Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stream-And-Run: Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

    The holy horror trinity of Karloff, Lee and Steele…

    NOTE: Netflix is taking down a boatload of titles on May 1st, so I thought it might be fun to see how many I can watch in the next two weeks, and then post quick, little hit-and-run reviews here. Hope you enjoy, and if you want to see any of these movies and have Netflix, better watch ’em now!

    Curse of the Crimson Altar (aka The Crimson Cult) would probably be rather forgettable were it not for its cast of horror legends. There’s nothing wrong with the film itself, which tells the story of an antique dealer played by Mark Eden who receives a mysterious message from his brother. He travels to the last place his brother was seen, an old manor lorded over by a man named Morley, played by Christopher Lee. Turning up no evidence, the dealer decides to stay the next few days at the manor, where a series of strange dreams begin to bleed further and further into reality as he tries to uncover the truth of his brother’s disappearance. The dreams themselves are the centerpiece of the film: although shot rather dully, they are filled with striking images featuring a blue-skinned Barbara Steele holding court in some hellish, twisted S&M ritual of whips and virgin sacrifices and the like. The film also features Boris Karloff as a wheelchair-bound collector of ancient torture instruments, and although nothing special as written on the page, Karloff leaves an impact as a British gentleman with an air of menace. It’s well-acted and mostly well-written, but the dull setting and style mutes the excitement - making the film go limp when it should be terrifying. Still, the bizarre sexual imagery and the gathering of horror icons makes Curse of the Crimson Altar worthy of a look. 

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