Thursday, July 30, 2009
Day 194: The Oblong Box (1969) - Rank 4/5
Gordon Hessler finally redeems himself, in my eyes. After the gritty and unpleasant "Cry of the Banshee," the convoluted "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and the tremendous disappointment of the absurd and pointless "Scream and Scream Again" (where Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing all in one film are still boring), I got to see his first "Poe adaptation" - "The Oblong Box." However, to call the film a Poe adaptation is about as accurate as calling the upcoming "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" a G.I. Joe film. Yes, it is a period piece and there are Poe elements to the tale, but a story adaptation...I think not.
That's not to say that's a bad thing. Roger Corman had tremendous success with very liberal interpretations with some of Poe's work several years prior, also while working with Vincent Price ("The Raven" is a perfect example of a film that really has nothing to do with the source material, save the name, but still works). Hessler and screenwriter Lawrence Huntington take the oldest cliche in the realm of horror - a crazed relative locked in the attic - and make it seem fairly fresh with African voodoo and repressed, colonial crimes. The film kicks off with Julian Markham (Vincent Price) discovering his brother Edward (Alister Williamson) being ritualistically tortured. His brother, disfigured and mad, is kept in the attic until his death is staged and he ends up in the hands of a corrupt doctor (Christopher Lee) who purchased him under the assumption that he was a corpse. The story feels like a Rube Goldberg device at times, but it works.
Though Price and Lee share about thirty seconds of screen time together, their performances within their separate domains of the film are enough to merit your attention. Edward's crazed killing are hokey for even B-movie standards, but it wasn't enough to dispel the fun of the film. So, for both "Golden Voyage of Sinbad" and now "The Oblong Box," Hessler has essentially redeemed himself for me...to a certain extent.
Watch the Trailer