Directed by Gordon Hessler
Business woman Helen Garth is thrilled to see her niece Alice arrive back home in England after a year away studying in Paris. Upon Alice’s arrival, Helen’s husband Raymond becomes quite smitten by the young woman and they start an affair. With bossy Helen constantly making demands of Raymond, physically, emotionally and sexually, he comes up with a plan, with Helen’s downtrodden personal assistant Corbett, to bump Helen off and inherit her vast fortune. But things don’t always go to plan…
British Lion Films title CATACOMBS is a dark dramatic thriller with a hint of mystery, which deals with how far a person would go for financial gain and the consequences of those actions. Whilst the description sounds like any other murder plot thriller, the character of Mrs Garth (Georgina Cookson), the target, is anything but ordinary. Riddled with pain in her hip, Helen Garth is never without her walking stick. When the pain gets too bad, she resorts to putting herself in a trance, something which she has learned from the spiritual religion she practices. A powerful woman, who comes across as domineering, snooty and cold, she doesn’t suffer fools though knows there are only people around her for her money, including her husband, but would she ever have thought he’d be capable of killing her?
Gary Merrill stars as Raymond, a man who cannot resist his own desires, be it wealth or the beauty and love of a woman half his age – he has to have them. He treats his marriage to Helen as a chore though can often be relied upon to satisfy her every whim and need until Alice (Jane Merrow) comes onto the scene. Soon his desire to be with someone else and get from under the thumb of Helen becomes too hard to resist and he finds he’s not the only one who’d be happy to see Helen ‘disappear’.
At times, CATACOMBS comes across as a slow moving thriller as not much happens in the film to grab the viewer’s attention, however the love triangle between Raymond, Helen and their niece Alice is well played out, with the relationship between Raymond and Alice developed quickly over a few scenes.
Midway through the film, CATACOMBS turns from a drama about lust, betrayal and murder into a mystery cum horror thriller, with bumps in the night and apparitions. The change in tone is handled quite well, with the night time settings helping to create tension despite the over-the-top score synonymous with films from that decade.
Solid performances from Georgina Cookson, Jane Merrow, Neil McCallum and Gary Merrill, the latter of whom carries the story as the lead, makes this an interesting watch, even if the script and plot lack somewhat. Whilst there’s not nearly enough horror here to please genre fans, the mystery element will engage viewers until the film’s climax.
The film has been given a brand new transfer from the original film elements, in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio, courtesy of Network Distributing. The release includes an image gallery as its bonus feature.