DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. (1965) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. (1965) MADE BY AMICUS PRODUCTIONS. PRODUCED BY MILTON SUBOTSKY AND MAX ROSENBERG. WRITTEN BY MILTON SUBOTSKY. DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS.

STARRING PETER CUSHING, CHRISTOPHER LEE, MICHAEL GOUGH, DONALD SUTHERLAND AND KATY WILD. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is one of the brilliant anthology films created by Amicus, the brainchild of Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg. Amicus were Hammer’s rivals, but they were actually pretty much every bit as good as Hammer. They were certainly terrific at doing deliciously creepy little portmanteau films like this one.

There’s also THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, starring Christopher Lee and Ingrid Pitt; TALES FROM THE CRYPT, in which a stunning young actress called Joan Collins gets chased through her house by an evil Santa Claus on the night before Christmas; and its follow-up THE VAULT OF HORROR. This one features brother-and-sister actors Daniel Massey and Anna Massey in a tale of vampires who terrorise a small town after dark. ‘THEY come out at night…’

Most of these films begin with a small group of random people, who don’t know each other to begin with, all coming together in the same place. TALES FROM THE CRYPT features a bunch of folks who’ve come to see a tourist attraction.

THE VAULT OF HORROR features five middle-aged businessman whose elevator has conspired to bring them to a particular room in their office building which they didn’t know existed before today. While they wait for the stalled lift to work again, the fun happens…

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD is the story of various people who have all consecutively rented the same isolated house in the country, and in DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS we have five gentlemen who all share the same railway carriage together.

They don’t really have those any more, do they? Railway compartments for five or six people, I mean. (Maybe just for the Queen and her mates.) I’ve never been in one but I would have loved to travel that way, by private carriage that you could lock with a bed in it for overnighting. Such luxury!

Now you have to sit on the public seats like everyone else, breathing in the foul, fetid cough-and-cold germs of your fellow passengers and listening to their music (if you can hear it, it’s too loud!) and inane mobile phone conversations. Bring back the old days, I say!

Anyway, Peter Cushing as the mysterious and enigmatic Dr. Schreck (it means terror in German; remember Max Schreck as Murnau’s Nosferatu in 1922?) is the common denominator that brings the five male travellers together in DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. When Dr. Schreck, the sixth and final passenger to enter the carriage, is revealed to have a deck of tarot cards about his person, it excites considerable comment amongst the other men.

Pish-posh, what utter tosh! There’s no such thing as reading peoples’ futures from a silly deck of cards, you’re off your bleeding trolley! This is the opinion of one of the men, Christopher Lee’s character Franklin Marshall, the esteemed art critic.

He is utterly sceptical and scornful of Dr. Schreck’s profession, calling the soft-voiced man with the foreign accent a charlatan, a spoofer and other unflattering names intended to convey disbelief. He’s quite rude to the fellow, in fact.

You’re entitled to your own opinion, concedes Dr. Schreck with a mild smile, but nonetheless I bet you guys that these cards can accurately predict all of your futures, care to take a chance and let me do a reading for each of you? He refers to his cards as his ‘House of Horrors,’ by the way.

The men are doubtful at first, but then one chap, a Mister Jim Dawson, agrees that it might be a bit of a lark. Dr. Schreck dutifully shuffles the cards after Mister Dawson has tapped ’em three times. It’s all part of the ritual, see?

We see a vignette then in which Dawson, an architect, travels to a house on an island in the Hebrides on which he has already done some work for the owner Mrs. Biddulph, an attractive middle-aged widow.

She lives alone in the house except for the staff, an old man called Caleb and his grand-daughter Valda, played by the actress Katy Wild who will be familiar to fans of Hammer’s brilliant horror film THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN.

She- Mrs. Biddulph- apparently now wants some major structural work done on the house to accommodate her husband’s collection of artefacts pertaining to… well, I forget what. Something, anyway. Fair enough. Mister Dawson duly gets to work.

