Horror dating

Thankfully the Frankenstein series went out in some style with this, the sixth sequel to the film that began their cycle of gothic horrors, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957).

Peter Cushing – sporting an alarming bouffant – was back as the baron (taking back the role from Ralph Bates, who did a terrible job in The Horror of Frankenstein) and just as crucially Terence Fisher was back in the director’s chair.

His second, Frightmare, is his brutal masterwork, a genuinely unsettling tale of Home Counties cannibalism with another tour-de-force performance from his regular leading lady, the formidable Sheila Keith.

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Unexpectedly chosen as an official British entry at the Cannes festival of 1974, it’s a creepy, modern gothic tale, as inspired by Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) as it is by Repulsion (the more obvious comparison).

Set in an English country house, where a neurotic woman (Angela Pleasence) has invited her girlfriend to stay, it’s a slow burner but John Scott’s excellent score and Larraz’s sparse but effective use of shock tactics (a face at a window; a briefly glimpsed figure at the edge of the frame that really shouldn’t be there) ensure a mounting sense of dread.

Some of these experiments failed badly but Peter Sykes’ Demons of the Mind was one of the more interesting successes.

Unusually, the titular demons are more psychological than supernatural in a tale of familial madness in which deranged Baron Zorn (Robert Hardy) becomes even more unhinged when he starts to believe that he’s passed his madness on to his children.

The BBFC were not at all amused with its graphic sex and savage violence, reducing both dramatically.

Hammer had been flirting with lesbian vampires since 1970’s The Vampire Lovers, but even their more transgressive efforts looked terribly coy compared to the frankness of Larraz’s film.Gruesome, hilarious and unexpectedly moving, Death Line is the perfect example of the direction British horror was beginning to take in the 70s, ramping up the violence, stirring in a vicious streak of dark humour and largely opting for contemporary settings.Gothic films were still around in the 70s of course and, as was often the case, the better ones starred the perennial Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee tag team.Pleasence steals the show but is capably assisted by Lorna Heilbron as the new object of her twisted affection and Peter Vaughan as the reddest herring in 70s British cinema, a brooding handyman who knows more than he’s letting on.If the return of Symptoms has piqued an interest in the often very peculiar world of 70s British horror films, you may be wondering where to go next.Desperate for food for himself and his dying wife, ‘The Man’ ventures out to Russell Square station to abduct unwary commuters for his larder…

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