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Movie Review: ‘The Evil Clergyman’

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The Evil Clergyman

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The Evil Clergyman is a 30-minute film originally recorded in 1987 as part of an Empire Pictures (now Full Moon Features) anthology movie titled Pulse Pounders. The other two components of this anthology film were sequels to Empire movies Trancers and The Dungeonmaster. Pulse Pounders was never released and was thought lost. However, a VHS working copy of the movie was found, and it was this copy that has been restored as best as possible a released onto DVD.

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Fans of Reanimator and From Beyond will likely be thrilled that this movie has finally been released. After all, the film brings back the favorites of these films, such as Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, and David Gale. Also thrown into the mix is the illustrious David Warner. The title of the movie comes from a “short story” written by H.P. Lovecraft. I put quotes around this phrase because (1) Lovecraft never wrote a story with that title—instead, the story was taken from an excerpt from a letter written by Lovecraft in 1933 and posthumously published as a piece of fiction in the April 1939 issue of Weird Tales and (2) the movie has little to do with the source material.

The movie version of The Evil Clergyman centers on one Mrs. Brady (Crampton, looking as luscious as ever), who enters a creepy looking castle and makes her way past an elderly caretaker to enter a room that is haunted by her lover, an evil priest (Combs). For his blasphemous ways, the evil clergyman hanged himself in this very room, but not before performing great acts of sorcery. For one, the evil clergyman imprisoned the spirit of a bishop (Warner) and summoned forth none other than Brown Jenkins (Gale), a rat-like demon that is not in the original short story.

While performing these and other horrible acts, the evil clergyman seduced and performed strange sex acts on various women. It is hinted that the old caretaker was one such woman, and Mrs. Brady is definitely one of them, as she has returned for one last sexual experience with the spirit of the evil clergyman. But the priest has other plans, and these are carried out as poor Brown Jenkins and Mrs. Brady are used in both body and spirit.

As with the other Lovecraft adaptations of the time (Reanimator and From Beyond), there’s very little Lovecraftian influence in the story, although hardcore Lovecraft fans will find that the superstructure of the story’s plot in The Evil Clergyman remains intact. The additional material, particularly the addition of Brown Jenkins (a Lovecraft creation in other stories) and of course Ms. Crampton, are superfluous but also enable the filmmakers to inject some brief nudity and sexuality into what amounts to a very talkie movie.

The Evil Clergyman should please fans of the 1980s Lovecraft craze and fans of Combs, Gale, and Crampton. However, Lovecraft purists should avoid this one, as should viewers looking for a scary movie. The price is also pretty steep for what amounts to 30 minutes of footage.

As for the film itself, it is a little spotty and presented as a pan-and-scan flick. Composer Richard Band provided an original score that works perfectly and the sound is much better than the grainy video. However, there was care taken in restoring this film, and the restorers did a great job with the materials they were given. Special effects are lackluster, with poor David Gale dressed in a crude rat suit for the role of Brown Jenkins.

The DVD comes with some raw footage of the Trancers sequel and a cast reunion of the film’s theatrical viewing. I would have enjoyed more footage of the discussion rather than interviews with fans, but it was nice to see the cast members interacting with each other.

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