Sexy Night Spots of London #1

The Hip Bath Club.

“Mickey [Powell] was always very keen on Vernon Sewell, which I could never understand, because as far as I could see, Vernon didn’t have a brain in his head.” ~ Lawrie Knight.

Sewell (pronounced “Sill”) had an odd, long, uninteresting career. He bought a boat and built a studio in it (what a, er, great idea!). He lasted 39 years as a director, without doing anything genuinely important. His career fizzled out with horror movies like CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR (with its admirably stupid demonic s&m action — it’s the one with Barbara Steele in green body paint and horns), THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (killer moth lady!) and BURKE AND HARE.

A MATTER OF CHOICE (1963) is co-written by Sewell’s Burke, actor Derren Nesbitt, and is a fairly contrived and uninteresting moral maze / moral morass, in which a disparate group of characters lie their way into trouble and can’t lie their way out. Most amusingly, a couple of extremely camp young posh boys unconvincingly try to hook up with “birds”, and wind up shoving a policeman in front of an oncoming car, and then battering the driver into a coma with a half brick. Ah, the perils of dating. We’ve all done it, haven’t we?

This is unquestionably the best image in the film:

And Sewell holds it for some time, relishing it.

Movie’s available on a double-bill disc with JUNGLE STREET, from Odeon Entertainment’s Best of British series. Very good pic quality, moderate films.

8 Responses to “Sexy Night Spots of London #1”

  1. I seem to remember that David Pirie had good words to say about Sewell in his book on British horror movies — about “Latin Quarter” and the various Sewell-directed versions of “Ghost Ship.”

    I also, in checking my sources, found a good quote from William K. Everson, describing “Latin Quarter” for a Berkeley film program:

    “Like [Terence Young’s] Corridor of Mirrors, Latin Quarter is a stylish and individual film that aims at creating a sense of unease rather than terror. Both are macabre without being horrific. Vernon Sewell, who wrote and directed, was in a very loose sense Britain’s own Edgar Ulmer. He specialized in macabre thrillers, and seemed to do some of his most interesting work on miniscule budgets.”

  2. Thanks for that. I’d always heard terrible things about his Burke and Hare movie, but the three comments on the IMDb are largely positive, so I’ll have to check that one out. And I have his Powell&Pressburger production The Silver Fleet, which clearly needs to be seen.

  3. Everson also has good things to say, for the record, about the Sewell-directed “Home And Away,” a “faintly Capraesque” comedy starring Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, and Thora Hird.

    “Sort of an unofficial continuation of the ‘Huggett Family’ series,” Everson comments, although it was based on a stage comedy. The plot concerns “an winning football-pool ticket and the family’s attempts to hold on to their well-deserved share.”

  4. Have never seen a Huggetts film. They’re supposed to be some kind of British institution, but nobody ever mentions them. I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone who’s seen one. I’m not sure they even EXIST.

    “Faintly Capraesque” doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm… I’m more interested in Ghost Ship, which has an interesting cast, pairing Hazel Court and Dermott Walsh, later stars of Devil Girl from Mars. Which has to mean SOMETHING.

  5. david wingrove Says:

    Must confess I saw CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR the other night and was agreeably surprised. I’d only ever seen BLOOD BEAST TERROR, which is unwatchable swill – devoid of suspense or style.

    OK, CRIMSON ALTAR is swill too, but of a highly watchable sort. The cast is unbeatable – not only Barbara Steele dyed turquoise, but Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Michael Gough, all camping it up as if their lives (or their pay cheques) depended on it.

    The S&M aspects were qute daring for a film of that time. I’ve yet to think of a Hammer film that goes so far and makes it so explicit. All in all, a deliriously bad movie…but with an actually rather interesting one buried somewhere deep inside it!

  6. Well, Hammer were deeply conservative and patriarchal at heart, although more challenging elements do rear their heads. But the really peculiar stuff was the domain of their rivals.

    There’s a moment in the opening sm nightmare where something “horrible” happens and we cut to a doughy woman in pasties that may be one of the great unintentionally funny edits in all horror cinema. The film deserves points for that. But I find it loses all tension and pizzazz once we get to the country house. What it needs is Babs to come OUT of those dream sequences and SORT EVERYBODY OUT.

  7. Sewell is not pronounced ‘Sill’. It’s the same as Anna Sewell. Vernon Sewell had a lot of fun making films, with entertaining results in The Ghosts of Berkeley Square, The Battle of the VI and Ghost Ship. Some of them weren’t very good, it’s true, but he deserves much credit than you give him. Powell appreciated him as a friend and as an assistant on the Edge of the World. As for originality, you should see Men against the sea.

  8. I’m very interested to see Ghosts of Berkeley Square and Ghost Ship and Men Against the Sea. What you say makes me more interested: I like anybody who persists in the film industry out of love for the medium. Obviously by the end opportunities were drying up.

    I’ve been meaning to watch The Silver Fleet for some time, for the Powell & Pressburger connection, and Blood Beast Terror, as part of my quest to see all the horror movies I saw illustrated in a particular book as a child.

    I’m sorry if I’ve insulted someone you’re keen on: how did you know him?

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