Christopher Lee is a brazen, brash, boisterous and bombastic theatre owner who might just be a murderer or simply a zealot for the craft and those that work for him. There are a whole bunch of murders that take place throughout the film and whether he is involved is one of the mysteries that take place, but soon the police do indeed find that they are tied to his Theatre of Death just not in the way they would expect. Lee is powerful in his performance as Philippe Darvas, putting the character across as cool and cruel simultaneously. While this may not have been one of his best movies, it is one of his most vibrant performances, sitting up there with many of the far superior Hammer pictures he did, of which this looks like one, but is not, instead released by Pennea Productions Ltd. The only reason to really watch this picture, is in fact Lee, as he is mesmerizing and holds your focus for each and every moment he is on screen, such is the talent that the man exudes.
While the film overall is a decent one, it never rose beyond that point. It was a little tedious and boring at times and could have had the running time trimmed down a bit and cut out some of the fluff that was present, much of which had to do with the supporting characters and their ruminating throughout the film. Character building is good as you want to know and love or hate the people you are watching onscreen, but it could have been a bit more effective to move the plot along a bit faster if some of it was cast asunder. Aside from Lee, the cast was fairly good but they did not present that attention grabbing fervor that Lee did, and as such they were almost always overshadowed by his presence, whether he was in the scene or not. Julian Glover, Lelia Goldoni and Jenny Till who supported Lee in the film, did a good job, but it just did not feel like it was enough.
Though the film may have dragged a bit here and there, it did have its positive aspects. The music by Elisabeth Lutyens was engaging and fit the dark and moody atmosphere perfectly. For a horror film, it is essential to have the right mood present and done so effectively so that the viewer can be invested rather than be taken out of the picture. Gilbert Taylor, in charge of cinematography does a great job of this, and though there is little blood and very little violence shown onscreen, having the right mood and atmosphere, which was accomplished, as well as being expertly directed by Samuel Gallu really helped the film out a lot.
The tribal scene at the end was quite interesting and fun to watch, but it took a while to get to a part that was engaging enough and then the film ended, with a bit of twist as well, but it was still over. While it was a good thing, as it was a little too long as it was, but having taken that amount of time to get to a part that made you sit up and pay attention was a bit of a shame. Though Christopher Lee would get top billing in this picture, he was really only in it for about half of the movie which was a real shame. Obviously it made sense due to the script by Ellis Kadison and Roger Marshall, but should he have stayed in somehow, the movie might have been much better than it was. It was not a terrible film, as there are many horror films in the world that are far worse, but there are also many more that are much better. This is a good film to watch for Lee with some eeriness and a bit of moody suspense in the classic horror vein, but not much else.
Categories: Horror, Movies and Film
Modern flicks need to make old-school posters like this once in a while. It would make things a lot less generic! Anyways….good premise, boring execution from what it seems from reading your review! Shame the lead actor was not even present for the majority of the flick!