Walt's Monster Club

Sadly, news has come that Walter Olsen, head of Scorpion Releasing and brother of Code Red's Bill Olsen, has passed away, just a few months since we lost Bill.  So today I thought we could go back and look at a great Scorpion blu that would make a fine addition to anybody's collection: 1981's Monster Club.

In the clear tradition of the beloved Amicus anthologies comes one that is technically not by Amicus, but otherwise the clear next step in their sequence.  It's directed by Roy Ward Baker (Asylum, Quatermass & the Pit) and stars horror icons Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasence, Britt Ekland and Patrick Magee, and admittedly, it's in the running for worst of the lot, but not by a wide margin.  The wrap-around is sillier than the others - Price is a vampire who attacks Carradine, playing a famous horror author, who Price turns out to be a fan of.  So instead of finishing him off, he invites Carradine to the "Monster Club," where monsters gather, boogie down to rock songs like "Monsters Rule O.K." and drink blood.  Price tells him "real" monster stories, which comprise the meat of the anthology.  This wrap-around is pure tongue-in-cheek camp, the likes of which these anthologies have never sunk to, exemplified by this famous speech of Price's:
"You see, first we have the primary monsters: vampires, werewolves and ghouls.  Now, a vampire and a werewolf would produce a werevamp, but a werewolf and a ghoul would produce a weregoo.  But a vampire and a ghoul would produce a vamgoo.  A weregoo and a werevamp would produce a shaddy.  Now a weregoo and a vamgoo would produce a maddy.  But a werevamp and a vamgoo would produce a raddy.  Now, if a shaddy were to mate with a raddy or a maddy, the results would be a mock.  (A mock?)  Frankly, that's just a polite name for a mongrel.  You know it's quite simple really.  All you have to do is remember the basic rules of monsterdom: vampires suck, werewolves hunt, the ghouls tear, shaddies lick, maddies yawn, mocks blow but shadmocks only whistle.  (Shadmocks?)  If a mock were to mate with any of the other hybrids, their off-springs would be called shadmocks.  (And they only whistle?)  Well, they don't do it very often.  (Some do.  Terrifying?)  Oh, but you should see the results of a shadmock's whistling.  Shadmocks are the lowest in the monster hierarchy, yet they have this power.  (What happens when a shadmock whistles?)  I heard of a man once who saw the results of a shadmock's whistle.  That's all he saw, and yet..."
But the stories within are played relatively straight and in perfect keeping with the past.  The production values are impressive, with a lush score (the first story subtly invokes Gabriel Fauré's Pavane, and even the interstitial pop songs are well produced and catchy), colorful lighting and beautiful locations.  Baker certainly knows how to shoot a horror story.  There's certainly still some comedy, especially in Pleasence's middle segment, but not like the overt goofiness of the wrap-around, which feels inspired by Adam West's Batman more than anything from the house of Hammer.  And yes, they do reveal the ghastly results of a shadmock's whistling.

Monster Club had previously only been available as a non-anamorphic widescreen DVD from Pathfinder.  But in 2013, Scorpion issued a brand new, HD transfer on blu with a fun collection of new special features.  Network released it in the UK a year later, using the same master, but without any of Scorpion's extras.
2013 US Scorpion BD.
Scorpion presents Monster Club in 1.78:1, a nod I assume to its British theatrical origins.  They don't share any information about the transfer, but we know it's from "original film elements" and looks surprisingly bright and clean.  Film grain is light and sporadic when it isn't missing entirely, this isn't a modern 2 or 4k scan.  But it's a very clean and satisfying picture with solid blacks and clean lines.  The original mono track is presented in lossless DTS-HD, along with an isolated music and effects track, also in DTS-HD.  Disappointingly, there are no subtitle options.
Extras start off with a typically silly Katrina wrap-around, which I suppose is fitting for this film on paper, but still doesn't really mesh with the film's atmosphere.  She also conducts an interview with Price expert David Del Valle, who's refreshingly enthusiastic about this film.  Then he shares with us two vintage Price interviews he's conducted, a video one that's over an hour, and an audio-only one that's over 40 more minutes.  They cover Price's career overall, rather than Monster Club specifically; but most fans should appreciate these.  Also included is the original theatrical trailer, a couple bonus trailers and liner notes by George Reis.
The whole thing's just a good time.  They even get Price and Carradine to dance at the end.  And there's still no better release than Scorpion's.  R.I.P. Walt.

No comments:

Post a Comment