelve episodes so far have been noteworthy for their eloquently dark writing and almost cinematic staging, with stellar casts bringing to light every sickly twist and turn. The tone has also been refreshingly irrelevant; SARDINES, for example, sees Tim Key cast as a victim of paedophilia, exacting his revenge on his tormentor, family and associates while they are all locked in a wardrobe, while A QUIET NIGHT IN focusses on physical comedy. The highlight of the second series is THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTINE, a tight-as-a-drum emotional journey of a young woman beautifully played by Sheridan Smith.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Sensual Obsession


Never confuse BAD TIMING as a date movie; Nicolas Roeg's extraordinary picture showcases a love affair long after the hearts stop beating, a piece that rivals Andrzej Zulawski's POSSESSION as the most toxic and intense break-up film of all time.

NICOLAS Roeg's motion pictures are time machines that test the cinematic medium as much as their character's journeys. Like Ken Russell, Roeg is a genre by himself, riding against the British norm of dour realism to create art-house visions for the masses. BAD TIMING is Roeg at his most vicious, where scenes of sexual perversion upset backers Rank so much ("a sick film made by sick people for sick people") they removed their gong logo and refused to screen it in their own Odeon chain. In fact, Psychiatrist Alex Linden (Art Garfunkel) and Milena Flaherty (Theresa Russell)'s destructive relationship was almost brought to the point of both stars walking off the film. Set in Cold War Vienna, the opening has a catatonic Milena rushed to hospital after taking an overdose, accompanied by her former lover Linden. Police Inspector Netusil (Harvey Keitel, in a strangely forced performance) suspects foul play and questions Linden; through flashbacks we see the events leading up to the suicide attempt, documenting Milena's experiences with Alex, her heavy drinking, and estrangement from much-older Czech husband Stefan (Denholm Elliott).

Abandoning any chronology or clarity, scenes take cues from objects, music and art, with the controversial sex scenes un-erotic and un-sexy. BAD TIMING is impossible to classify; is it a love story, psychological thriller, or even a horror movie? If it is a detective mystery it certainly isn't a good one, as Netusil is no Sherlock Holmes (promotion dubbed the film "a terrifying love story" and carried the subtitle A SENSUAL OBSESSION in American theatres). Linden's methodical mind control clashes with the free-spirited and impulsive Flaherty through jealousy, bitterness, disenchantment and permanent lack of commitment. Russell shines in her first lead role, and Garfunkel is believable as his misinformation and misconceptions unravel; what is most extraordinary is how two mainstream actors could elude to the final revelation (erroneously dubbed necrophilia by many sources) and that Roeg and Russell fell in love during the production and married soon after.

86-year-old Nicolas Roeg, photographed in his study, to promote David Thompson's  entrancing ARENA documentary.

As Nathaniel Thompson notes in Video Watchdog (#103, January 2004), "[BAD TIMING] could be considered the first sexual warfare film to explore the concept of two people literally exhausting themselves to death (or at least coming perilously close)." Roeg's film would make an unbearable double bill with Andrej Zulawski's POSSESSION - released a year later - where the Polish director draws heavily on the breakdown of his marriage to create a work lead actress Isabelle Adjani described as "emotional pornography." POSSESSION is a discordant piece that is filled with excesses borne out of sheer desperation, as it veers towards its phallus-headed amphibian monster. A less bludgeoning companion piece would be Jean-Luc Godard's PIERROT LE FOU, where its hero must balance his pursuit of aesthetic perfection and yearning for stability against the shallow desires of his lover.

ARENA's heralded first in-depth documentary on Roeg's career ultimately leaves much of the meat to a series of talking heads, while Roeg himself acts as a puppet master, often with a whimsical grin while reading poetry ("There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye" from Auden's At Last the Secret is Out). Taking its title from his obsession with scrambling and reassembling frames, NICOLAS ROEG - IT'S ABOUT TIME... is an array of entertaining and insightful comments, from Danny Boyle's wonderment of Roeg's treatment of sex in his films, to Ben Wheatley's point of how his casting of music stars (Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Art Garfunkel) somehow provide tendrils within the movies that reach out and co-exist with the moving image. Theresa Russell champions the use of dislocation in BAD TIMING as particularly apt when considering relationships ("people do not think linearly") and Roeg is quite pleased that his birth year was 1928, when sight and sound were first merged.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"Watch Out for Your Asp!"


