Maniac Mansion (1972) or if you prefer … The Murder Mansion
aka La mansión de la niebla.
This filmed in Spain thriller that goes by any number of titles around the globe proved to be a new to me thriller that I can’t deny enjoying. It’s a Euro flavored theme of vampires and ghouls when a group of people find themselves stranded on a foggy night in one of those “old dark houses.”
From director Francisco Lara Polop through the small cast of characters there’s not a single name in the credits I’m familiar with. Of course everyone has been dubbed for the far from restored copy I have and I’m not surprised.
“We belong to two different worlds.”
There’s a suitably eerie score from Marcello Giombini to kick start the opening credits before settling in to introduce us to our principle characters who will converge at an abandoned house in the countryside. There’s motorcyclist Andres Resino who seems to be in constant competition with sports car enthusiast and all around skirt chaser, Franco Fantasia, over who is going to be giving a ride to a cute hitchhiker played by Lisa Leonardi. When a thick fog sets in they’ll take refuge in a suspect looking mansion but not before coming across a terrified Analia Gade who has just seen two ghoul like figures in an old cemetery adjoining the “maniac mansion” of the title.
Also crashing the house will be a married couple played by Eduardo Fajardo and Yelena Samarina looking to park safely for the night. Things are bound to get a bit spooky when a mysterious hostess descends the staircase from above. It’s Evelin Stewart who it turns out I have seen in a few films from the past including Mario Bava’s The Whip and the Body along with Visconti’s The Leopard. As the hostess, Miss Stewart will set the tone of the film as she talks about her ancestors who once occupied the house and tales of vampirism complimented by various demonic paintings hanging upon the mansion walls.
… I’m thinking she’s not of our world.
Time for everyone to call it a night and you’ve just got to appreciate that old staple of the horror movie when a good looking gal is quick to state, “I’m scared” to the man on her arm yet moments later she’s unclothed and engaging in premarital sex. In this case it’s our hitchhiking cutie and our cyclist. This midnight tryst doesn’t sit well with Franco who attempts to take up with the terrified Analia who tosses him out of her room but not to worry as he’s welcome in the bedroom of the hostess.
Yeah, I knew she wasn’t of this world and I don’t think our amorous sports car enthusiast is going to like the end result of this one night stand.
There’s a few flashbacks sprinkled into the proceedings that had me scratching my head but they’re actually going to play a part in the finale of this 84 minute thriller where nothing is quite as it seems and that includes more than one of our on screen characters. In the end we’ve got a hybrid tale of the supernatural and the giallo thrillers that were the rage of the day.
As the final credits roll the Avco Embassy Company is credited so I’ll make the assumption till proven wrong that they purchased the distribution rights for the North American release. According to the IMDB Avco released it to theaters under the title Revenge of the Living Dead in 1973. There’s even a firm titled Frontier Amusements who apparently released it theatrically in Canada under the Maniac Mansion title in 1980! All these titles remind me of just how hard it used to be to track a film like this one growing up in an age when we didn’t have the internet to look things up in a second or two.
What I used frequently in the “good old days” of discovering titles were books including John Stanley’s Creature Feature Guide series and the Motion Picture Guide encyclopedia set, my first major purchase that I still have on the shelf here in the vault. Stanley’s book lists it under the Murder Mansion title but also claims it was released to home video under the title Amuck. He also has the date of release as 1970.
To complicate matters the Motion Picture Guide chose not to review Murder Mansion but does have a review of 1978’s Maniac Mansion. It would have been of little help to me at the time because under that title they have the plot synopsis of a film staring Farley Granger that strangely enough is also known under the title Amuck. Even still the review points out that Granger’s film that also starred cult fave Rosalba Neri (aka Sarah Bey) was actually filmed in 1972! Quite the poster for this one.
For those that might be a bit younger checking in today, you can see how hard it sometimes proved to be tracking down the genesis and background of a Euro made feature in the pre-internet days. For more fun about the many movie titles out there that never really existed, click here for my live take on movie title mix-ups.
Just where did I find my copy of Maniac Mansion? I came across it in a 5 pack of horror titles that I mainly picked up because it had a copy of Jack Palance’s 1973 guilty pleasure Craze. Still to come is a nasty sounding thriller I’ve yet to see titled Scream Bloody Murder and a pair of Argento flicks which of course I have on blu ray and won’t bother to check out aside from maybe having a quick look to see the quality of the print and the running time. In case you’re wondering they’re Deep Red and Cat O’Nine Tails. The five films combined are featured in a rather distasteful looking “Slasher Collection” from TGG in 2008. All for the love of Jack.
Finally, if Scream Factory can release titles like Anita Ekberg’s 1969 effort Fangs of the Living Dead then maybe they can secure the rights to this enjoyable thriller and locate a decent copy ultimately adding this to their wealth of fine titles available for home video.