House of 1000 Dolls (1967)
Almost as if Christopher Lee or Herbert Lom weren’t available, Vincent Price finds himself on a journey into the exploitation world of producer Harry Alan Towers and the sex slave trade with beautiful Martha Hyers as his more than willing accomplice.
It’s a German-Spanish co-production filmed in Madrid subbing in for Tangier starring not only Price and Hyer but leading man George Nader cast in the role of the accidental crime fighter while on vacation with his wife played by Anne Smyrner who gets drawn into the crime ring by chance. Price and Hyer are stage magicians who have a knack for taking a pretty girl from the audience and in a disappearing act, send the unfortunate women directly to the House of 1000 Dolls, a high class house of prostitution.
An acquaintance of Nader, Sancho Garcia believes his missing sister is being held against her will at the bordello and he intends to enter the establishment and rescue her from a life of slavery. His sister is played by Towers’ regular, Maria Rohm who just happens to be the producer’s wife off screen. Things don’t go well for the young man when he’s found out and killed for his knowledge of the inner workings of the Doll House and yes, discovers his sister has been held against her will. When Nader is called in by local police to identify the body, he wants answers and fully itends to do some private investigating himself.
Exploitation film this is means that poor Miss Rohm and fellow prisoner, Diane Bond are subjected to some bondage and torture for their transgressions against the management. Had there been a pit and a pendulum, perhaps Price could have been called in to handle the necessary punishments. Sexy Bond has an appropriate last name as she is quite handy with her self defence movements and is adept at scaling walls and attempted breakouts. Attempted being the key word. While Miss Bond never appeared in a BOND film, she did make her way into a Derek Flint film according to her short credit list at IMDB.
Nader is going to follow a few leads which will lead him to the stage show put on by Price. Price knowing that Nader presents a real danger to his livelihood leads our intrepid hero on a tour of the seamy side of the city under the guise of helping him search for clues and the secretive whereabouts of the infamous House of 1000 Dolls. This allows for what might be the first ever all female mud wrestling scene caught on film. It’s not quite John Candy versus the women wrestlers in Stripes but for 1967 I’m sure it raised a few eyebrows. How is a winner decided? Apparently it’s not which one still has a top on as I expected but rather who can throw the other out of the mud pit. Nader and Price don’t seem all that interested anyway.
Nader will move on without Price and find himself in jeopardy when paid assassins descend upon him to keep the lid on the prostitution ring and when that doesn’t work, Price and Hyer arrange for the kidnapping of Nader’s wife to force him into an exchange. His life for hers. Plenty of chase scenes are still to come and a face to face showdown between our leading men.
A recent release of this obscure Price title on blu ray from Kino Lorber allowed me to see this one for the first time and what stands out in part for Price aficionados is the lack of polish in the production when compared to Price’s many AIP releases and the Poe/Corman productions. Good ones or bad. Perhaps it’s the subject material mixed with the Euro feel the film has. As I mentioned earlier, a Towers production such as this would seem to have been assigned to Lee or Lom more often than not. And where the heck is Klaus Kinski, another Towers favorite? Not surprisingly, the script is credited to Peter Welbeck….. AKA Harry Alan Towers.
Kind of fun in a warped 1960’s kind of way and a chance to see another Price film rescued from obscurity. Now if I could only find a copy of 1961’s Nefertiti, Queen of the Nile with Price and Jeanne Crain. Anyone?