Testmold’s re-releases of classic films deliver George Hessler’s 1969 adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Oblong Box; starring horror maestros Vincent Price and Christopher Lee.
From the start the film adaptation of The Oblong Box shows signs of Poe-esque literature, with the opening credits sequence, in which sombre, charcoal-like drawings appear behind the names of the cast and crew.
Victorian England 1865. After returning from a trip to Africa in which his brother, Sir Edward (Alister Williamson), was badly deformed due to some tribes people, Sir Julian Markham (Vincent Price) has resorted to locking his brother away to hide his face, and insanity. What Sir Julian does not know is that his troubled brother has made a deal with a friend and a witch-doctor to help him escape. The only way however, is to make everyone believe he is dead, a plan that started off well but ended with Sir Edward being buried alive. The determined villain’s journey did not end there though, as Dr. Neuhartt’s (Christopher Lee) body-snatching goons dig him up and deliver him in the name of scientific research. Much to the doctor’s disbelief, the man inside the coffin is still alive, and after donning a red, expressionless mask, he begins to reap his vengeance upon those who wronged him.
George Hessler’s fantastic directing of the story mirrors Poe’s writing so well. Firstly with the use of lighting and shade throughout the film, the picture is mostly cast in darkness which brings that feeling of a melancholic atmosphere to life; bright lights and a close-up shot are then used when a victim is murdered, perhaps to show the shock of the act being committed. The villain is shrouded in mystery, in that the characters and audience are constantly trying to figure out why Sir Edward ended up this way and what his face actually looks like, other connotations of the great writer. However, the film plot is much different than that of Poe’s short story, even if though the filming resembles one of his tales.
The portrayal of the disfigured Sir Edward, or ‘The Man in the Crimson Hood’, by Alister Williamson is what really brings this story to life. Williamson’s gentlemanly manner allows the viewer to see into the morality of his soul, however due to the red mask he wears it is never known whether he is angry or caring. Something he is able to use as a rouse to lure his victims in, without them realising the danger that they have bestowed upon themselves.
Once again Vincent Price and Christopher Lee deliver superb performances. Although Lee’s is more of a supporting character, his stiff and gloomy demeanour of Dr. Neuhartt make the character so believable. Simply just using Price’s remarkable and recognisable voice would make for a great picture, but his role as Sir Julian, the fretting brother of a killer, brings to the screen everything that is needed for a story of this kind. A mysterious back-story, a warm yet powerful and strong personality and a large secret that is being kept from the rest of the town.
Beware The Man in the Crimson Hood.
The Oblong Box is available on DVD now via Simply Media.