INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED
What one does find is an impressive attempt to pare away to the centre of the vampire myth. The central metaphor the vampire film operates on that vampirism is sublimated sexuality is here spun out as literal fact. Edward Woodward has a scene where he potently explains vampirism is a perversion brought on by sexual impotency where the drinking of and having blood drunken serves as surrogate orgasm. This is wound into a complex metaphor that sees the Oxford academic structure as vampiric in nature Patrick Mower has a striking speech where he stands up and denounces the parasitism of the academic system, calling provost Peter Cushing in effect the head vampire. (As a perfectly sardonic after-note, Peter Cushing stands up, apparently oblivious to Patrick Mowers meaning and demands order). The double-side of the coin the film presents is also striking that the only relief from a rigidly ingrained system is to be found in the youth movement. However, the youth movement is not seen as liberating, as it usually was in most films of this period, but is instead painted as inhabited by Satanic orgiastists, drug takers and murderers exactly what some of the more extreme critics were denouncing it as. Incense for the Damned in its condemnation of both the repressive order of the class system and the wild liberation of the youth movement yet also seeing both as deeply intertwined makes a striking metaphor.
What does mar Incense for the Damned is the ending that was forced on against director Robert Hartford-Davies wishes (resulting in him having his name substituted) wherein Johnny Sekka takes Alex Davion to Patrick Mowers coffin and hammers a stake through his heart. It is an ending that vilifies the rest of the film, which has up until that point explained vampirism away as being purely a psychological perversion.
Outside of this, Robert Hartford-Davies proved to be a minor British director who worked in various exploitation genres without ever making anything of distinction. His other films of genre interests are: the Gothic horror The Black Torment (1964), the mind-boggling sf/pop music film Gonks Go Beat (1965), the mad surgeon film Corruption (1967) and the psycho film The Fiend/Beware My Brethren (1971).
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