DVD
The Tigon Collection

Starring: Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Patrick Wymark, Beryl Reid and George Sanders
Anchor Bay Entertainment UK
RRP: 29.99
ABD4394
Certificate: 18
Available 21 February 2005


Here we have a set of six films presented by Anchor Bay in the same coffin-shape box format as last year's Norman J Warren Collection. It is nicely packaged, with an accompanying booklet, but the films themselves range from inspired to awful. Tony Tenser moved from independent film making, forming Tigon because at that time he saw only two types of films making money: horror and sex. After The Sorcerers, for which there is a theatrical trailer on the first disc, he hired Peter Cushing in a failed attempt to out-Hammer Hammer Films with The Blood Beast Terror. The film that was to make his name though was Witchfinder General.

Witchfinder General (1968) stars Vincent Price in, arguably, his most serious role. In a time of civil unrest between the King's Royalist Cavaliers and Cromwell's Roundheads, Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins wreaks his own twisted trials and executions, being paid silver for each hanging. Richard Marshall, a young Roundhead soldier, returns on temporary leave to the village where he is shortly to be wed to a priest's daughter, Sara. After he has gone, Hopkins declares the priest a subject of Satan. Sara agrees him favours of the flesh in return for the priest's life, but the priest is killed anyway. The Roundhead returns with natural thoughts of retribution.

As a result of mutual contacts, Ian Ogilvy appears in a handful of films directed by Michael Reeves. Here he plays Richard Marshall. Aside from Price, there are roles by Tony Selby, Godfrey James, and Steptoe himself Wilfred Brambell. Sadly, Reeves died shortly after making this film had secured him a new three-picture deal with Tigon. This movie is obviously seen to be the strongest offering in the set, but as a certain chapter in the Star Wars saga revealed, "No, there is another." Extras on this disc include Blood Beast: The Films of Michael Reeves documentary, Production Notes by Kim Newman, an Export Version of the film, and a music video of Cathedral playing their song about the subject (I like Metal, but this is a terrible display of musicians trying to be Ozzy and Black Sabbath).

The Body Stealers is Tigon's attempt at science fiction; a sort of cross between James Bond and Quatermass. A number of military parachutists are literally disappearing in mid-air. A confused and embarrassed Ministry call in an independent expert who discovers that all of the missing men had undergone astronaut training. The recovered parachutes are radioactive, but are stolen before they can be properly tested. A chance encounter with a mysterious woman on a beach at night seems completely coincidental; however, when he decides on a parachute jump himself, the expert uncovers a link between the woman and the missing men which extends beyond the stars.

Entirely unconvincing springs to mind here. The James Bond-like expert isn't athletic or handsome and yet every woman he comes into contact with practically swoons at his feet. There's even the Captain Kirk-type kiss the alien babe scene. The booklet explains that this film was aimed at the kiddie matinee market, but I think they should have credited the kids with more intelligence. This movie is a vehicle which depreciates the moment it leaves the showroom. It looks extremely dated, even for the 1970s, and has bad 1950's science fiction concepts. "Our world is dying." Oh, please. How are a few third-rate actors in parachutes going to prevent that? I would have called the movie The Woolly Jumpers. One thing worth watching is film of a Red Arrows airshow near the beginning; still the greatest aircraft display team in the world. Extras on this disc and the others are minimal trailers and radio spots.

In The Haunted House of Horror, a group of young party revellers leave a swinging sixties party to spend a night in an empty, supposedly haunted house. One of the women has recently broken off a relationship with an older man who is now stalking her. A short while after she leaves the house alone, one of the young men inside is viscously knifed to death by an unknown assailant. The others, realising it could only be one of them, decide to cover it up. The event plays on their minds until they make the decision to return to the house in an attempt to uncover what happened.

It's nice to see the likes of Richard O'Sullivan and George Sewell, faces which became more recognisable throughout the seventies. This isn't a bad movie; there's a lot more activity in this one than The Beast in the Cellar for example, but the premise is far too simple and you'd have to be pathologically slow not to guess who the killer is before the end. To tighten the conclusion the characters are reduced down with no more reason than "I'm going home." "Oh, can you give me a lift then?"

In my opinion, Blood on Satan's Claw is the real strength in this set. A young nobleman returns home to introduce his betrothed. Unfortunately, his mother and the local judge do not approve of his dalliance with a commoner (pretty and polite as she is). The mother puts her up in the barely habitable attic for the night and locks the door. The young woman receives a demonic visitation in the night and is so hysterical that she is carted-off to the sanatorium the next day. This turns out to be the beginning of an evil uprising. Satan needs to be physically whole before existing on the earth. A number of people are developing hairy patches of skin on various limbs and succumbing to a growing cult. Only the judge and the young nobleman stand in its way, and the latter has developed his own growth.

I like this story a lot; it's well-paced and doesn't try to be too clever. Added to that, it's the only film in this set that has creepy moments. The balance is also good; it knows when to be light-hearted or jaunty, or even tongue-in-cheek. There's a handful of recognisable faces in this one too. Patrick Wymark, Michele Dotrice (Betty in Some Mothers...), and Doctor Who followers might recognise Anthony Ainley, Simon Williams, and Wendy Padbury (who comes to a very violent end).

In The Beast in the Cellar, two elderly spinsters live in a large house not far from an army base. When a private is found ripped to pieces the police begin a search for a large animal - possibly an escaped leopard. However, a second slaying confirms that the perpetrator is human but animalistic. The two women harbour a dark secret; a creature walled-up in their cellar for 30 years has escaped. But what is the link between the spinsters and the creature?

The best thing about this film is Beryl Reid who is very good in her straight role as the weaker sister. The Beast in the Cellar has an undeserved decent reputation, but the truth is it's nothing more than endless conversations between the two sisters and lingering shots taking in perpetual wanderings around the house and grounds. The entire story hinges on the creature who looks like a cross between a b-movie budget werewolf and the man who says, "And now for something completely different..." in Monty Python's Flying Circus.

In Virgin Witch, two young women run away to London seeking fame and fortune. When one of them sees a magazine spread for an advertising agency she turns up and, against all the odds, secures a modelling job at a large house in the country. The two women go together, but soon discover they have been set up by a witches' coven.

This film is rubbish but you can't help laughing. It's a thinly disguised mild blue- or exploitation-movie. For fear of sounding like a prude, this is any excuse to show the female form, which wouldn't be so bad if you felt that they had something important to say with the film apart from, "sex sells." I know we live in enlightened times, but even back when this was made it must have been unusual to immediately trust and fall for someone who's just picked them up at the side of the road after seeing a bit of leg. In this film it's the company that turns out to be untrustworthy and dangerous, and the lecherous driver the hero.

A nicely presented package from Anchor Bay, who seem to care about their horror products more than most. However, only two of the six films are really worth watching, the rest being post-pub fodder.

Ty Power

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All prices correct at time of going to press.