Combustible Celluloid
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With: Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Mark Eden, Barbara Steele, Michael Gough, Virginia Wetherell
Written by: Mervyn Haisman, Henry Lincoln, Jerry Sohl
Directed by: Vernon Sewell
MPAA Rating: R for brief sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 89
Date: 04/05/1970

The Crimson Cult (1968)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Terror Trio

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Otherwise known as Curse of the Crimson Altar, this 1960s horror movie is most notable for its teaming of three horror icons: Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, and Barbara Steele. The actual star is the less interesting Mark Eden, playing Robert Manning, an antiques dealer who goes searching for his missing brother. He arrives at a huge castle where no one has seen or heard of his brother, but a pretty woman (Virginia Wetherell) invites him to stay for a party (where scantily clad girls paint each other's skin). It turns out that the woman's uncle is the owner of the house (Lee); he gives Manning some brandy, and gives him a room. Manning has insane nightmares where a high priestess (Steele) tortures him and tries to get him to sign a book (his brother appears in the dream). In the daylight Professor Marshe (Karloff) informs him of an evil cult.

Directed by Vernon Sewell, the movie isn't particularly scary, but it has a cool-looking, colorful design, and our trio of great stars seem to be enjoying the silliness of their roles (but still taking their jobs seriously). Michael Gough, who would go on to play Alfred the butler in the Michael Keaton Batman movies, plays a creepy manservant here. Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln wrote the screenplay, apparently based (without credit) on an H.P. Lovecraft story.

Kino Lorber released the movie on Blu-ray with a host of interesting extras, including a commentary track by historian David Del Valle and Ms. Steele, an interview with Lee (who died just weeks prior to this release), an interview with composer Kendall Schidt, and trailers.

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