Once Adam Ant's partner, Amanda Donohoe is in her element as a worm-worshipping vamp. Gaining notoriety in Nic Roeg's CASTAWAY, the actress also appeared in Ken Russell's next film THE RAINBOW.

LOOSELY based on Bram Stoker's final book, Ken Russell's bombastic spoof horror opens with Scottish archaeology student Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) excavating an old convent. On grounds now occupied by a Derbyshire B & B run by Trent sisters Mary (Sammi Davis) and Eve (Catherine Oxenberg), Flint unearths a large snake skull and serpent mosaic, which are tied to a local myth. The legend states that a monster was slain in Stonerich Cavern by John d'Ampton, the ancestor of current Lord of the Manor James d'Ampton (Hugh Grant). When the pocket watch of the Trent sisters' missing father is found in the Cavern, James surmises that the legendary creature may still be alive. Soon James, Angus, Mary and Eve are drawn into a deadly game with Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe), an immortal priestess to the snake god Dionin.

Dialogue is laced with sexual innuendo ("playing with yourself can't be much fun"), and the fusion of loopy dream/hallucination sequences and garish 80's monster effects (the giant worm's jaws were made from Volkswagen Beetle parts) make THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM a curio even by Russell's standards. Joseph Lanza expertly sums up the tone in Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films, by describing the film "as if a dotty, old, and salacious English auntie is telling it from an attic where her more prim relatives have exiled her." The scenery-chewing, mincing Donohoe casts a long shadow over the other leads, but bit parts from Paul Brooke - as lazy eyed P. C. Erny - and Stratford Johns - playing James' eccentric manservant Peters - crackle with life. 

Lady Marsh steals the excavated skull of Dionin. The prop was constructed by adding sculpted sections to a real cow head.

With Russell's forked tongue firmly in cheek, it is one delirious sequence after another. Marsh - in PVC boots and black underwear - seduces a half-witted boy scout, and later her strap-on defloration of Eve is interrupted by Dionin itself. One of the shot on video hallucinations has nuns being gang-banged by Roman centurions as a snake wraps itself around Christ on the cross, and kilted Angus plays bagpipes while battling a possessed Erny (which ends in a Fulciesque eye-gouging). Treading the fine line between kitsch and downright embarrassing, James' fever dream sees Eve and Lady Sylvia wrestling in air hostess outfits, the red-tipped pen in his hands standing to attention. Its a glorious mess that was debunked by critics at the time, but over the years the picture has gained a cult following worthy of Dionin, and stories even circulate of chic Los Angeles parties where revellers dress as their favourite characters.

Russell's initial flirtation with Stoker occurred after making TOMMY in 1975, when British cinema's enfant terrible wrote an adaptation of Dracula. The venture lost its impetus when a number of similar projects were released in the late 1970's, such as John Badham’s big-budget DRACULA starring Frank Langella, and Werner Herzog's remake of NOSFERATU. Whereas Herzog's vampire longed for death, Russell's Count rejoiced in possibilities of the forever, a master of the undead who loves the arts so much he seeks to bring great artists back to life; "how jealously God guards his immortality. Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Tchaikovsky: as soon as they challenged him with their visions of heaven, he cut them down - until we started to fight him." Russell claims that Mick Fleetwood was so eager to play his Dracula, that the musician offered to drain a pint of blood from his body each day throughout the shoot. But as Paul Sutton notes in his introduction to the full script published by Bear Claw in 2012, "Ken Russell's Dracula is a cloaked portrait of Ken Russell himself."

Monday, June 1, 2015

Voyage of the Greasy Bastard


RIPPING YARNS parodies the golden age of empire, and won the 1980 Light Entertainment Award presented by BAFTA; in THE CURSE OF THE CLAW, gothic horror comes to 1926 Maidenhead.

