Friday, March 20, 2009

The Vulture (1967)

The other day I managed to view the rare Brit Horror The Vulture and was pleasantly surprised to spot Diane Clare in this one, apparently her last cinematic release. Of course I also saw her this month in Hammer’s own Plague of the Zombies. She was also in The Trygon Factor, though I am embarrassed to admit that I failed to mention that in my recent review for the new Krimi blog.

The discovery of an empty grave and some gold coins in a little Cornish village leads to a centuries old tale of revenge perpetrated by a Vulture like monster created in an underground cellar with the help of some nuclear shenanigans that are better left unexplained.

The good news about The Vulture: The makers (or should I say “maker” as this seems to be primarily the brain child of director/producer/writer Lawrence Huntington) quite clearly were anxious to create a new kind of film monster rather than follow the usual well tread horror movie film path.

The bad news: They chose a creature half Man, half Vulture to do so. And were obviously well aware of the ludicrousness of the entire concept as we very rarely even get a glimpse of the monster. We see giant claws descending for the first time half way into the movie. The next attack is even off screen and it is not until the very rushed and anti-climactic final that we have a short view of the entire creature. Clearly a man-vulture creature looked better on the pages of a comic book and I hasten to say that Spiderman’s eponymous foe (created in 1963) was quite possibly an inspiration for the film’s title character.

Wearing a long black cloaked coat and hat (and carrying two walking canes) Akim Tamiroff as the local antiquarian/evil scientist looks very much like Bela Lugosi in one of his last screen outings.

As this film claims to be set in Cornwall it makes for a nice addition to Hammer’s duo of Cornish horror movies. The Vulture in style comes across as a coloured mix of the American Sci Fi creature movies of the 1950s and the classic Universal horror movies.

The leads all play this straight and not for laughs and as usual it is refreshing to see an adult cast of paunchy and mature characters in a horror movie that refuse to nudge nudge wink wink ironically even when confronted with ludicrous and off-beat plot developments. Diane Clare, however, could have been infused with a bit more personality as her character is nothing more than the prim and proper and ever so faithful and understanding wife of Robert Hutton’s lead character.

Overall The Vulture is a surprisingly entertaining, yet daft British production that is fun to spend an hour and a half with and a shame that this has apparently not made it to DVD yet.


john watts said...

Scary movie in some parts, dull in other parts. plot holes galore in story line. makeup sucked for the vulture creature during brief glimpses of him. i wish a director and writer with experince in living dead or hp lovecraft films would do the kind of remake this film deserves.

john watts said...

does anyone know if the vulture is in the public domain or if not, what company has the rights to it. please let me know. thanks!

john watts said...

i'd like to share thoughts on this with anyone.

Anonymous said...

This movie may be bad now, I assume, but as a kid it scared my Brother and I big time.

Whenever there was a noise at the window, we were afraid it would be the bird man. I would even get nervous that my family would go out hearing something.

I would LOVE to get a copy of it to see it again!

Holger Haase said...

Well, Mr Anonymous, feel free to drop me an email and we can see if the Vulture may be able to fly your way. ;-)

Sylveran said...

I saw this as a kid also. Some of my earliest TV memories revolved around watching Hammer films and British Horror on Saturday evenings. I even managed to convince some of my friends to come over and we'd watch it and scare the shit out of ourselves. This one film I remember vividly because we were terribly scared one of these lived in the hills near us. I can't find it anywhere though and the 10 min clip in youtube is just sadistic - I want to see it again and show it to my nephews!

Holger Haase said...

Hey Sylveran, you know what to do: Just read the post on top of yours and Aladin's cave will open up. ;-)

Johnny Watts said...

I wanted to add some thoughts on The Vulture because I don't want anyone who may have read my previous comments about the film to think that it is not worth their time viewing. It most certainly is. I saw The Vulture when it was first released in the late 1960's.

I may have been only 8 or 9 years old. Some of the scenes in that film scared me very much, the opening in the cemetary during a dark thunderstorm where a grave suddenly opens up from underneath, accompanied by the sound of beating wings and horrible eerie laughter sent a chill down my spine.

The scene where giant talons descend upon the shoulders of Broderick Crawford and carries him into the dark night gave me nightmares.

There were other aspects to the story and some of it's odd characters that make the film interesting. I could watch this film over and over again.

Now, the scene at the end of the film, in retrospect, might seem campy, suggesting schlock, the appearence of the Vulture itself in this cave in the high cliffs overlooking an ocean, the body of a giant vulture with a horrible human head of an elderly man who, during most of the film, walked about with two canes, his vulture body apparently hidden beneath the long, dark cape he wore.

Makes me wonder how he was able to get about at all with large talons for feet. I think the classic film, The Fly, influenced to some degree, the production of The Vulture. But in The Vulture, the writer-director Lawrence Huntington, never really explained fully how the Vulture came into being in the first place, other than to hint it was the result of some kind of nuclear experiment gone wrong.

