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A Movie A Day: Quint on THE HELLFIRE CLUB (1961)
’What d’you got in there? A dwarf?’ How’d you guess?

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Today we follow Peter Cushing over from yesterday’s great little over-looked gem THE SKULL to today’s rightfully overlooked and forgotten THE HELLFIRE CLUB. I should have known this was going to be a dud when I saw it was the second feature as part of a double feature DVD put out by Dark Sky. Now, Dark Sky has put out some great stuff… A great edition of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, a Special Edition of EATEN ALIVE and other great genre stuff, including the Jess Franco Dracula that we’ll be hitting in a few days on this very column. It’s not them, but that this was the second feature on their double feature disc, which I’ve usually found to be filler. Like the B side to singles back in the day, these double feature discs tend to have one main feature and treat the rest as special features. Let’s hope BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (which we hit tomorrow), the A-side as it were, is better. My second set of internal alarms went off when the opening credits began and Peter Cushing’s credit came in as “Guest Appearance.” The film is co-directed by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman who had a long career aping Hammer flicks and you can tell they’re going for that visual style with the color photography here, except not coming close to replicating it. They do have a great title here, though, and an interesting premise… or at least you’d think so. In the 18th Century a series of connected hot spots for immoral activity sprang up, an interconnected network where the rich and powerful could induldge in blasphemy and other pleasures. It was called The Hellfire Club and the members would joke about it being run by the devil, which is why it’s normally associated with the macabre. Here the club is essentially a den for orgies and is barely seen. Instead it serves as a backdrop for light-hearted fight for a title as our lead (played by Keith Michell) returns to his castle in order to take his rightful Lordship from his wormy little bastard cousin. Peter Cushing figures in (for his maybe 2 or 3 days of shooting) as Michell’s lawyer who instructs him on what he needs to steal from his old manor to prove his heritage. He has maybe 5 minutes of screentime spread out through the whole flick. Michell uses his circus friends to help him along his way… that’s how he’s spent his youth, by the way. He’s an acrobat so he can jump a lot during the many swordfights, which would have been actually really entertaining had they not been filmed with the same skill as a bunch of teenagers staging a fake fight in their backyard with their dad’s video camera. I know this is starting to sound snarky. It’s not an offensive movie, just completely misses on every level. It’s cheap, but not fun. It’s convoluted without having much story. There are interesting plots happening all around except for where we’re looking. Much of that has to do with Michell’s completely lack of charisma. There are a couple of good-looking redheads in Adrienne Corri and Kai Fischer, but as characters there’s not much there, so even that’s only a surface distraction. But no matter the movie’s flaws, there is indeed a midget… a bouncing midget no less. So that means I have to give it at least 2 stars. Final Thoughts: Dull, sloppy, but not offensive. The inclusion of a midget makes me not hate it. I don’t know if that’s the movie’s doing or my unhealthy obsession with little people. Other than that… uh… avoid. Skip. Nothing to see here…

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Thursday, August 14th: BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (1963) Friday, August 15th: TERROR OF THE TONGS (1961) Saturday, August 16th: PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER (1962) Sunday, August 17th: THE DEVIL-SHIP PIRATES (1964) Monday, August 18th: JESS FRANCO’S COUNT DRACULA (1973) Tuesday, August 19th: DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) Wednesday, August 20th: THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY (1960) Here’s hoping tomorrow’s BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (on the same disc) is a more entertaining movie. See you folks then. -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 14, 2008, 2:55 a.m. CST


    by NeilF

    So I win...

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 3:18 a.m. CST

    Quint watches the crap

    by kungfuhustler84

    so we don't have to. Thanks Quint. You know I almost a Dracula triple feature a few weeks ago that included Dracula AD 1972 in it. Guess I'll have to find out if I should regret that decision or not.

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 3:34 a.m. CST

    So is this an X-Men movie or not?

    by Cannabis Holocaust

    (blink blink)

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 7:43 a.m. CST

    Union Jackass

    by Guy Who Got A Headache And Accidentally Saves The World

    You need to sign up with a different email to get a new account. And yes, Clint Eastwood is in fact great. Possibly the greatest human being alive at this moment actually.

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 8:17 a.m. CST

    I'm really enjoying this column.

    by sonofbronson

    It's a great way to find out about lesser known films. Keep it up!

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 8:52 a.m. CST

    I like this column...

    by Sailor Rip

    ...and have been reading it from the beginning but lately it seems like you're picking some really mediocore movies. Every review seems to be "Yeah it was OK but nothing special." <p> Perhaps you should take recommendations from the readers who will actually suggest good movies you may not have seen that would actually be worth your while to watch. Most of these movies you haven't seen for good reason...they suck. <p> Saw a Peter Lorre movie from 1935 last night called Mad Love(horrible title) that I had seen years before but forgot about. It's a cool little movie with a bald headed Lorre in a great role as a demented doctor. If you haven't seen it, check it out. <p> Again, like the column but you're suffering through some shit movies.

