Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Denholm Elliott, Ingrid Pitt, Nyree Dawn Porter, Jon Pertwee
Director: Peter Duffell
Produced by: Amicus Productions
“TERROR waits for you in every room in The House That Dripped Blood”
Amicus Productions is known for their horror anthologies during the 1960’s – 1970’s and The House That Dripped Blood is a good example of the portmanteau formula of film they become famous for. These films are commonly four to five short stories with an overarching tale, usually with a guide or narrator.
The House That Dripped Blood begins with a shot of an old English house and a car driving up to the gate blocking the house at the entrance. The man in this car is an inspector from Scotland Yard looking for a missing film actor. At the police station, an officer begins to inform the inspector that there have been previous incidents at the house. This begins the wrap story for the film and guides us right into the first story.
The first story tells of a writer of horror stories played by Denholm Elliott (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Trading Places), and his wife renting out the house. As the writer works on his story of murder, he begins to see his villainous character Duncan in reality. He begins to believe that he is losing his mind but is that really the case?
The second resident of the house is a retired stockbroker portrayed by Peter Cushing (Curse of Frankenstein, Star Wars). After wandering through the local town, he stumbles upon a waxworks. While he wanders through the exhibits, he finds an unusual figure of a woman. She resembles a lost love of his past and he becomes infatuated with it. After hearing of the origins of the figure from the owner, he resolves never to visit the waxworks again. This changes when he is persuaded to visit again by a friend who has stopped by. They both become inexplicably enamored with the figure having both loved the same woman in their past. Realizing there is something sinister about the figure, they both agree to never visit the place again, but something is still drawing them back to the waxworks.
The next tale involves a widower named John Reed played by Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings, The Man with the Golden Gun) and his young daughter staying at the house. He hires a woman to teach and watch over his daughter as his work takes him away often. Reed is very strict about the upbringing of his daughter and even becomes very angry when the new teacher gives his daughter a doll to play with. However, there may be a reason for his stern discipline.
The final tale involves the case that has brought the inspector to the house in the first place. Paul Henderson is portrayed by Jon Pertwee (Doctor Who) and is a famous actor of horror films. He is shooting a picture near the house and is only leasing for a short time. Henderson’s is discouraged by the quality of the movie his is filming due to its low budget. He is very upset about the quality of the cloak of his vampire costume and hunts down a better replacement. Finding a suitable one at a small costume shop, he purchases it and uses it in his film. He suddenly realizes that something is happening to him when he wears the cloak and strives to find out how to stop it.
The true ending of the final tale connects back to the police inspector as he hunts down the final location of Paul Henderson by investigating the house. What he finds may add him to the list of the houses victims.
This 1970’s horror film is very enjoyable. It may not deliver the large amounts of gore that the title suggests or that modern audiences would expect (there is no blood in the movie), nor does it deliver jumpscares. However, it does give us suspenseful atmosphere and some solid storytelling. Character development is strong within a constriction of the time in each tale.
The cast is phenomenal with all of them delivering great performances. Unfortunately, the weakest among them would have to be Doctor Who alum, Jon Pertwee. His character comes across almost comedic. This doesn’t affect his performance as Paul Henderson the actor, as the character is a bit of a ham. The real problem comes across when Mr. Pertwee is reacting to things happening to and around him. His facial expressions simply come across as funny faces and remove any feeling of horror from the moment. Whether this is attributed to a mistake on Mr. Pertwee’s part or the fault of bad direction, it causes the entire tale pulls away from the suspense and thrill of the earlier tales and ends the film on a light note.
It is rare to hear that Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee did not give strong performances and I won’t be starting that in this review. Both of them are excellent to watch here as they are in most of their films. Peter Cushing is paired with Joss Ackland (Lethal Weapon 2, White Mischief) and together they deliver fantastic dialogue and emotion as friends and older career men who regret the inability to win the affections of a mutual love interest. Christopher Lee as a widower with a young child to raise is both stern and domineering which was needed for the character.
The actresses of the film Joanna Dunham (The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Hour of the Pig) and Nyree Dawn Porter (Jane Eyre, From Beyond the Grave) give a nice variety to their parts. Miss Dunham plays the wife to Denholm Elliott’s character in the film’s first tale. She portrays the wife as concerned and supportive, but with a certain expectation of life that slips through occasionally. Her dynamic with Mr. Elliot gives the story it’s suspense and helps convince the audience of the questionable sanity of her husband. Miss Porter plays a school teacher and occasional caregiver to Christopher Lee’s character’s daughter. She does a great job as a counter to Lee’s rigidness in regards to his daughter again helping build the atmosphere of the story.
I think the only drawback to this film as with many others is time. For a modern general audience, this film may come across as stale. It’s special effects while decent for their time, have not aged well and lack the punch that modern audiences are used to in horror. The stories may also be considered fun, but predictable. However, for the fans of classic films, whether horror or not, this movie will be a treat. Its star-studded cast and atmosphere will transport them to a time when horror was more taboo and innocent than today and for that, it is still a good film. The House That Dripped Blood is a strong addition to your classic horror collection. So sit back in the comfort of your couch, enjoy the film, and save me some popcorn!
I may just be the right kind of person to be the house’s next tenant…