THE VULTURE is a film that made a huge impression on me as a very young child — I was five when I first saw it — and it held me riveted from start to finish. Seeing it again some forty-one years later, all I could ask was "What the fuck was I thinking?" It's ridiculous concrete proof that just because a Horror film is British in origin, it won't necessarily be as good as even the weakest entry from Hammer Studios.
Taking place by the seaside of Cornwall, THE VULTURE opens with a great and very spooky scene in which a woman on a bus is warned by the superstitious driver not to take a shortcut through the local graveyard when she gets off, advice she chews the guy out for. Of course when she ignores his advice, she walks through the graveyard and witnesses the earth near a grave pushing upwards as though something buried there was fighting its way out. Well, guess what? Something was under there fighting its way out, and from the sparse visual clues we're given, it's quite big and it can fly (we only see the woman's horrified reaction to it, and not a glimpse of the creature itself). The woman is of course driven instantly insane by the sight, and ends up in a mental institution.
That sequence was terrific and still holds up, and it led me to believe my fond memories from just over four decades past were accurate. Too bad for me that from that point on the film takes a precipitous nosedive straight down the cinematic toilet in a maelstrom of boredom and narrative stupidity.
Anyway, the local authorities believe the grave had been broken into instead of broken out of and in no time at all a series of bizarre murders begins, each targeting the Stroud family. A couple of centuries previous, the Strouds were responsible for burying alive an evil Frenchman who was found guilty of practicing witchcraft, and along with him was buried his supposedly satanically-tainted treasure of gold coins and his pet vulture (?). As the dirt was piled atop him, the evil Frenchman cursed the Strouds and vowed eventual vengeance upon them, so the modern day murders look to be a centuries-old curse in all-too-gruesome action.
I'll spare you the rest of the tedious story and simply tell you that the monster turns out to be an aged descendant of the evil Frenchman who happened to be a nuclear scientist dabbling in teleportation experiments in hope of teleporting himself into his ancestor's grave and absconding with the gold. What he didn't count on was the presence of the pet vulture's corpse, so for some idiotic reason his molecules fuse with those of the dead carrion-eater, so thus is born a pissed-off giant vulture with the fully-functioning head and mind of an old bald dude, plus its big and powerful enough to carry away full-grown adults to its cliffside cave lair.
So what we have here is a would-be horror-mystery that ludicrously cribs from THE FLY (1958) and doesn't even give us the courtesy of showing us the monster in full. Considering how feeble the rest of the film is, would it really have made much of a difference to have crafted even a cheesy marionette of a buzzard with a bald old man's head on it? I think not and I say we got gypped, bigtime. To put it bluntly, this is exactly the kind of thing that Count Floyd would get stuck with running on MONSTER CHILLER HORROR THEATRE. So much so that I could practically hear him grousing about its shoddy quality throughout its running time.
Damn, I wish Count Floyd had been on hand for this mess. Then there would at least have been some kind of excuse for it.