The other aspect of the story was that an elderly scientist who turned out to be the vulture wanted to avenge the death of an ancestor of his who was buried alive hundreds of years earlier and now it is time to kill off the remaining members of the Stroud family, whose own ancestors were to blame for the premature burial in the 1700 century.

Still and all, The Vulture was a unique horror film and provided a different menace than what had been turned out by studios like Hammer or Amicus. Maybe one day someone like Clive Barker will do a much deserved remake of The Vulture, I hope so.

I don't think any film company retained the rights to the original film. It is available on dvd from Totally Weird Video. Com for about $15.00.

It's too bad Hammer Films did not produce The Vulture because in the hands of writers like Jimmy Sangster and directors like Terence Fisher, and Hammer's stable of great horror actors, The Vulture would have really been a great horror masterpiece.

I have viewed The Vulture again and see that the credits list three small independent film companies as the producers. They were Homeric Films Ltd., Iliad Films Ltd. and Film Financial Comapny Ltd.

Chance are very good that an established horror filmmaker such as Clive Barker, Sam Raimi or George Romero could do a remake and possibly a sequel with little or no worry about having to pay rights to the companies I just mentioned. I don't think those three companies are in existence anymore.

Johnny Watts said...

Correcton on where the obtain the dvdv of The Vulture, log onto:

Asylum of The Oblivion or

Totally Weird Video. com does not sell the Vulture dvd.

Holger Haase said...

Johnny, fantastic overview over the film. You are spot on with your observations.

HellToupee said...

Watch all kinds of British horror films here,including The Vulture,and Hammer and many more.....

The Lush Ess said...

I MUST MUST MUST get a copy of this movie! Please help if you can. It's for a bday gift for a great friend who remembers this movie fondly as a child. AND I need a GREAT GREAT gift! Many thanx!!!

john watts said...

I wanted to say that one of the highlights of The Vulture is the creepy, eerie music that is heard in the film's beginning credits and in the dark cemetary during the rainstorm. The same music is heard again sporadically during night scenes when events turn omnious. In contrast, a type of travel-logue music was repeatedly used by Vulture writer/director Huntington in day time scenes where Robert Hutton and his wife are driving somewhere in their car. The same sinister music in the film's beginning was used again at the film's conclusion, the kind of music which would have been perfect for Night of the Living Dead BTW.

john watts said...

I watched The Vulture again just last night after not having seen it in a year or so. After seeing it again, I hope that if this horror film is ever remade, and it should be, that the story would best be served if the opening scene begins in the 17th century where Franics Reale is beaten by angry townsfolk and then buried alive with his pet vulture in a grave yard. Do you recall the classic Horror Hotel, aka City Of The Dead, with Christopher Lee? The film began with a scene from the 16th century Salem-like town of Whitewood in New England where a witch is burned at the stake. A remake of The Vulture could take a few cues from Horror Hotel for inspiration.

john watts said...

Another Vulture comment: the one problem The Vulture had was right after the opening scene in the cemetary, a woman who witnesses a grave opening from beneath the ground lands in the hospital in a state of shock, her hair having turned white.

The problem is thst she describes to doctors & police what the Vulture creature looked like to a tee: an enormous black bird with a human head, so the surprise element of the plot gets exposed pretty much at the beginning of the film, so we know what to expect and there are no surprises really because soon enough the curse of Francis Reale is linked, not surprisingly, to his current asncestor, a professor who always dresses in black and wears a long black cape that gives him the look of having a bit of a back deformity, in my mind.

Any remake of The Vulture would be best served if current scientific advancements in genetic engineering, stem cell experiments with cross species gene splicing techniques added to a subplot of a crazed genetic scientist whose 17th century ascestor was a sorcerer and devil worshiper who used vultures as a means to murder his enemies. Don't be like me and allow yourself to become obsessed by... The Vulture.

Holger Haase said...

Great observations, John. Methinks it's time for me to do a re-watch.

john watts said...

Holger, have you seen the Edgar Allan Poe that Roger Corman directed in 1964? It was called The Raven with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. In this film, which is more comedy than horror, Karloff, who plays a warlock, uses black magic to turn Lorre turned into a life size raven, except his head, which remains human. Lawrence Huntington must have seen this film because if you compare Lorre's black Raven costume with the Vulture costume, it is almost the same, though I'm not sure how Lorre's feet may have looked, if they showed them at all, I don't recall. Check out the Raven. I'm pretty sure it was released in 1964. I think Jack Nicholson may have been it in in a minor role.

Holger Haase said...

Yes, I am familiar with THE RAVEN (great film) but haven't noticed the similarities before. Will need to watch more closely next time round.

DJSAM123 said...

About to rent this one from Scarecrow Video. Pretty stoked to see the film in its entirety, so much so that I recently bought an original half-sheet poster.

DJSAM123 said...

Wow, somehow stumbled upon this post again. I now own one of the original tapes. Big thanks to 112 Video for hooking me up last August. It will be missed.

It seems like Monterey Home Video re-released the film twice. I seem to have the original release, but Scarecrow and collector James Rolfe have copies with different covers labeled under their "Collector's Corner" banner.