During the course of these structural alterations, an ancient coffin is unearthed buried in the walls of the house’s equally ancient cellar. It’s the resting place of a chap from the Olden Days called Cosmo Valdemar (what a magnificent name, sounds very Vincent Price-ish!) who was murdered by an ancestor of guess who’s…?

You’ll never believe this but Cosmo Valdemar was murdered by an ancestor of Mister Dawson’s, the very architect who’s charged with doing up the house now. The house, in fact, was once Mister Dawson’s family home before it was sold to Mrs. Biddulph and he grew up there. It’s a bit of a coincidence but there it is. Maybe that’s why Mrs. Biddulph gave Dawson the job of fixing up the house in the first place, because he knew the joint so well, see?

Anyway, it was a bad move on Dawson’s part to disturb the earthly remains of Cosmo Valdemar, who figures that now is a good time to avenge himself on the conveniently in-situ descendant of the man who killed him. Poor old Dawson is a sitting duck all right, but is there more to the legend surrounding Cosmo Valdemar than he’s aware of…?

‘Something came out of that coffin tonight. Something evil and strange…’

The next one is short but fun, and resembles nothing so much as a kind of miniature version of sci-fi movie THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS. A family consisting of a Mum, a Dad, a little girl and a playful and curious dog called Rusty, return from a holiday to realise that the vine growing at a ferocious speed on the side of their house has a mind of its own.

It’s a carnivorous mutation along the lines of a Venus Fly Trap, in fact, only much, much worse and more aggressive. When Man’s Best Friend is found strangled to death by the malicious vine, much to the distress of the family, the scientists are called in. They’ll really need to be on fire, however, to defeat this murderous freak of nature…

‘A plant like that could take over the world…’ 

There’s a sentence you don’t hear every day.

In the next vignette, a really annoying jazz musician called Biff Bailey, who seemingly never listens to the advice he’s given, travels to the West Indies with his band for a gig. They love the local calypso music. It conjures up images of tall, frosty-cold drinks with umbrellas in them on the beach. We could all use some of that this time of year.

Anyway, Biff in particular gets super-excited when a local musician fills him in on the strange and frenzied goings-on that occur when the natives are performing one of their voodoo dances. Biff unwisely decides to spy on one such session, where the native girls are alleged to strip off most of their clothing and get really uninhibited, if you get my drift.

He doesn’t see too many titties, but he’s certainly very taken by the wild music they’re performing so frenziedly, so he starts scribbling down the musical notes. He doesn’t take it too seriously when the chief warrior bellows at him:

‘YOU WROTE DOWN THE MUSIC OF THE GREAT GOD DEMBALA? IF YOU STEAL FROM HIM, THE GOD WILL BE REVENGED!’

It’s just a load of old native superstition and codswallop and mumbo-jumbo, right? Wrong, so wrong. When Biff returns home to good old Blighty, he finds that he’s accidentally brought a little bit of the West Indies home with him. And I don’t mean the venereal disease he’s almost certainly picked up as a result of the fraternisation he’s undoubtedly engaged in with the native ladies, the dirty fecker.

The next story is my favourite one because it’s got Christopher Lee in it. He plays the snobby and superior art critic Franklin Marshall, the guy who’s openly sceptical of Dr. Shreck’s profession.

Remember this? ‘Foretelling the future with a pack of cards? What rubbish!’ The narcissistic and unbearably pompous Franklin is nonetheless publicly pressured into tapping the magic deck of cards three times to bring forth a reading…

When he is bitterly humiliated by artist Eric Landor (Michael Gough: DRACULA, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) and a really cute monkey- yes, I said monkey!- Franklin Marshall, now a laughing stock in his own profession and a nervous wreck to boot, decides to take his revenge.

(Never mind that Eric Landor only does what he does to pay back Franklin for publicly eviscerating his work!) But vengeance turns to a nightmare when a series of terrifying events cause Franklin to take his eyes off the road. Could Eric Landor possibly have had a ‘hand’ in it…?

Finally, a ridiculously handsome and young-looking Donald Sutherland plays a doctor called Bob Carroll who has just brought his new French bride Nicole to his New England home.

