BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review

The Crimson Cult (1968) - Blu-ray Review

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The Crimson Cult - Blu-ray Review

3 stars

Opening with a bare-breasted dominatrix whipping a sacrificial virgin, The Crimson Cult AKA Curse of the Crimson Altar has to be one of the strangest British productions to have been distributed by American International Pictures. It is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, “Dreams of the Witch House”, but you really can’t tell and that fact goes uncredited. What you can tell as the opening titles roll out upon the screen is that, in 1968, director Vernon Sewell (Ghost Ship, Burke & Hare) was all about feeling the groovy vibes of the times.

Featuring good performances from Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff (who is humorously name-checked in the movie) and a bunch of psychedelic parties, The Crimson Cult is the tale of Robert Manning (Mark Eden) and his search for his missing brother, who was last a guest at Craxted Lodge at Greymarsh. Manning arrives at the remote location only to find Eve (Virginia Wetherell), the niece of the Lodge’s owner, partying it up with some of her friends. She invites him to stay after a quick discussion. He accepts and is soon introduced to the lodge’s owner Morley (Christopher Lee) who confirms what Eve has told Manning. His brother is simply not here.

During his stay at the lodge, Manning suffers from hallucinatory dreams involving S&M practices, witches, and a whole lot of spectators dressed up to look like goats and skeletons. He meets occult expert Professor Marshe (Boris Karloff) and is informed of the rich history of witch-worshipping surrounding the house. It seems that Lavinia Morley (Barbara Steele) – the woman in his trippy dreams commanding him to sign his name in a book as people are tortured around him – has quite the following at Greymarsh. It is up to Manning to uncover the truth about this cult of the crimson altar.

Released on blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber, The Crimson Cult isn’t quite the easily enjoyed motion picture the rating suggests. It’s a struggle but an impressive one.  This is, in large part, due to the lighting achievements of cinematographer of Michael Reeves and the electronic score by composer Kendall Schmidt. Schmidt spellbinds us all with his synthetics and Reeves provides the landscape. His work here brings to spooky life the former (and long rumored haunted) home of Sir William Schwenck Gilbert. While the Redding, Harrow Weald, Middlesex, London situated building is now used as a hotel, the creepiness of Reeves’ lighting will probably make you think twice of staying there if you are provided the chance. With the film, the lighting suggests that the deep shadows of Craxted Lodge and its colorful mood lighting is a place where all sorts of hellish things could happen.

If you add the effectiveness of Lee and a wheelchair-bound Karloff (one of his final performances) as they chew boisterous nonsense to the technical aspects of the film, The Crimson Cult becomes a hallucinatory trip worth taking once or twice through a gothic mansion. But nothing more. This rather bloodless production is full of a lot of buxom beauties usually seen in Hammer Films but offers little else with Eden as the lead performer.

This one is more rewarding for the die-hard crimson cult followers out there.

The Crimson Cult - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R for brief sexuality/nudity
Runtime:
97 mins
Director
: Vernon Sewell
Writer:
Mervyn Haisman, Henry Lincoln
Cast:
Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Mark Eden
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
Come face to face with naked fear on the altar of evil!.
Memorable Movie Quote: "It's like Boris Karloff is going to pop up at any moment."
Distributor:
American International Pictures (AIP)
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 15, 1970
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 7, 2015
Synopsis: When his brother disappears, Robert Manning pays a visit to the remote country house he was last heard from. While his host is outwardly welcoming - and his niece more demonstrably so - Manning detects a feeling of menace in the air with the legend of Lavinia Morley, Black Witch of Greymarsh, hanging over everything.

The Crimson Cult - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - July 7, 2015
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Released by Kino Lorber, the 1080p transfer is an upgrade from previous versions. Colors are well-saturated. Black levels are strong. The contrast is high. The release is offered in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which brings the score to life.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • If the release has a saving grace for the rest of the normal folk in the world, it’s the audio commentary by Horror Historian David Del Valle and Actress Barbara Steele. It is full of good information from Steele and Valle about the filming of the movie.

Special Features:

Recorded in 2012, the extended interview with Lee is a big bonus for fans. It covers his entire career and his life. A great deal of Hammer Films are discussed. The brief interview with composer Kendall Schmidt isn’t really about composing the score for the film. It’s interesting but it is more of an overview of his work. There are two trailers for the film.

  • Interview with Kendall Schmidt(13 min)
  • In Conversation with Christopher Lee (47 min)
  • Two Theatrical Trailers

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