Curse of the Crimson Altar is currently free to watch online in the UK and Ireland via the Talking Pictures website. Available until midnight November 30, 2022. Here’s our previous coverage of the film:
‘The high priestess of evil… a monstrous demon with an irresistible bloodlust…’
Curse of the Crimson Altar is a 1968 British horror feature film directed by Vernon Sewell (ghost ship; The Terror of the Blood Beast; burke and hare).
The film was produced by Louis M. Heyward for Tony Tenser’s Tigon British Film Productions. It is based (uncredited) on the short story “The Dreams in the Witch House” by HP Lovecraft. Additional nudity has been added for a continental European release. For the US release, the film was censored by American International Pictures (AIP) and released as The Crimson Cult as a support function for house of horror.
The film stars Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Barbara Steele, Virginia Wetherell, Michael Gough and Mark Eden.
On July 7, 2015, Kino Lorber released the film on Blu-ray in the United States with an audio commentary by David Del Valle and Barbara Steele, a conversation with Christopher Lee, an interview with composer Kendall Schmidt, American trailers and British.
Robert Manning (Mark Eden) goes in search of his brother, who was last known to have visited the isolated home of Craxted Lodge in Greymarsh. Arriving at night, he discovers that a party is in progress and he is invited to stay by Eve (Virginia Wetherell), the niece of the owner of the house.
His sleep is restless and strange dreams of ritual sacrifices disturb him. Inquiring about his brother, he is assured by the owner of the Morley house (Christopher Lee) that the man is not there. But Manning’s suspicions are still aroused by his nightmarish hallucinations.
When occult expert Professor Marshe (Boris Karloff) informs Manning of a witchcraft cult based around the ancestral Lavinia Morley (Barbara Steele), the cult is uncovered…
“Karloff himself, cadaverous and almost entirely paralyzed, acts with a quiet lucidity of such great beauty that it is refreshing to simply hear him talk old spiel. Nothing else in The Crimson Cult comes close, though there’s Barbara Steele in greenface playing Lavinia, 300-year-old glamor and a monumental cast that lists no less than seven party girls, plus several sacrificial virgins. Roger Greenspun, The New York Times (1970)
« Coquillon, the talented cinematographer of Michael Reeves Witch Seeker General (1968), devised all sorts of innovative ways to light the home, and achieved results superior to many studio-lit productions… The Aurum Movie Encyclopedia: Horror
To buy: Blu-Ray | DVD of Amazon.co.uk
“Lovecraft’s story is ultimately much more disturbing than this adaptation, which features very little on-screen violence, although Wetherell shows exactly one of her breasts and her entire bare ass, which were probably outrageous in their day. “Oh, the Horror!
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“The novelty of this latest Karloff film is not enough to save the company, though the film, posthumously, retains miniscule interest as a curiosity of its time (yesterday’s trash is more tolerable than today’s trash.) Villagers celebrating Independence Day, villagers playing hide and seek, attempted human sacrifice and self-immolation are inexplicable ingredients in this woefully underdeveloped brew. Alfred Eaker’s Blue Mahler
Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.co.uk
Super 8 version:
Free to watch online in 1080p, however running time suggests minor cuts have been made as 2004 BBFC ’15’ version runs 83m 0s
Cast and characters:
Boris Karloff – Professor Marshe
Mark Eden – Robert Manning
Barbara Steele (black sunday; Thrill; piranha) – Lavinia Morley
Michael Gough (Black Museum Horrors; Konga; horror hospital) – Elder
Virginie Wetherell – Eve
Rosemarie Reede – Esther
Derek Tansley – Judge
Michael Warren – Driver
Ron Pember – Gas Attendant
Denys Peek – Peter Manning
Rupert Davies – The Vicar
Filming locations :
The house used for Craxted Lodge is Grim’s Dyke, the allegedly haunted former home of William S. Gilbert, located in Old Redding, Harrow Weald, northwest London. The building, which is now a hotel, was used for exterior and interior shots.
One of Dübreq’s Horror Top Trumps game decks from the late 1970s contained a card called “High Priestess of Zoltan” which was clearly modeled (unlicensed) on Barbara Steele’s Lavinia Morley.
Image credits: The BlueMahler by Alfred Eaker | Blues Face Button
THE DARK SLEEP (2012) Reviews of Poe’s adaptation with stop-motion monsters!
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