As far as classic horrors go there’s plenty to appreciate when it comes to this Amicus title that features an above average cast including two of the biggest names ever to grace the genre, Lee and Cushing. It’s from director Peter Duffell and producers Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg. The producers had already begun featuring their anthology horrors as far back as 1964’s Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and as recently as 68’s Torture Garden. It’s a theme they would continue to mine in the years ahead.
There are four blood chilling tales to be told concerning the house and the fate of those who have lived there in the past and the present. Wrapping the stories together, the most current tenant has disappeared and his case is being looked into by police inspector, John Bennett. The stories of the house are relayed to him by real estate agent, Abraham Stoker (you read that right) as enacted by John Bryans, who believes the house carries with it the power to bring evil to those who occupy it.
First up is that great character player Denholm Elliott as a writer looking to find a place that will inspire him to complete his current novel. A lurid tale of a strangler. Elliott’s author is somewhat of a Stephen King in the world of books. He and his wife, Joanna Durnham, seem a lovely couple but what happens when Elliott begins to see his literary creation hiding in the shadows and around the property? Yes there’s a strangler loose and there’s a twist involved you might not see coming.
In the second segment we’re gifted with the gentleman of horror, Peter Cushing. He’s a retired gent who takes up a country lifestyle in our eerie house. While he mourns for a lost love seen in an old photograph he makes the discovery that a wax figure in a local house of horrors bears a striking resemblance to her and he’s having a hard time staying away from the lurid museum. When Joss Ackland, an old friend stops by we’ll learn that he too carried a torch for the same woman. Once Ackland discovers the wax figure’s likeness, he and Peter are going to discover the secret behind her and the curator who cares for this lady in wax. “There’s something evil about that place.”
Number three brings Christopher Lee into the home. No one, I mean NO ONE does arrogant on camera quite as well as Sir Christopher. He’s moved into the home with his little girl who needs a tutor. Lee’s a widower and refuses to let his child play with others or possess any toys. He goes about hiring the cute little girl a nanny played by Nyree Dawn Porter. Porter can’t grasp why Lee is so cold and distant to his own daughter and when he throws a doll that Porter buys the girl into the fireplace his fate is firmly set in place. The truth is he’s terrified of her in this tale of witchcraft and voodoo that holds a great piece of trivia for film buffs. When Lee is casually sitting back reading a novel by the fireplace, the book is indeed Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
The fourth story brings the plot full circle and it’s easily the best of the quartet. Jon Pertwee is starring here as a world famous horror star making an all new Dracula film. This leads to the film’s biggest laugh when he talks of great Dracula films from the good old days, “the one with Bela Lugosi of course, not this new fellow,” Never fails to elicit a laugh at the expense of Mr. Lee. Pertwee isn’t enamored of the budget on his latest vampire film and needs an authentic cloak for the part. Little does he know that one is awaiting him in the antique store owned by a morbid looking Geoffrey Bayldon. Cult favorite Ingrid Pitt adds flavor to the story as Pertwee’s co-star in the film within a film and true to her cinematic typecasting, she’s going to make for one sexy vampire before this blood thirsty segment comes to a close.
There will be a wrap up in the police investigation that I’ll leave for you to discover should you pick up a copy of this Amicus winner that was recently released on blu ray from Scream Factory.
A fun effort overall for fans who enjoy this kind of thing and are more than knowledgeable when it comes to the careers of Lee and Cushing. I’m always looking to see what props Peter utilizes and when Lee plays it arrogant I can’t help but chuckle at some of the rude things he’s up to in his interactions with other people on camera. The one thing that could be considered a letdown here is the fact that the two have been enlisted to star in different segments and share no screen time together. Aside from that it’s a good Amicus entry that saves the best segment for last going out on a high.