The Oblong Box (1969)

UK, 1969
35mm film, Eastmancolor, 1.85:1
mono, English
Reviewed at The EOFFTV Review

A British horror film directed by Gordon Hessler. Production began on 18 November 1969 1Kine Weekly vol.619 no.3195 (4 January 1969) p.17 and it was released in the UK on 19 July 1970 2Kine Weekly vol.633 no.3265 (9 May 1970). The film was originally set to be directed by Michael Reeves but it was taken over by Hessler following Reeves’ death.

Plot Summary

Disfigured by a voodoo curse, Sir Edward Markham is kept in the attic of the family mansion by his brother Julian. But Edward escapes and takes up with a shady doctor who employs body snatchers to steal corpses for his research. Edward joins in the mayhem, murdering several of locals when a ready supply of corpses runs out.


Directed by: Gordon Hessler
© 1969 American International Productions (England) Limited
American International Pictures. Produced by American International Productions (England) Limited
Executive Producer: Louis M. Heyward
Produced by: Gordon Hessler
Associate Producer: Pat Green
Screenplay by: Lawrence Huntington
Additional Dialogue: Christopher Wicking
Story: Edgar Allan Poe [credited in possessory above title]
Director of Photography: John Coquillon
Editor: Max Benedict
Music Composed by: Harry Robinson
Sound Recordist: Bob Peck
Wardrobe: Kay Gilbert
Make-up: Jimmy Evans
Hairdresser: Bobbie Smith
Art Director: George Provis
Made at Shepperton Studios, England

Vincent Price (Sir Julian Markham)
Christopher Lee (Dr J. Neuhart)
Rupert Davies (Joshua Kemp)
Uta Levka (Heidi)
Sally Geeson (Sally Baxter)
Peter Arne (Samuel Trench)
Alister Williamson (Sir Edward Markham)
Hilary Dwyer (Elizabeth Markham)
Maxwell Shaw (Tom Hackett)
Carl Rigg (Mark Norton)
Harry Baird (N’Galo)
James Mellor (Holt)
Ivor Dean (Hawthorne)
Danny Daniels (the witch doctor)
John Barrie (Franklin)
Godfrey James (Weller)
Michael Balfour (Ruddock)
Hira Talfrey (Martha)
John Wentworth (parson)
Betty Woolfe (Mrs Hopkins)

Alternative Titles

Le cercueil vivant – French title
Dance, Mephisto
Elävänä haudattu – Finnish title
Im Todesgriff der roten Maske – Austrian title
Mies punaisen naamion takaa – Finnish title
La rossa maschera del terrore – Italian title


Monthly Film Bulletin vol.37 no.438 (July 1970) pp.148-149
[T]he first twenty minutes or so have a splendidly enigmatic quality, using subjective camerawork to convey the alienated and animal-like existence of the strange Sir Edward, while Vincent Price manages to suggest unnameable horrors as Julian, his tormented brother. Unfortunately, the script here is nowhere near as ingenious as that for Scream and Scream Again, and gradually it begins to rely more and more on a smattering of crude shock effects which only underline the inadequacy of its central development. Christopher Lee is utterly wasted in his role as Dr. Neuhartt, and the final twist is predictable and quite ludicrously over-emphasised. Nevertheless, the film does carry, not entirely because of its script’s shock tactics, a pervasive aura of evil, and its director’s visual flair is never completely stifled. Admittedly, Hessler still has some way to go if he wants to take over from the late Michael Reeves (whom he replaced on this particular film), but given good material he may yet prove a director of some distinction. – from an uncredited review


Board of Trade Journal vol.198 no.3819 (27 May 1970) p.1457 – note (Registrations of British and foreign films)
Castle of Frankenstein no.15 pp.32
Castle of Frankenstein no.21 p.36
The Dark Side no.206 (2019) pp.42-48 – illustrated article (The Wicking man by Christopher Koetting)
The Hollywood Reporter vol.206 no.22 (11 June 1969) p.3 – credits, review
Kine Weekly vol.619 no.3195 (4 January 1969) p.17 – illustrated note (Production: No business like Poe business by Rod Cooper)
Kine Weekly vol.633 no.3265 (9 May 1970) p.1 – advert
Kine Weekly no.3267 (23 May 1970) p.12 – review
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.37 no.438 (July 1970) pp.148-149 – credits, synopsis, review
Motion Picture Herald vol.239 no.27 (2 July 1969) p.223 – review
Supernatural no.1 (January 1969) p.9 – note (Horror film production guide)
Today’s Cinema no.9806 (22 May 1970) p.10 – review
Today’s Cinema no.9818 (30 June 1970) p.15 – note (General releases)
Variety 11 June 1969 p.38 – credits, review

American International Pictures: A Comprehensive Filmography by Rob Craig  p.275
American International Pictures: A Filmography by Robert L. Ottoson pp.179-180 – credits, synopsis, review
Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again by John Stanley p.283 – credits, review
An Edgar Allan Poe Companion: A Guide to the Short Stories, Romances and Essays by J.R. Hammond p.138
The Edgar Allan Poe Scrapbook by Peter Haining (ed.) p.191
English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.65, 181-83, 182, 191
Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures by Mark Thomas McGee pp.11; 318
Feature Films, 1960-1969: A Filmography of English-language and Major Foreign-language United States Releases by Harris M. Lentz III p.325-326
The Films of Christopher Lee by Robert W. Pohle Jr and Douglas C. Hart pp.132-133
The Films of Vincent Price by Iain F. McAsh pp.26; 44
Kine & TV Year Book 1971 p.113 – credits
Merchant of Menace: The Life and Films of Vincent Price by Denis Meikle pp.255-261; 371-372
The Poe Cinema: A Critical Filmography by Don G. Smith pp.200-206
Rock ‘n’ Roll Monsters: The American International Story by Bruce G. Hallenbeck pp.227-228; 292
Sixties Shockers by Mark Clark and Bryan Senn pp.314-315
Vincent Price: The Art of Fear by Denis Meikle pp.154-159; 229
Vincent Price Unmasked by James Robert Parish and Steven Whitney pp.127; 232-233
Women in the Horror Films of Vincent Price by Jonathan Malcolm Lampley pp.131-134; 192