RUNNING for nine BBC budget-busting episodes between 1976 and 1979, Michael Palin and Terry Jones' RIPPING YARNS showcased different characters and settings each time, but always against a backdrop of archetypes from boy's own papers. Made when the memory of British empire-building was fading under the swath of punk-rock, the show was initially developed under the vague guise of "The Michael Palin Variety Show." Palin baulked, and preferred to write longer, more cohesive narratives with Jones that took them away from the Pythonesque norm and into territory explored by such stand-alone FLYING CIRCUS episodes as THE CYCLING TOUR from 1972. RIPPING YARNS is infectiously silly; TOMKINSON'S SCHOOLDAYS, for example, depicted the horrors of public school education - such as eluding the school leopard - and WHINFREY'S LAST CASE sees Britain's most famous spy foiling the Germans who want to start the First World War a year early.

THE CURSE OF THE CLAW begins with Sir Kevin Orr (Palin) visited by Captain Merson (Keith Smith), who is leading an expedition to the Naga Hills of Burma with a handful of natives. On hearing this name Orr tells Merson that he grew up in a very strict house and had a secret sweetheart, Agatha, and his only excitement was visiting Uncle Jack (Palin), who had every disease known to man. Uncle Jack had taken a sacred claw from the Hills, but discovered there was a curse; Kevin promises to return the claw, running away and becoming the captain of The Greasy Bastard, a small ship carrying goods between England and Burma. Kevin finds himself attracted to Chief Petty Officer Russell (Judy Loe), and the voyage becomes a paradise that the crew don't want to end. Kevin tries to explain the danger but Russell throws the claw into the sea; the ship explodes and Kevin is the only survivor. Orr, after his parents and Uncle Jack's' death, marries Agatha, and lives happily in his uncle's house until the morning of his sixtieth birthday, when he finds his wife dead and the claw lying next to her. The horned digit then nightmarishly folds back time: his uncle and wife return from the grave, and Kevin and Agatha become children, only to see his father appear to instantly stifle his life once again.

Michael Palin stars as Kevin Orr, anxious to return the sacred Burmese vulture claw to its homeland before his sixtieth birthday, or die.

This "Ripping Yarn of fear, tragedy and terror" was created from two separate scripts: one dealing with black magic (with a healthy nod towards W.W.Jacobs' The Monkey's Paw), the other sexual repression. Like all the stories, THE CURSE OF THE CLAW is filled with colourful supporting characters and here the performances are pitch perfect: Aubrey Morris as naughty servant Grosvenor, and Tenniel Evans and Hilary Mason as Kevin's emotionally suffocating parents ("as soon as the entire human body is covered the better.") Dramatic and numeric errors grate slightly; there is a sense at the beginning that Agatha has been dead for some time rather than just earlier in the day, Grosvenor doesn't recognise a reincarnated Uncle Jack even though he was his servant for many years, and it is revealed that Kevin was born in 1881, the show is set in 1926, but its his 60th birthday. Yet these are disposable errors for what is such a, well, ripping yarn.

As Palin has stated, characters in RIPPING YARNS tread that fine line between British arrogance and madness. Each tale evokes a repressive world that has all but vanished from modern living. British colonialism and the establishment are ridiculed expertly, factors explored in the fine documentary
ALEXANDER ARMSTRONG'S REAL RIPPING YARNS. Armstrong interviews Palin and Jones who are both still evidently enthralled about the bygone days of boys adventure stories, but it is also evident that they are also telling a story of lost innocence and the erosion of risk. Away from today's social media, this was a childhood of wonder and national belonging. Exploring the show's inspirations, it is amazing how popular the boy's own papers were, with their character-building topics of public school life, sport, war, hobbies, espionage and outdoor pursuits. They may have been overtly racist in their depiction of scheming, sinister foreigners - a constant threat to the plucky Englishmen - but the articles and letter pages are both hysterical and heart warming (the dire warnings about masturbation et al).

Friday, May 15, 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.