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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Oblong Box (1969)


Starring: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Rupert Davies
Optimum Classics
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 16 March 2009

After suffering a horrendous ordeal at the hands of an African voodoo tribe of savages, Sir Edward Markham is brought home to England by his brother Julian, who immediately has him chained and incarcerated in a single upstairs room away from prying eyes. Julian informs all acquaintances that Sir Edward is traumatised by his ordeal and easily upset and therefore can take no visitors. However, Edward has arranged to have his own death faked to remove himself from the clutches of Julian. A voodoo potion makes it look to all intents and purposes as if he has expired. He is nailed into the oblong box of the title and, after a family funeral, is buried. The two men, who are supposed to later dig him up, double-cross the man and leave him buried alive. Meanwhile, Dr Neuhartt, an eminent practitioner, secretly arranges a man to bodysnatch in order for him to conduct his own research on the human body. When Sir Edward is brought to him the doctor is obliged to harbour him while he dons a crimson hood and goes in search of those who have done him wrong...

The Oblong Box is based on a short story by classic horror writer Edgar Allen Poe. Many of his macabre tales have been adapted for the big screen, particularly in the days of Hammer and Amicus. In this case there are certain differences to the original retrospectively told prose, but aside from the frankly boring opening which throws us straight into a torturous tribal ceremony without knowing any characters and thereby not caring about what happens, the script is competently brought together.

It's always a joy to see Vincent Price or Christopher Lee in an old movie; their acting skills and presence invariably raise everyone's game. This example from the late 1960s is the first pairing of the two on screen together, and although their interaction is only brief, keeping them separate seems to strengthen both important story strands.

It's ironic to note that no matter how scarred his face, Sir Edward would have been able to move around much more surreptitiously without the bright red hood drawing attention to himself. Although he is exacting fatal retribution on his enemies, it forces him to kill someone he doesn't want to merely because that person assumes he is hiding a famous identity and so tries to rob him.

In addition, as with many other period films, only two classes appear to be depicted. There are the rich and privileged who have society dinners and balls all the time, and the poor who are depicted as drunkard brawlers who spend all their time in the taverns or accosting people outside.

The Oblong Box, whilst far from being among the better of this era's horror flicks, is nevertheless an enjoyable viewing experience. Fans of Price and Lee will love it, but I can't see there being much mainstream appeal.


Ty Power

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