The Oblong Box (1969)

This one seems to get a generally bad rap, probably because it was supposed to be Michael Reeves’ follow-up to Witchfinder General and he didn’t live long enough to make it, leaving it in the less capable hands of Gordon Hessler. This was apparently AIP’s last Poe film, and though I’m not familiar with the original story the Wikipedia summary indicates the film bears less resemblance than usual to its source. The most recognisably Poe motif in this film is that of premature burial, of course, but it offers so much more: voodoo witch doctors, a mad masked killer (the brother of Vincent Price’s minor aristocrat and African plantation owner), body-snatching, medical experiments… indeed, there’s probably a bit too much going on, it could really just be boiled down to Sir Edward’s killing spree; most of the rest—unfortunately including Christopher Lee’s doctor—only serves to complicate matters unnecessarily, particularly early on in the game. Tightened up and made less diffuse, this’d likely be better regarded now; in fairness to Gordon Hessler, though, he does a fair imitation of how Reeves might’ve handled the material (right down to making Price restrain himself) and if the plot has problems Hessler manages to conjure up enough atmosphere to at least minimise those concerns. Far from a masterpiece but not a total waste of the $12 I paid for the DVD; I can only assume the latter is ludicrously rated R because the film was rated R in the early 70s and Shock couldn’t be bothered paying the OFLC for a new classification.

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