29 May 2014 | kevinolzak
Keith Michell and Peter Cushing
1961's "The Hellfire Club" is really nothing more than a typical swashbuckler that promises more than it delivers. Co-scripted by Hammer's Jimmy Sangster, Keith Michell stars as Jason Caldwell, rightful heir to the Earl of Netherden, which has been claimed by wicked cousin Thomas (Peter Arne) as his own in Jason's absence. The actual Hellfire Club barely figures in the plot, merely a device carefully avoided by the filmmakers, making Jason's father and cousin Thomas members to justify its inclusion (and the title). In deference to its subject matter, both leading ladies are seen in compromising bathing situations, with Adrienne Corri and Kai Fischer supplying equal parts pulchritude and love interest. It's certainly quite watchable, action aplenty, and bolstered by a good cast, Keith Michell acquitting himself well in his athleticism. Best of all, Peter Cushing guest stars as wily attorney Mr. Merryweather, who agrees to take on Jason's case yet behaves in a rather untrustworthy manner, allowing his client to be convicted of murder and sentenced to hang (he's introduced watching the execution of one of his 'less fortunate clients'). A hint of necessary corruption indeed manifests itself in that first scene, as a dismissive Merryweather suggests a way to obtain the document that would prove Jason's inheritance: "if one was dishonest, which of course one is not, one could steal the letter!" His masterful use of props involve spectacles, snuff, and handy handkerchief, a memorable five minute cameo worth the price of admission.