Blood of the Vampire/The Hellfire Club [DVD]

After Hammer Films began enjoying international success with their splashy (and deceptively inexpensive) gothic horror vehicles in the late 1950s, other British producers started getting into the act, and this DVD from Dark Sky Films features two period thrillers from producers Robert Baker and Monty Berman. Both Blood of the Vampire and The Hellfire Club have been transferred to disc in letterboxed format at their original widescreen aspect ratios (the former at 1:85:1, the latter at 2:35:1), and they've also been enhanced for anamorphic play on 16 x 9 monitors. The source prints for both films show some mild speckling, but the colors are rich and vivid and the sharp transfers reveal plenty of detail. The audio for both films has been mastered in Dolby Digital Stereo from the original monophonic sound mixes, and the quality is quite good for the period. Both films are in English with no multiple language options, but they do include optional English subtitles for the hard of hearing. The bonus materials for this disc include an informative and amusing commentary track for Blood of the Vampire featuring screenwriter Jimmy Sangster and co-producer Robert Baker. Among the other bonuses are text biographies of the major cast and crew members for both films, trailers for both titles as well as other Dark Sky releases, and an optional "Drive-In" feature which allows viewers to watch both features back-to-back, with snack shop ads, trailers, and other promotional inserts simulating an evening at a drive-in movie theater. This is a fine disc for fans of vintage British horror and good fun for fans of '60s scare cinema in general.
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Special Features

  • Blood of the Vampire commentary with Jimmy Sangster and Robert S. Baker
  • Drive-in programming
  • Biographies
  • Trailers


Blood of the Vampire
A palatable combination of horror and science fiction, Blood of the Vampire takes place in 19th century Transylvania-and never mind that all the locals have cockney accents. British stage star Donald Wolfit, who never spoke when shouting would do, plays the vampiric Dr. Callistratus. Though we see Callistratus being dispatched in traditional stake-through-the-heart fashion during the opening credits, it isn't long before he returns to life, this time in the guise of a prison warden. Using his criminally insane charges as his guinea pigs, Callistratus drains their bodies of blood in order to stay alive. In the film's incredibly busy climax, Callistratus is prevented from carving up the toothsome Madeleine (Barbara Shelley) by his hunchbacked assistant Carl (Victor Maddern). We didn't see the kitchen sink, but we'll bet that that's in here somewhere too. Often mistaken for a Hammer film production (mainly because it was written by perennial Hammer scrivener Jimmy Sangster), Blood of the Vampire was actually produced by the short-lived Artistes Alliance Ltd. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Hellfire Club
Although released in the United States as a 63-minute black-and-white film, this 93-minute British swashbuckler from the producer/directors of Jack the Ripper is actually a lush color spectacle which looks like one of the Hammer Films adventures of the time, even though it was produced by New World. The similarities are not only cosmetic, however, as the film was co-written by Hammer stalwart Jimmy Sangster and co-stars studio regulars Peter Cushing, Miles Malleson, the dwarf Skip Martin, and Adrienne Corri (the future Clockwork Orange starlet who has a discreet nude scene here with German actress Kai Fischer). The ridiculous story concerns Jason, the young son of the notoriously decadent pervert Lord Netherton (Andrew Faulds), leader of London's infamous sex den, the Hellfire Club. Jason's mother (Jean Lodge) flees with the child after he is viciously whipped for walking in on one of his father's orgies. Many years later, his parents have died and Jason (Keith Michell) has become a Dutch circus acrobat, but decides to return to England to claim the ancestral mansion which is rightfully his. Posing as a coachman to his evil, perverse cousin Thomas (Peter Arne), whose oversight of the Hellfire Club has lifted its kinky membership into being the de facto power behind King George II's rule, Jason tries to defeat the club, gain back his inheritance, and rescue his childhood love (Fischer), whom Thomas kidnaps. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Donald Wolfit
    Donald Wolfit - Callistratus
  • Vincent Ball
    Vincent Ball - Dr. John Pierre
  • Barbara Shelley
    Barbara Shelley - Madeleine
  • Image coming soon
    Victor Maddern - Carl
  • Image coming soon
    William Devlin - Kurt Urah
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