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Curse of the Crimson Altar
IMDB Rating: 5.5/10 from votes
Release: December 1968 (UK) /

Curse of the Crimson Altar

Genre: Horror
Director:
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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. Written by Jeremy Perkins <jwp@aber.ac.uk>

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Critic Reviews


Well it's not the great story; it's certainly not the curious nearly S and M moments, although I probably found them interesting as a kid, and it's not the technical brilliance although I must say that cinematographer Johnny Coquillon does an excellent job of lighting and utilising the interiors of the delightful Grims Dyke manor where the majority of the movie was filmed, and it's definitely not the annoying Mark Eden. So just what is it? Well, first and foremost there's the wonderful pairing of Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, both of whom give performances way above the level of the product they were working with, and there's the lovely Barbara Steele portraying the green skinned witch Lavinia. On top of that there's the very 'Britishness' of it all… it's like a mad little time capsule; the sophisticates chasing a cat suit wearing girl through the forest, explaining to the hero that 'it's a rather sophisticated kind of hide and seek' (what?) and the anything goes swinging sixties party blend wonderfully with the slightly psychedelic hallucinations experienced by Robert Manning. Then there are little moments like the gas station attendant (Ron Pember) actually filling the car ('Craxted Lodge', he says, 'oh, yeah, I know Craxted Lodge' in a slightly sinister and loaded way); when was the last time that happened? And the cost, the total for petrol is 1 pound, 7 shillings and six pence (about 90 pence in new money)! On top of that there is a nice feeling of the 'village where something is not quite right' and the useful device of having the world's foremost expert on witchcraft, Professor John Marshe (Boris Karloff) as a resident and his friendship with a descendant, Squire Morley (Christopher Lee), of the notorious witch Lavinia (Barbara Steele) whose burning at the stake is commemorated in an annual festival which just so happens to be occurring just as the hero, Robert Manning (Mark Eden), arrives on the scene in search of his missing brother Peter (Denys Peek). In a knowing nod to the genre Manning, commenting about the house, says at one point that you expect Boris Karloff to pop up any minute and, of course, he does. Add to this the slightly sinister man servant Elder (Michael Gough), the romantic interest Eve Morley (Virginia Wetherell), and a wonderful old house and what you get is a really nice little movie, but one whose parts are, unusually, better than the whole. Incidentally I stayed at the house back in the 80s and it really is a lovely place, loaded with atmosphere and I was genuinely thrilled knowing the movie was made there. Of course, there are downfalls. Tigon have been accused of taking a rather crude and exploitative approach to horror, although at least two of their films, 'Witchfinder General' (1968) and 'Blood on Satan's Claw' (1970) are, in their own ways, outstanding, but the script here is rather weak and fails to flow from time to time which is not helped by the somewhat pedestrian direction. It would be pointless, however, to attempt a dissection of this movie's technical merits, if you want to do that, take a look at the same year's 'Rosemary's Baby'. If, on the other hand, you just want a great, if somewhat silly, old British witchcraft movie, then look no further than this.

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