Look up HELLFIRE in
a cookbook and you’ll see this recipe:
Result = 1 truly
terrible, but still entertaining movie ready to serve unsuspecting fools.
1 has-been former A-list actor.
1 extremely attractive lead actress.
3 overweight busty women revealing their goods.
9 parts violence.
1 low-budget, but still decent-looking set.
Bake for 80 minutes.
Result = 1 truly terrible, but still entertaining movie ready to serve unsuspecting fools.
HELLFIRE, yet another from our favorite shlock-meister Roger Corman, starts well, but that’s probably because in the first ten minutes there is basically zero dialogue. Instead, Corman makes creative use of the visuals to allow the viewer to deduce what exactly was happening. If only other horror films would follow this lead. In this introduction, we see a moody 18th-century genius composer named Baron Octavie brooding over his latest work. As he continues composing his magnum-opus, others around him become increasingly concerned – the music is pretty dark stuff. So dark, in fact, that the local authorities condemn it as the devil’s work. Note to Baron: next time don’t entitle it “Symphony for the Devil,” it’s a sure giveaway. As punishment for his Satanic work, Baron Octavie is drawn and quartered by four horses (clearly one of the highlights of the film).
Years later the Baron’s great niece, Gabrielle (played by truly gorgeous Jennifer Burns), moves into his abandoned mansion, abandoned, that is, except for old Carlotta, who, in her youth was both the Baron’s housekeeper and his one true love. In a nice twist, Carlotta is played by Beverly Garland, a scream queen of such 1950s classics as THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE and CURUCU, BEAST OF THE AMAZON. Gabrielle quickly discovers the unfinished score of “Symphony for the Devil” and is determined to carry on her late great uncle’s legacy by hiring a composer to finish it. Why? Apparently she loves music. Okay, I love music too, but if one of my relatives had been torn apart by horses over a piece, I might opt for something else out of the old ITUNES store.
As if on cue, in enters
a rogue-ish, alcoholic composer named Marius, played by Ben Cross. For those who don’t remember, Cross was the
lead actor in a little film called CHARIOTS OF FIRE, which deservedly won the
Best Picture in 1981. And now he is
starring in a film being reviewed on AbsoluteHorror.com. Not to knock us or anything, but I don’t
think we plan to review Chariots of Fire anytime soon, but maybe Chariots of
HELL-Fire. Anyway, Lo how the mighty
Gabrielle discovers Marius and hires him to finish the symphony (the caveat being he has to stay off drinking). As Marius begins his work, he has strange visions, which of course prompts him to increase his drinking. Like a drunk frat-boy with a penchant for the plump women, he starts hitting up local brothels and getting it on with some large babushkas – that is, before murdering them. When he wakes up in the morning, Marius remembers nothing (but he curiously finds size XXL cheetah panties in his pocket). Of course, the more he writes the symphony, the more the evil spirit of Baron Octavie inhabits his body. In fact, when the piece is finished, supposedly, Octavie will get Marius’ body and Carlotta will get Gabrielle’s.
Admittedly, the premise is actually decent and for the first thirty minutes my interest was definitely piqued. But like so many of these bad boys, it eventually loses its way. Losing one’s way actually can work in a movie’s favor – as long as along that way comes generous helpings of gore and nudity. Score points for HELLFIRE. There is nudity, but sadly it comes in the form of overweight hookers rather than the beautiful Jennifer Burns (who apparently used “stunt breasts” – booo). And there is plenty of blood – anything from a bleeding crucifix to a surprisingly elaborate and violent swordfight to victims being strangled by piano wire.
This movie was bi-polar. Every minute I watched HELLFIRE I knew it was awful, but I was entertained in spite of that fact (or perhaps because of that). Part of me felt sad that Ben Cross was reduced to such dreck, yet the fact that a former A-lister was in this thing made it that much more fun. I wish the fatties weren’t the only ones taking their tops off, and yet it made me laugh the lengths (and widths) to which the filmmakers would descend in order to get some bare breasts in the movie.
All in all, HELLFIRE is fun garbage. There’s enough action to keep the plot moving quickly and you won’t be bored.
RATING: *** (out of four).