When an outburst of vampirism seems to take place shortly after Nicole’s arrival, can the disturbed new hubby trust the opinions of the local medic, Dr. Blake, who seems to be suspiciously well up on his vampire lore? A bit too well up, I’d say…

There’s a bit at the end that ties up all the loose ends and the five men find out what fate really has in store for them. Beware the haunted tarot cards of the mysterious Dr. Schreck. They don’t call him Dr. Terror for nothing.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAutho

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VAULT OF HORROR (1973) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971): A DOUBLE BILL OF AMICUS FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

house dripped blood salome

VAULT OF HORROR (1973) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971) : A DOUBLE BILL OF AMICUS MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘CAN’T YOU DO ANYTHING NEATLY…???’

Ah, wonderful Amicus Productions, the brainchild of Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky. Every bit as good as its rival and counterpart Hammer in its own way. Two of my favourite films are Amicus films: TALES FROM THE CRYPT, a portmanteau or anthology film like VAULT OF HORROR, and THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL starring horror legend Vincent Price at probably his most evil, ever, and that’s saying something, lol.

You might say that Amicus specialised in the portmanteau or anthology film, a film that tells four or five short stories all under the umbrella of a piece that links them all together. The films we’re looking at today are two such films, VAULT OF HORROR and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD. So come on then, gentle readers. Enter my crypt if ye dare. I made vol-au-vents…

In VAULT OF HORROR, five separate, affluent-looking middle-aged businessmen types enter the same lift and are taken to a place they definitely didn’t press the button for, a comfortable room down in the basement that looks like it might be a gentlemen’s club, a place they never knew existed in their building.

The men decide to stay and avail of the comforts of the club for a while. The conversation turns to the topic of dreams, and each of the men waxes lyrical as he reveals the details of a gruesome recurring nightmare from which he’s been suffering.

The handsome and authoritative-looking Daniel Massey goes first as a man who pays a private detective to track down his sister- played by his real-life sister Anna Massey- for devilishly nefarious purposes. When he then travels to the out-of-the-way town where his sister apparently now resides, he decides to stop off for a ‘bite’ in a most unusual restaurant after he concludes his business with her. ‘Juice, soup, roast, sweet, coffee’ indeed…

Next up, the plummy-voiced Terry-Thomas gets his come-uppance when his character of Arthur, a middle-aged businessman obsessed with tidiness- a place for everything and everything in its place, Eleanor– drives his younger trophy wife to commit a heinous crime…

This is followed by a tale in which an unpleasant husband-and-wife magic act travel to India to get some inspiration for their act. When they think they’ve found it in the form of a beautiful young woman’s ability to charm a rope out of its basket with her haunting musical stylings, it clearly never occurs to them that trying to steal this magic trick from her by violent means might have the most dreadful repercussions…

Next up, an insurance scam artist takes his life in his hands when his deeply unwise decision to ‘play dead’ leads him straight into the open arms of a pair of medical student body-snatchers.

This is follwed by a fun story in which a bizarrely red-bearded artist turns to voodoo to help him to get revenge on a trio of crooked art dealers, headed up by Denholm Elliott, who’ve tricked him royally. Truly, ye shall reap what ye have sown, gentlemen…

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD gifts us with five more marvellous vignettes that each take place within a particular old country house which the estate agent, a certain Mr. Stoker, would have us believe is haunted. Stoker, eh? Where have we heard that name before? Heh-heh-heh, good one.

Anyway, this Stoker fella is attempting to convince not just us viewers, but also a police detective called Holloway who’s been called in to investigate the recent mysterious disappearance of a famous horror actor from the house.

The actor playing the detective, incidentally, John Bennett, is the living image of one Joseph Goebbels, a certain Propaganda Minister from a certain now-defunct regime. I’m just saying, is all, lol. Did Goebbels not after all then die in the flames that accompanied the demise of his precious regime, but instead escape to England to become an actor?

