3 horror stories based on the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne. In the 1st story titled "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment", Heidegger attempts to restore the youth of three elderly friends. In "... See full summary »
An American writer goes to a remote Welsh manor on a $20,000 bet: can he write a classic novel like "Wuthering Heights" in twenty-four hours? Upon his arrival, however, the writer discovers... See full summary »
Francis Barnard goes to Spain, when he hears his sister Elizabeth has died. Her husband Nicholas Medina, the son of the brutest torturer of the Spanish Inquisition, tells him she has died ... See full summary »
Gilbert de Quincey is an early 19th-century adventurer involved with helping runaway slave girls and victims of a tong war in San Francisco. Garbed in black from head to toe, de Quincey ... See full summary »
Sir Edward Markham is the victim of a voodoo curse which has caused his face to become horribly disfigured. He is kept captive in the attic of his house by his brother Julian. Sir Edward escapes, moves in with an unscrupulous doctor who hires grave robbers to steal bodies for his research, wears a red hood over his face, and kills a good number of townspeople before the surprise ending. Written by
Marty McKee <email@example.com>
Michael Reeves was originally chosen to direct this movie, but was replaced by Gordon Hessler during the pre-production. Shooting began November 18, and was completed in December, two months before Reeves died in February 1969. See more »
When Sir Edward murders Heidi the prostitute, the special effects knife clearly sprays blood onto the actresses' neck well before it actually touches her. See more »
Sir Edward. I thought you've been-
Sir Edward Markham:
Buried. Yes. Waking up in that horrible oblong box, no air to breathe, trapped and no escape. Earth raining down on the lid, every shovel full burying you more deeply.
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I had long wanted to watch the four horror films Gordon Hessler directed for AIP. While hardly classics of the genre, they were relatively well regarded by film critics who appreciated both their visual aspects (scenery, camera-work) and the director's own stylish and often inventive mise-en-scene.
Though I don't usually purchase bare-bones DVDs, the fact that here we get two features for the price of one - and a very affordable price at that - made this disc a happy exception to the rule!
I had never watched THE OBLONG BOX before purchasing the DVD. Its reputation is rather mixed and, in fact, the film lived up to it as it is indeed something of a mixed bag! Still, it has enough good points to make it a film to look forward to again in future, perhaps for a better appreciation.
Actually, the film was quite enjoyable initially as I've already mentioned, thanks in great part to Hessler's elegant direction which clearly delineates setting (where John Coquillon's photography is particularly notable) and characterization (especially Vincent Price and his ambiguous relationship with both his brother Alistair Williamson and the shady 'body snatcher' played by Peter Arne). In fact, Price is quite good in what he has to do where his confrontation scene with Arne (perhaps our first hint that he is not as benign as he seems) is a particular highlight. However, Christopher Lee is pitifully wasted, despite receiving second billing. His character is not very interesting to begin with, and it certainly does not stretch the actor's range in any way. His brief scene with Price is basically a throwaway, which results in a major disappointment!
But when the film should have turned more interesting - after Sir Edward (the disfigured brother) goes on the rampage it becomes just plain silly instead, and never recovers. Sir Edward seems to have an inordinate penchant for throat slashing (a device which is done to death throughout the film). Also, the much-hyped mystery surrounding the reason for Sir Edward's disfigurement at the hands of the African tribesmen is really too lame to have warranted such 'gruesome' retribution! Furthermore, the would-be hideous appearance of Sir Edward's scarred face is not exactly skin-crawling and a veritable cop-out (granted that the budget allocated to the film must not have been immense, but such an important detail required a great deal more imagination, or if you like, shock value). Overall, the make-up effects utilized throughout are incredibly tacky, particularly a wound on a man's head which looks very unrealistic - as if he had dropped a can of red paint on his hair!
The film's least effective moments are certainly the endless tavern scenes, where Sir Edward (usually a figure of menace) is put upon by everybody severely diminishing his 'mystique' in the process. The (predictable) twist ending, then, arrives too abruptly as if the makers were in a hurry to wrap things up; it's appropriate for all that, but not particularly striking.
As I have said, THE OBLONG BOX is a good-looking film that is very watchable in an unassuming way. We should also be thankful to MGM for having provided the restored original British version. However, with a little more attention and a better use of the resources at hand it could have been a work of considerably greater and more lasting value.
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