The Oblong Box (film)

The Oblong Box (film)

Infobox Film
name = The Oblong Box

caption =
director = Gordon Hessler
producer = Gordon Hessler
writer = Short Story: Edgar Allan Poe Screenwriters: Lawrence Huntington Christopher Wicking
narrator =
starring = Vincent Price Christopher Lee Rupert Davies Uta Levka Sally Geeson Alister Williamson Peter Arne Hilary Dwyer Maxwell Shaw Carl Rigg Harry Baird
music =
cinematography = John Coquillon
editing = Max Benedick
distributor = American International Pictures
released = 1969
runtime = 91 min
country =
language = English
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id = 1:35898
imdb_id = 0064747

"The Oblong Box" is a 1969 British horror film directed by Gordon Hessler, starring Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Alister Williamson.

Like "The Mummy" (1959), "The Reptile" (1965) and "The Ghoul" (1975), the film's story details guilt-ridden Britons paying a bitter price for their colonial crimes. Ostensibly part of the Edgar Allan Poe series of American International Pictures, the film has nothing to do with Poe's story of the same name, apart from the title.

Detailed Plot

England 1865. Having been grotesquely disfigured in an African voodoo ceremony for a transgression against the natives, Sir Edward Markham (Alister Williamson) is kept locked in his room by his guilt-ridden brother, Julian (Vincent Price). Tiring of his captivity, Sir Edward plots to escape by feigning death. With the help of the crooked family lawyer, Trench (Peter Arne), they hire witchdoctor N'Galo (Harry Baird) to concoct a drug to put Sir Edward into a death-like trance. Before Trench has time to act, Julian finds his 'dead' brother and puts him in the "oblong box" of the title. Embarrassed by his brother's appearance, Julian asks Trench to find a proxy body for Sir Edward's lying in state. Trench and N'Galo murder landlord Tom Hacket (Maxwell Shaw) and offer his corpse to Julian. After the wake, Trench and his young companion Norton (Carl Rigg), dispose of Hacket's body in a nearby river, while Julian has Sir Edward buried. Now free of his brother, Julian marries his young fiance, Elizabeth (Hilary Dwyer), while Trench, Norton and N'Galo go their separate ways.

The cataleptic Sir Edward is left buried alive until he is dug up by graverobbers and delivered to the unscrupulous Dr. Neuhartt (Christopher Lee). Neuhartt opens the "oblong box" and is confronted by the resurrected Sir Edward. With his first-hand knowledge of his illegal activities, Sir Edward blackmails the doctor into sheltering him, and concealing his face behind a crimson hood embarks on a vengeful killing spree.

Norton is first on Sir Edward's list and has his throat slit. In between killing, Sir Edward finds time to romance Neuhartt's maid Sally (Sally Geeson), but when Neuhartt finds out about their affair he discharges Sally and she goes to work for Julian. While searching for Trench he is sidetracked by a couple of drunks who drag him into a nearby tavern. Here he ends up with prostitute Heidi (Uta Levka) who tries to roll him for his money, only to meet her end by Sir Edward's knife. The police get involved and the hunt is on for a killer in a crimson hood.

Meanwhile Julian has become suspicious about the body Trench supplied him with after his friend Kemp (Rupert Davies) finds it washed up on a riverbank. Julian confronts Trench, who tells him the truth about Sir Edward's 'death'. Soon after, Trench is dispatched by Sir Edward but not before he tells him the whereabouts of N'Galo. Hoping he will cure him of his disfigurement, Sir Edward asks N'Galo for his help. Here Sir Edward learns the truth about his time in Africa- in a case of mistaken identity he was punished for his brother's crime of killing an African child. N'Galo fails to cure Sir Edward and they fight, N'Galo stabbs Sir Edward and is rewarded with a face full of hot tar. Sir Edward returns to Neuhartt's home where Neuhartt tends to his wound. Mistrusting Neuhartt's medical treatment Sir Edward kills him and sets off to confront his brother.

Back at the Markham ancestral home, Julian learns the whereabouts of his brother from Sally and leaves for Dr. Neuhartt's home, only to find him near death. Meanwhile Sir Edward arrives back home to find Sally, who is repulsed by her former lover's killing. Sir Edward drags her out into the grounds of the house pleading for her love. Julian arrives back home and gives chase with a shotgun. Out on the grounds Sally snatches Sir Edward's hood from him and his deformed face is revealed for the first time. Julian catches up and Sir Edward confronts him about his crime. As Sir Edward lurches forward, Julian shoots him. Cradling the dying Sir Edward in his arms, Julian is bitten by him.

Once again in his "oblong box", Sir Edward is resurrected by a vengeful N'Galo, but this time he is six feet under with no hope of escape. While back at the Markham mansion Julian is occupying his brother's old room, where he is beginning to show the first signs of the voodoo curse.

Production notes

*Price, Davies and Dwyer had just appeared in Witchfinder General together. Michael Reeves, the director of that film was originally assigned to direct but backed out, dismayed by Huntington's original script.
*Hessler stepped in and reworked the screenplay with Wicking.
*Wicking made the theme of imperial exploitation of the natives the subtext of the film, which led it to be banned in Texas at the time for being too pro-black.
*Production began 18 November 1968.
*Huntington died eleven days into production.
*Originally, Price was to play both Julian and Edward.
*Williamson's voice was redubbed by another actor for the film's release.
*This was character actor Williamson's only leading role, and despite the fact that his voice is not heard and his face is covered for the majority of the movie he still has the largest amount of screen time of any other actor in the film.
*Williamson's makeup was by Jimmy Evans, whose other credits include Hessler's "Scream and Scream Again" (1969) and "Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter" (1972) for Hammer Film Productions.
*This was the first film to co-star Price and Lee, although they only have one scene together. Along with Peter Cushing, they would go on to star in Hessler's next film "Scream and Scream Again".
*This was AIP's last film in their Poe series.

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