anton diffring, arnold marle, christopher lee, delphi lawrence, hammer films, Hammer Horror, hazel court, jimmy sangster, terence fisher
To conclude the decade, following a string of successful hits in the horror genre, Hammer Films would produce an oft neglected feature when placed alongside their showpieces, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy, possibly as a result of poor distribution in the States. It’s a shame as it bears all the hallmarks of Director Terence Fisher’s classic traits that made such an impression on moviegoing audiences, and stars Christopher Lee as our potential hero and romantic love interest.
The stage is set in Paris at the turn of the century where we meet a doctor named Georges Bonnet (Anton Diffring, who for years I thought was the same guy who played Decker from the A-Team (Lance LeGault) Where Eagles Dare). Bonnet harbours a disturbing secret however, the secret to eternal youth, using a procedure that belies his 104 years of age. The only way that he can maintain this is through a surgical operation on the glands, and needs the assistance of long time accomplice Dr. Ludwig Weiss (Arnold Marle) and the use of human fluid. Not exactly something that is available on tap, and so Bonnet resorts to murder, all in the name of immortality.
When Ludwig’s age becomes a hindrance though, Bonnet must seek alternative means, perhaps in Pierre (Lee) a fellow surgeon with a high degree of promise. Bonnet is also slipping up however when a model Margo (Delphi Lawrence) goes missing in mysterious circumstances, and Janine (Hazel Court – The Curse of Frankenstein) continues to pursue his love interests. How long can Bonnet hide his secret? And will Pierre (who also has an adoration towards Janine in this macabre love triangle) find out the truth and put an end to Bonnet’s evil doings?
Initially based on a play by Barry Lyndon called The Man in Half Moon Street and starred both Diffring and Marle in their respective roles in an anthology tv series, in which an adaptation was scripted by Jimmy Sangster. Hammer would garner the rights to a movie adaptation peppered with their current look and feel through Fisher’s more than capable hands. Initially if Producer Anthony Carreras had his way, another Lee, Cushing vehicle would have been produced but Cushing would have to step aside due to illness, a move that infamously had Carreras fuming and seeking legal action against the high profile actor.
Some may feel that there is more style than substance on show here, which I can see their position but despite this and the dialogue heavy sequences, both Diffring’s performance and the effects when the ageing process starts to take effect, make this a worthy watch.
- Saul Muerte.