Hellfire (1995 TV Movie)
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One of the better entries in the ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS cable series is a bit on the slow side, but a decent ghost story with fine acting and good sets, music, photography and costumes. 1950s sci-fi/horror queen Garland is excellent in her role and proves why she should act more.
Score: 5 out of 10
For the most part, the film was boring with poorly scripted scenes. I think if the discovery took place in modern times, it would have made a story with better options.
Guide: Sex and Nudity. No swearing.
The plot of "Hellfire" swirls around this mad music composer Baron Jean Octavie, Lev Prygunon, who gets involved in scoring a symphony for The Devil himself. With the local townspeople up in arms over what the Baron is doing they, led by the local priest, have the baron arrested tried and executed, by being drawn and quartered, within the first ten minutes of the movie. This is all done without as much as a single sentence of duologue making it a bit confusing to those of up watching to what exactly is going on in the film!
It's years later that when the late Baron's niece the hauntingly beautiful Gabrielle Apollinaire,Jennifar Burns, shows up to live at his castle that she discovers his unfinished work, the Devil's Symphony, hidden in his piano. Gabrielle then decides to have the symphony finished by hiring a local composer to do it. It turns out that the only composer willing to finish the Baron's symphony is an alcoholic self thought music writer named Marius Carnot, Ben Cross.
Marius at first isn't at all interested in the unfinished symphony he's more interested in the drop dead gorgeous Gabrielle. It's only when Marius starts to play the Baron's piece that he becomes infatuated with it to the point where it slowly takes over his mind as well as his body. Marius also becomes a serial killer of local prostitutes when he's not working on the unfinished musical piece as if killing people would give him the drive and inspiration that he needs to finish it! Madly in love with Gabrielle Marius is later confronted with her hand picked and future husband the arrogant and self-assured Julien, Doug West.
Picking a fight, with swords, with Marius over the hand of Gabrielle Julien who was at first winning hands down is later run through by Marius and killed when the spirit of the Devil, or the late Baron Octavie,took control of him. It soon becomes apparent that Marius is not himself and his murderous actions back in town, killing a number of hookers, attracts the attention of the local Constable, Aleksandar Pyatkoy, who tries to build a murder case against him. It's only later when Marius, now completely under the control of the Baron, brutally murders one of his music students, he teaches music in the local church in his spear time, the busty Yvette, Yekaterina Rednikova, that the Constable has all the proof he needs to have him arrested.
There's also in "Hellfire" veteran B-movie and horror Queen Beverly Garland as the maid Caroletta whom the late Baron has a wild and crazy affair with just before he was put on ice, for his involvement with the Devil, by the outraged townspeople. Carlotta in fact was to take over Jennifar's body, like the Baron took over Marius', when the symphony was finally finished. ****SPOILER ALERT**** As you would expect the Devil doesn't keep his promises like the filmmakers can't make up their minds in how to put an end to this monstrosity and have something like three different ending within the last ten minutes of the movie. It's decided, by the Devil himself, to burn the whole movie set down together with the both possessed Marius and the resuscitated and brought to life, with his arms and legs stitched back on, Baron. This all leads to what seems like a number of alternative, endings that by the time the film is finally over your left more confused then ever before!
Yes, Roger Corman and Company have to make a buck, and he has every right to remake any and every costume horror melodrama that ever helped make him a name. Especially the Vincent Price ones.
So what's wrong with HELLFIRE? Well, the storyline is good, and kudos to Corman for reaching out to work with Mosfilm. But the problem is what's missing here. And what's missing, you ask? How about Vincent Price's acting skills, Floyd Crosby's richly saturated visuals, Daniel Haller's art direction and the scoring by the irreplaceable Les Baxter? I know what you're going to say...most of these talented artisans are no longer with us, and the few that still are probably have retired from the business permanently.
Which is exactly my point.
Which I also know is moot, since this mess was cooked up over ten years ago now.
None of the other Corman classics have suffered lately from attempts to remake, revisit or 'redefine' them. Here's hoping it stays that way.