THE CRIMSON CULT (1968)
(a.k.a. CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR)
Article #1131 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-19-2004
Posting Date: 9-16-2004
Directed by Vernon Sewell
Featuring Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Mark Eden
An antique collector visits a remote country house to gather information on his missing brother.
With a cast that includes at least four well-known horror stalwarts (two of which are legends), you’d expect something a little more than what you get here. Unfortunately, there are problems. Barbara Steele is wasted in a role where she is given little more to do than try not to be upstaged by her blue makeup. Michael Gough struggles valiantly with the type of dumb servant role that went to Lugosi or Chaney when they weren’t trusted with anything more substantial. Christopher Lee adds his considerable screen presence and professionalism to his role, but little else. Only Karloff transcends his role by giving his character the type of quirky touches that make him interesting; his scenes are far and away the best scenes in the movie. As for the movie as a whole, it’s a washout; most of the running time is spent with either filler (a party scene and a sex scene that try to show as much skin as a PG rating will allow), plot digressions that lead nowhere (nothing comes of either Karloff’s collection of torture devices or his servant’s assault on the hero). or a continual retread of the same plot points (Did the antique collector’s brother visit the country house? The question is answered about four or five times when once would have been enough). Combine this with a truly turgid pace, a soundtrack that underlines each revelation with such overbearing pomposity that you’re surprised you don’t go to a commercial afterwards, and scenes of Satanic worship that are more likely to elicit snickers than shrieks, and you have a truly disappointing cinematic experience.