The first thing I noticed when watching this Tigon film was the incredible cast. It’s like a wet dream for horror fans (Boris Karloff! Christopher Lee! Barbara Steele !) A welcome surprise was seeing that Mark Eden who played Alan Bradley from Coronation Street was also in the cast.
Eden plays Robert Manning who is searching for his brother who was going to Greymarsh, the town where they grew up. Robert heads to the property his brother was staying in, Craxted Lodge and finds a party to be in full swing. He meets a partygoer, Eve whose uncle, Morley (Christopher Lee) owns the property. Eve introduces them but Morley doesn’t know of Robert’s brother and convinces him to stay the night so that he can continue to look for his brother the next day. His sleep is disturbed by a very trippy nightmare that depicts some kind of ritual and a green witch (Steele) presiding over proceedings. The next day Robert is introduced to Professor John Marsh (Karloff) who just so happens to have a collection of torture implements (red flag or red herring?) and is an expert in witchcraft and the occult (red flag or red herring?). Robert continues to search for his brother and have even freakier and frighteningly real nightmares.
I loved this Vernon Sewell-directed British horror film. I love how late 60s Swinging London culture had permeated into the film, with the party being a full-on groovy happening, man with body painting and bright colours. The filmmakers were obviously not just going for the horror crowd but also a counterculture demographic who went to see far-out movies late at night.
But this isn’t the only sequence that utilised a colour palate that could make your eyes water. The dream/nightmare sequences are stunning and very hallucinatory. I love how they end with kaleidoscope-esque visuals. I also love how the jury in the witch’s courtroom all wear animal masks with the goat mask wearer being centre stage. Events are just a little bit kinky too with the muscle-bound blacksmith wearing very skimpy trunks. He looks like he should be in a Frankie Goes To Hollywood video.
I also love how everything is accounted for using logic and rational explanations by the end, a bit like the end of an episode of Scooby Doo. Even the potential plot holes are stitched up (‘Hypnosis!’) But whilst we are led to believe that there is no real (black) magic within the film’s narrative, the film’s final frames prove otherwise.
The entire cast is fantastic and everyone is on top form. Alas, this was to be one of Karloff’s final film appearances before he ascended to the film studio in the sky.
4 stars out of 5