The Film (3/5)
At the end of Vernon Sewell's career, the prolific director whose work dated back to the early 1930's made a trio of horror films, the Blood Beast Terror, Burke & Hare, and the Curse of the Crimson Altar (released by Kino Lorber this month as the Crimson Cult). All 3 films were entertaining, but not entirely remarkable entries into the 60's British horror canon. The second film of the 3 Curse of the Crimson Altar made in 1968 the same year as Blood Beast Terror, is the best of the three films. The film brings together a powerful cast of horror icons with stylish and colorful psychedelic visuals that help to separate it from it's contemporaries.
The film tells the story Robert Manning(Mark Eden), the owner of an antiques shops who uses his brother Peter to maintain his inventory. As the film begins Robert receives a package from Peter containing a candlestick, and a vague note informing Robert that he is sick, and is staying away to recover, but leaves very few other details. This gets Robert worried, and he begins to search out his brother's whereabouts. He immediately goes to the return address on the envelope, and finds himself at a party for a woman named Eve (Virginia Wetherwell) whose Uncle owns the home, and is allowing her to use it for the event. Robert presses on and requests a meeting with her uncle Mr. Morley (Christopher Lee). Upon meeting Morley extends an invitation for him to stay the night, and do further research into his brother's location the next morning. Morley, however, denies knowing anything about Peter's present predicament. This sends Robert and Eve the next day on an investigation that takes them into the dark world of witchcraft that may have taken Peter.
The Crimson Cult almost plays like a companion piece to Christopher Lee's other late 60's supernatural masterpiece The Devil Rides Out. The film rather than a typical horror picture plays out more like a detective thriller with supernatural elements. Sewell for this picture brought together 3 icons of horror Barbara Steele who plays the witch in the film, and will be remembered here for the visual of her painted green with a feathery outfit. Christopher Lee who spent a lot of time in the 60's making horror films brings a certain class to the film. Boris Karloff appears as a collector of witchcraft memorabilia, and turns in a quite excellent and memorable performance. The Crimson Cult also marks one of Karloff's final roles. The pacing of the film allows the mystery to unfold at a nice leisurely space, and helps to create a solid gothic atmosphere tinged in 60's psychedelia.
The Crimson Cult is given a 1080p 1:66:1 AVC encoded transfer by Kino Lorber that looks absolutely fantastic. Image clarity and detail are excellent, the films vibrant color scheme translates beautifully here, and black levels are nice and deep.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD mono track in English. The dialogue and score are mixed well, and always audible, though I do wish they had included subtitles. One last thing of note, the film does not feature the original Peter Knight score that is present on the Region B Odeon release. It has the replacement score by Kendall Schmidt that was used on prior U.S. releases.
The main attraction here is an excellent commentary track with actress Barbara Steele and moderated by cult horror expert David Del Valle. Steele discusses her work on the film, the production, and more. Del Valle does an excellent job of keeping the conversation going even in sequences that are Steele-less. We also get an excellent 47 minute interview with actor Christopher Lee which does not concentrate on this specific film, but offers a broad career overview of the now late actor.
The Crimson Cult is a fun atmospheric horror film that brings together gorgeous visuals with an excellent cast to create something that while not entirely memorable is still a fun watch. The Blu-ray from Kino Lorber looks fantastic, and though the film doesn't have it's original score, the replacement is quite suitable, and the extras package here offers up even more or a reason to pick it up. RECOMMENDED.