Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

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Three of all-time’s greatest Horror icons in one movie – which true horror fan would not love a film like that? Vernon Sewell’s “Curse Of The Crimson Altar” of 1968 may not be a particularly memorable example for British Gothic Horror from the late sixties. More precisely, it is often extremely cheesy, and far from being a masterpiece, but the brilliant casting of Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and the wonderful Barbara Steele makes this a must-see for every lover of Gothic Horror.The story is apparently loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch House”. The film bears little resemblance to the short story by Lovecraft, however. It does, however, resemble several other Horror films from the 1960s in many aspects, especially the brilliant “City Of The Dead” of 1960s, which also starred Christopher Lee (even though it comes nowhere near its brilliance, of course).

After his brother has gone missing, Antiques dealer Robert Manning (Mark Eden), travels to the village of Greymarsh, where his brother was last seen in a huge mansion. Manning is kindly welcomed by the mansion’s owner Mr. Morley (Christopher Lee), a descendant of Lavinia Morley (Barbara Steele), a 17th century witch, who, before being burned at the stake, put a curse on the people of Greymarsh. Manning, who has no clue of where his brother is yet, gets along very well with his guest-keeper’s beautiful niece Eve (Virginia Wetherell). Somehow, however, the area still seems to be under the menacing spell of Lavina…

The film is, of course, particularly worth watching for its three stars. Christopher Lee is, as always, great and the incomparable Boris Karloff shines in one of his last roles as an eccentric old witchcraft expert who collects ‘instruments of torture’. The greatest treat is the wonderful Barbara Steele (one of my favorite actresses and the greatest female Horror-icon ever) in the role of the green-faced witch Lavina wearing a bizarre horned crown. The supporting cast includes two other memorable British actors, Michael Gough (“Horror Of Dracula”), who plays a butler, and Rupert Davies (“Witchfinder General”). Beautiful Viriginia Wetherell fits well in her role as Eve, and also grants a peak at her lovely backside. The film is practically blood-less, but it is partly quite atmospheric, and occasionally quite weird, as several scenes seem quite bizarre and feature weird S&M style costumes. All things considered, the film is great fun to watch. It is certainly not highly memorable in any aspect except for the cast, but what a cast that is! No true lover of Horror can afford to miss a film starring Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Barbara Steele. Steele alone makes this a must for Horror fans in her green make-up! Recommended.