Written by: John White on April 14th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: United Kingdom, 1970
Director: Peter Duffel
Writer: Robert Bloch
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Jon Pertwee, Ingrid Pitt, Denholm Elliot
DVD released: October 27, 2003
Approximate running time: 97 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0/5.1 and DTS 5.1
DVD Release: Anchor Bay UK
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £14.99
A detective comes out to the country side to investigate the disappearance of a movie star and learns that the star’s disappearance is just one of many strange goings on at the home he rented. Firstly, a writer of horror novels finds his inspiration coming to life in the shape of a murderer. Secondly, a retired man sees the face of his lost love at a waxworks and his fascination leads to him becoming an exhibit. The third occupant of the house is destroyed because of his young daughter’s witchly inheritance. The movie star has gone missing after buying a real vampire’s cloak, when the detective goes to visit the house he discovers that the star is now the living dead.
Robert Bloch wrote three movies for Amicus – Torture Garden, Asylum and this one. More of a confirmed horror writer than Milton Subotsky, Bloch’s screenplays are darker and nastier than Subotsky’s for Dr Terror’s House Of Horrors or Vault of Horror. With this film Subotsky took the risk of using horror virgin Peter Duffel as director.
The House That Dripped Blood is the pinnacle of Amicus’ achievement in films. The set of stories fits effortlessly together and there is no weak link amongst them. Best of all is the choice of one setting for all the tales which lends the film a continuity of tone and location which makes the film satisfying and not episodic. The first tale stars Denholm Elliot as a writer searching for inspiration that arrives in his new home only to come to life in the shape of Dominic the strangler. This causes the writer to doubt his sanity and visit a shrink only to see Dominic despatch the good doctor and himself. Wonderfully written and with a tememdously good sense for scares, this is one of the best of all Amicus stories even with a little wit when the writer says “there’s no money in writing horror”. The second tale of the fascination of a waxwork gives Cushing a chance to flex his abilities for pathos and creating a broken bored man whose obsession leads to his own end.
The third story is my favourite of all of Amicus’s tales. Christopher Lee moves in to the house with his young daughter played by the marvellous Chloe Franks. Lee engages a tutor for the young girl but maintains strict rules that she doesn’t mix with other children or have toys. The new governess helps her to overcome a fear of fire and to indulge a passion for reading. When the governess buys her a doll Lee throws it straight onto a fire. One night when the electricity is cut, Lee can not find candles and starts to feel stabbing pains. His daughter helped by nocturnal reading and her mothers’ witchcraft has made a doll of him which she throws on to the fire. This is one of the finest of all short horror films and a cracking script. The final story features Jon Pertwee as a horror actor who buys a real vampire’s cloak and starts to get too deep into his role. This final segment is the most lighthearted of the film but Pertwee is great fun as is Geoffrey Bayldon as a Earnest Thesiger homage.
The very end of House is a little too jokey for my taste but the overall film is one of the finest of portmanteau films deserving comparison with greats like Dead of Night and Kwaidan. Duffel’s work with the exception of the end is impeccble and the performances he gets from his cast are first rate.
Anchor bay have done a bang up job here with an aged print. The transfer is excellent and the colours nicely represented on the main feature. The print has specks and scratches but nothing too distracting.
The original mono track is fine and the surround options are serviceable if lacking any real definition.
The extras include interviews with Bayldon, Duffel and Pitt and a commentary from Duffel. Film notes and biographies are also included.
This is a fine disc of an excellent movie.