« In this club all members are equal, be they of claw, talon or fang; skin, fur or scale; from grave, tomb or laboratory; if they slither, walk or crawl; if they breathe, gasp or do neither. No one monster will take precedence over another. » — Signed EATM Ghoul (Hon Sec)
Like many a horror fan of my generation, I grew up adoring Amicus Productions‘ films, particularly their multi-segment entries, known as Portmanteau movies. These include fine adaptations of Robert Bloch stories, generally scripted by the master himself: Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1971) and Asylum (1973), and a pair of well-crafted adaptations of EC Comics, 1972’s Tales From the Crypt and 1973’s The Vault of Horror, which unveiled these classics to an eager new audience.
With 1974’s From Beyond the Grave, Amicus partners Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg found themselves a new wellspring in British author Ronald Henry Glynn Chetwynd-Hayes (1919-2001). While some consider 1981’s Chetwynd-Hayes portmanteau The Monster Club part of the Amicus œuvre, the company had been dissolved in 1975… but as the film was produced by Subotsky, the notion is not without merit.
And so… comics? Enter UK comics maven Derek ‘Dez’ Skinn. As Dez tells it:
« Milton Subotsky, the London-based US powerhouse behind the horror film company Amicus Films, had always been madly envious that rivals Hammer had their own magazine and was constantly twisting my arm to work with him. When he got a distribution deal on R. Chetwynd-Hayes’ The Monster Club, he saw his chance. Actors including Vincent Price and John Carradine were signed up but there was no time to shoot any footage to promote the production at the Cannes Film Festival. So he called me up and asked if we could adapt the film into comic strip format, much like we’d done with Hammer, so that printed copies could be used to sell the film overseas at Cannes.
We only printed 1,000 copies of The Monster Club, making it an instant collectors’ item in fan circles! Adapting the film script myself, I assigned John Bolton to produce the 26 pages of artwork (although David Lloyd valiantly came in to handle one chapter because of the tight deadline). Targeted at an international audience of film buyers on lush glossy paper, it was surely the most inexpensive yet effective film promotion ever! » [ source ]
This material was reprinted (waste not, want not!) in Halls of Horror nos. 25 and 26 in 1983, then in North America, in a coloured version, in John Bolton’s Halls of Horror nos. 1 and 2 (both June 1985, Eclipse). And so here we are.
As far as the adaptation goes, I must confess I far prefer the witty linking bits to the stories proper.
Among the most intriguing features of Chetwynd-Hayes’ book is his clever conceit of monsters forming an oppressed (by humanity) society with its own castes, hybrids, classifications and creeds. Here’s a most helpful table:
This is The Ghoul, one of a set of specialty images Bolton created for the film’s promotion:
In closing, here’s a catchy musical number from the film, performed by one of my musical heroes, B.A. Robertson… not to be confused with T.M. Robertson, another favourite musician.
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