The Oblong Box (1969)

the oblong box poster 1969 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Vincent Price, like the red mask

Dull middle section, weird not very erotic orgy scene

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Oblong Box

Studio:  American International Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  June 11, 1969

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

the oblong box voodoo witch doctor

Just your cliche witch doctor

An accident in Africa leads to an ancient curse on Sir Edward Markham (Alister Williamson).  With his brother Julian (Vincent Price) tending to him in England, Edward must be kept hidden from the public eye.  Edward is plotting for freedom and seeking the secret of what really occurred in Africa.  As Julian prepares to wed his fiancé Elizabeth (Hilary Dwyer), Edward fakes his death and is uncovered by a grave robber named Dr. Neuhartt (Christopher Lee).  Edward gets closer to the truth as his insanity grows and the truth could bring the whole house of Markham down.

Directed by Gordon Hessler, The Oblong Box takes its title from the 1844 Edgar Allen Poe story but only holds that similarity.  The movie was part of a series of films starring Vincent Price with Poe ties (though not part of the Roger Corman Poe films) and also was the first time that Christopher Lee and Vincent Price worked together.  It has been packaged with Price and Lee’s Scream and Scream Again from 1970 in a double DVD.

the oblong box christopher lee alister williamson

I’m gonna hold this bed pole like a staff and pretend you’re Gandalf…ok?

I remember this movie being played on a special late night showing and being kind of freaked out by it, but now it feels quite tame.  The plot is strange enough that I was able to find it despite not knowing the title and simply knowing that Vincent Price was involved.  The movie is typical British gothic horror with a few distinctive moments that stuck in my mind.  Fortunately, the movie’s story changed quite a bit from the original pitch which had Price playing both brothers and added the African element to the story since they both gave some of the moments I recalled.

Vincent Price is fun in the movie like normal but also way too old.  He’s played as a youngish roguish businessman, but he was much older than his fiancée Hilary Dwyer who was thirty-four years younger than him.  Still Price hams it up as only Price can, and the addition of Christopher Lee always makes a so-so movie even better.

the oblong box ending vincent price

Oh, I’ll be fine…just need a little topical cream

As a horror film, the movie is kind of dull due to a really long extended middle section.  There are some killings early but then a real lull, but this was pre-slasher horror so if it had been made a few years later, Edward would have killed more and more in his rage.  It was pretty inspiring to have him wear the red mask (though it did add to my confusion when seeking it since Price was also in another Poe adaptation The Masque of Red Death).  The red mask however does provide a nice visual in a rather dark film where many of the scenes occurred at night (plus, it goes well with the overly red blood).

The Oblong Box isn’t anything special, but it does have a classic feel to it that reminds me of a Hammer film with more gore.  Fans of Price should definitely check it out and it does fall in that weird period of horror that was more violent than the ’50s, but not the all-out slashers of the later ’70s.  It does contain some nudity and a semi-orgy scene and that feels a bit odd and out of place in the picture…but at least at one point there was an oblong box to necessitate the title.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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