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 9:34 a.m. CST

    I agree...

    by Rando Calrisian

    Quint, I check in with your column every day, and this last month has really had some stinkers in it. <br> <br> I love the good old Hammer style horror films, to - but there are so many in that range that are just plain bad movies. <br> <Br> I like the idea of the readers suggesting movies, but this column started out as you watching the movies you have in your (apparently massive) collection already, and how the fuck do we know what you have or haven't seen already? <br> <br> But you started out with some top, well known films as holes in your film watching. You need to find a few more beasts that everyone says - "I can't believe you've never seen that, Quint!" <br> <br> But, I'll still come back every day to see what you watched today. Keep it up!

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 9:51 a.m. CST


    by Sailor Rip

    Good book. Dick Dart right? I'm currently re-reading Floating Dragon.

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 10:13 a.m. CST

    Sailor Rip

    by Fireball XL-5

    I read floating Dragon back in the 80s and have never forgotten certain parts (one scene in Times Square comes to mind). Great stuff.

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 10:20 a.m. CST

    Times Square?

    by Sailor Rip

    I've read it before, am currently on page 123 now, and I don't recolect any scene taking place there. I could be wrong. <p> The book takes place in Connecticut. What scene are you referring too?

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 10:28 a.m. CST

    Times Square

    by Fireball XL-5

    I don't want to spoil anything for you, but I believe the scene comes at about page 342. But don't skip ahead!

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 10:31 a.m. CST


    by Sailor Rip

    I believe you it's just so much of this book stuck with me after the first time I read it I can't believe I don't remember any scenes even taking place in NY.

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 10:33 a.m. CST


    by Fireball XL-5

    Yeah, it's a pretty creepy book. Cool concept. Enjoy.

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 11:30 a.m. CST

    Folks, it's a movie a day he HASN'T SEEN before...

    by mbeemer

    He's probably already seen all the good one's you've been recommending.

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 11:40 a.m. CST


    by Sailor Rip

    Understood, but if he's just going to watch movies and continually not get anything out of them he might as well do something else with his time, like fly a kite or adopt an off-white child in a 3rd world country.

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 2 p.m. CST

    Blood Of The Vamp: info & spoiler

    by bgart13

    First, DS' dvd of BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE is zoomed -- and it makes no sense why they did it, but they did. The Euro dvds aren't zoomed. Second, the spoiler: there are no vampires in the movie. Other than that, it's not a bad movie at all! I found it thoroughly enjoyable. It's got a hunchback with a wonky eye, Donald Wolfit and was written by Jimmy "Frankenstein!" Sangster.

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 3:55 p.m. CST

    AMAD suggestions

    by Quint

    I'm always open to suggestions. I've actually ordered a few movies based on suggestions, including The Train, which is now on the list, but not set yet. I'm sure there are a lot of stinkers, but don't forget this past week included Barry Lyndon (a "I can't believe you haven't seen that!?" title) and The Skull (a "I enjoyed that immensely." title). The point is I'm going through some crap and I'll probably hit a few other bombs in the next few days hitting these old pirate movies, but you never know where the diamond in the rough is.<BR><BR>In keeping the films tied together through a common person I'm keeping the column twisting and turning and I really like that. If it wasn't for that I'd hit all the big ones up front... the Kurosawas I haven't seen, the Val Lewtons, all of my Criterion titles, etc, and then be left with a stack of movies that I should watch, but won't ever get fired up for. The way the column's set up now I have a discipline. I jump from classic noir to musical to cheesy '80s action movie. To me that's the charm of the concept to me and what keeps me invigorated in the column.<BR><BR>But if you have any suggestions, by all means. I haven't seen that Peter Lorre movie you mentioned and I love the guy, so I'm always looking for more movies to add on to the list.

  • Aug. 14, 2008, 5:50 p.m. CST

    Was there a historical Hellfire Club

    by Napoleon Park

    that inspired this? Or was this a fiction? If so, did it influence the Avengers episode of the same name that had Emma Peel in a black bustier and boots with a spiked dog collar? Which in turn John Byrne lifted for his White Queen/Black Queen designs in the X-Men's Hellfire Club arc.<p>I'm not a big fan of Byrne's writing, but the '70s Claremont/Byrne run on X-Men was great stuff that deserved to ride out the #1 slot on the sales charts for years at a time.<p>As for Emma Peel in that archetypal black queen BDSM gear, I have a framed 8X10 glossy of her in that get-up with a snake entwined around her wrist hanging in my gallery in the black room.<p>And as for this movie, well, they can't all be winners, so thanx to the Q-man for alerting us to the goods and warning us off from the duds.