In fact, actor John Bennett who plays Detective Inspector Holloway did portray Joseph Goebbels in the 1973 film known as HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS. Legendary actor Alex Guinness does a superb job as the nasty little man with the toothbrush moustache and unflattering side-parting, and he has as his toady a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to Joseph Goebbels, our man John Bennett. It’s a marvellous film, but I wonder what it must have been like to go through life looking like a former Nazi Propaganda Minister? I know, I know, maybe I should just mind my own damn business, right? Gotcha, lol.

Denholm Elliott (again!) is first up here as a famous horror writer called Charles who comes to the house with his pretty wife Alice to work on his new book, which features as its protagonist a thoroughly unpleasant character called Dominick, a strangler and escaped lunatic. When Charles actually starts to see the strictly fictional Dominick around the place in the flesh, however, one can’t help but feel that something is deeply amiss in the house…

Next up is Peter Cushing as a retired, cravat-wearing and genteel stockbroker called Philip Grayson, who becomes utterly fascinated by the waxwork figure of a beautiful woman in a local Museum of Horrors.

When the wax dummy has the exact same effect on Philip’s visiting friend and former love rival Neville, played by Joss Ackland, the viewer starts to wonder just what it is about the direct gaze of this beautiful waxwork that draws men to her like magnets. Let’s just hope that the two chaps don’t lose their heads over her, that’s all I’m saying…

The devastatingly handsome Christopher Lee is up next as John Reid, a wealthy country gentleman who advertises for a governess- companion for his pretty little daughter Jane, who has no friends and no toys and has never been to school. In fact, she is utterly isolated from other people in every way her father can think up. An attractive governess duly arrives at the house in the form of Miss Anne Norton.

It doesn’t take her long to work out that something is very, very wrong in the Reid household. But is it the uptight Mr. Reid who’s to blame for any strangeness or is it his angelic-faced little daughter? When Mr. Reid starts to suffer terrifying pains about his person, Miss Norton thinks that she’s starting to see the light…

Finally, Jon Pertwee (Wurzel Gummidge, Dr. Who) plays Paul Henderson, the ageing, diva-like horror actor whose disappearance while working on a new film and living in the so-called haunted house is what initially draws Detective Inspector Goebbels into the case, lol.

He’s working on a low-budget horror film called ‘CURSE OF THE BLOOD-SUCKERS’ that he thinks is beneath him. Beggars can’t be choosers, however, and his obvious love and enthusiasm for the horror genre leads him to visit a costumier’s in the village in search of something authentic to wear as part of his costume.

In what is possibly the most delicious part of the whole film, Mr. Von Hartmann, the ancient costumier in his old-fasioned emporium, sells Paul a vampire’s cloak that makes Paul behave in a very uncharacteristic way when he puts it on. You might even say that, like Red Bull if you’re to believe the TV ads for it, it gives him wings…

The fabulously divine Ingrid Pitt (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, COUNTESS DRACULA, THE WICKER MAN) steals the show here as Paul’s gorgeous co-star in the film, Carla. With her blonde tresses, cigarette holder, pearls and white fox fur, she’s enough to take the sight out of your eye, as we say here in Oireland. But there might be more to this foxy wench than meets the eye, if you get me, so Paul had better be careful that he doesn’t get out-foxed by her…

Both films are drawn together in the finale in such a way as to tie up the loose ends neatly. In VAULT OF HORROR, we find out just who these shady businessmen are and why they’re re-enacting for our edification their terrible recurring nightmares.

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD sees Detective Inspector Goebbels (no offence intended here, only joking!) visiting the house of mystery for himself and finding out exactly why it’s earned its evil reputation…

As the red velvet curtain falls on this joint review, let’s take a minute to fondly remember Amicus Productions. Featuring regular everyday streets and taxi-cabs and people and apartments rather than the forest paths and carriages and Counts and Countesses and castles atop mountains that Hammer favoured, the colours they used were quite extraordinary and blow my mind anew every time I see them. The portmanteau or anthology film deserves a re-birth. Any takers…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor