Lacking excitement or a particularly interesting story, the best thing about Curse of the Crimson Altar (known as The Crimson Cult in the US) is the all-star cast. Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Mark Eden & Barbara Steele all combine their talents to at least make the silliness on show, watchable.
Robert Manning (Eden) is looking for his missing brother. He was last seen at the Craxted Lodge in Greymarsh, the families’ old town. A sinister & oppressive place with a dark past. The house is owned by a man called Morley (Lee). When Manning arrives at the house he finds a party taking place. A wild party hosted by Eve (Virginia Wetherell) who is the niece of Morley.
She is intrigued by the mysterious Manning & they hit it off. This prompts her to ask him to stay at the house while he searches for his brother. That night Manning has dreams, dreams of rituals, witches & sacrifices. Disturbed by the dreams he meets Professor Marsh (Karloff) who tells him of the houses past involving a cult.
Manning begins to suspect that Morley’s claim to have never met his brother may not be true. He also begins to suspect that the cult may still be active!
Overly long & boring in places, Curse of the Crimson Altar misses the mark in every area but the calibre of acting. Being one of the final movies that Boris Karloff would be part of he stands out thanks to his intensity even if most of what he says is nonsense. Every time he is on screen he lights it up & it is always exciting to see him act against the likes of Christopher Lee.
As the main villain of the movie, Lee does exactly what you would expect. He oozes sinister evil & when he speaks he commands attention. As roles go, it’s an easy one for him to do but he still excels in it.
A sudden & disappointing ending caps off an experience that can be barely called horror. Like many British horrors from the 1960s & 1970s the movie relies more on creating atmosphere rather than scares. It does that pretty well as Grim’s Dyke, the supposed haunted former home of William S. Gilbert, was used for Craxted Lodge.
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Curse of the Crimson Altar