The Vulture

1967, Starring Robert Hutton, Akim Tamiroff, Broderick Crawford. Directed by Lawrence Huntington.

Only the second full-length horror film to be produced in Canada (the first being the trippy 3-D flick The Mask, released in 1961), 1967’s The Vulture is one of the more unusual offerings to come out of the Great White North. In the film, a small village in Cornwall, England is terrorized by a large, part-man, part-bird creature that swoops down from the skies to carry people off screaming into the night. A nuclear scientist, Dr. Lutens (Robert Hutton) and his wife Trudy (Diane Clare) arrive from the U.S. to visit her uncle, Brian Stroud (Broderick Crawford), and learn of a woman whose hair has turned white from fright after seeing the monster. As they investigate the matter, they discover the local legend of a pirate, Francis Real, who, two centuries earlier, was accused of sorcery and sentenced to be buried alive with his pet — a vulture. But, before he died, Real supposedly placed a curse on the man who entombed him, as well as all of his future descendants – which includes Trudy and her uncle Brian. Could the appearance of this huge, murderous, man-bird be part of Real’s revenge? Or is there another, more scientific explanation – one that involves the rather peculiar, cloak-wearing Professor Koniglich (Akim Tamiroff)? A Canadian/U.K. co-production, The Vulture is a bit of an anomaly. With a mostly British cast, Gothic-styled buildings and shots of the English countryside, the film looks and feels more like a Hammer or Amicus melodrama than a true Canuck effort. Though it features a great, spooky score (by Eric Spear) and a fantastically creepy beginning set in a cemetery, the film suffers from incredibly slow pacing (even for the era), numerous plot inconsistencies, a lack of tension in key scenes and a seeming reluctance on the part of writer/director/producer Lawrence Huntington to show much of the creature itself. An ultimately mediocre effort, that with better execution, perhaps could have resulted in a minor B-classic. (James Burrell)