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The House That Dripped Blood

1970

When building the Brit Horror hall of fame, it is unlikely that Amicus' House That Dripped Blood will feature particularly high in the architecture. Many see it as a sort of also-ran in the world of horror anthologies - better than Tales That Witness Madness or The Uncanny, but not a patch on From Beyond The Grave or Asylum.

This general feeling is probably due in no small part to Jon Pertwee's overriding presence in the publicity for the film. The craggy visage of everyone's second favourite Doctor Who is the first image that comes to mind from the film - although surprisingly he's hardly in it.

Yes, it's time for a major re-evaluation of HTDB. Pertwee's propensity for pulling daft faces and camping it up may be evident in many of the photos, but there's very little of that kind of stuff going on in his understated and (dare I say it) cool performance. When you add some cracking little stories, Cushing and Lee, and Ingrid Pitt looking better than she's ever done, you've surely got a top notch little film.

As usual with such things, you have a linking device bringing all the stories together. This time it's the titular house of the title (although it never actually drips blood). To be honest, the house itself seems almost defamed by such a supposed history - the place itself has very little to do with what goes on there. Why everyone's so convinced that there's "something strange about it" is anyone's guess. It's been put on the market by AJ Stoker and Co, and police inspector Holloway is looking for its last tenant, a temperamental film star by the name of Paul Henderson. As he investigates the case of the missing star, he's told (for no real reason other than plot expediency) about other creepy goings-on that have happened there...

Method For Murder

Young (?) couple Charles and Alice Hillier move in, obstensibly so he can write his latest horror novel. After finding a skull (nice) and a book called "The House Of Death", he remarks that "someone who lived here had literally tastes after my own heart".

The latest book is about a strangler called Dominic, who (unsurprisingly) soon starts turning up in real life, gurning at Charles (Denholm Elliot) from various shadowy places. This sequence is very effective, with Dominic's appearance played for complete shock value (well I was scared... oh, please yourselves).

Charles goes to see a psychiatrist and tells all, only to get the crappest advice ever: "It's not what I think... it's what you think," says the shrink. Well, that advice was worth the money. Is all what it seems? Well, as usual - no. But you'll have fun predicting the twisty turny ending.

Waxworks

Peter Cushing is Philip Grayson, confirmed batchelor (his lack of success with women probably due to his camp crevatte and cardigan combo), whose solitary life ("I'm used to being alone") is summed up in a brief montage - walking alone by a river, bumping into a couple, walking alone through a graveyard, you get the picture. Eventually his lonely wandering takes him to the local waxworks, where he admires the shoddy display (which makes The Torture Garden look almost impressive by comparison) before falling in love with the waxwork of Salome, which was modelled on some bird who killed a bloke with an axe and was murdered by "the state". Philip obviously doesn't get out much, as the new love of his life looks like a Girls World that's been attacked by a nut with a set of crayons and then left too long by the fire. Still, it takes all sorts.

He then undergoes a nightmare sequence which is reminiscent of Corruption but ruined by the inclusion of a comedy swannee whistle.

Despite being "used to being alone", Philip is then visited by equally camp friend (dig that hideous scarf) Neville, played by Joss Ackland. Philip and Neville share some history (and appear to be two halves of the same Manchester United player - badum-bish), as Neville tenderly tells Phil: "We could never have won her, Philip, either of us. We are not winners, you and I. Anyway, it was a long time ago. Now she's dead."

Of course it's not long before Nev's as obsessed about Salome as Phil, and it all ends in tears. But what it's got to do with the House (apart from the place being Phil's home) is anyone's guess...

Sweets To The Sweet

The next tenant is John Reed (a stately and morose Christopher Lee), who moves into the house and brings his daughter Jane with him. With mum not on the scene, he employs a tutor. But keeping the child occupied proves difficult, as dad won't let her play with other children or have any toys.

Even for one of Lee's characters, this one is a miserable sod. When toys are eventually allowed, he chucks a fit when he finds a doll and throws it onto the fire.

"That was a cruel thing to do!" complains Anna, the tutor.

"But necessary!" he barks, before going on to sensitively explain about his wife: "I was glad when she died, because by then I had found out what she was..."

Whatever's going on within this happy little domestic threesome, it's bound to end in tears. Jane is scared, but not half as scared as her father. And he finally loses it when, during a power cut, he finds that most of the candles are gone, and then there's voodoo doll fun and games a -plenty...

"It wasn't the man, or the child, or what either of them believed that caused the tragedy, it was the house..." explains the estate agent out of nowhere - as if the filmmakers had suddenly realised that the House that supposedly Dripped Blood has been pretty much in the background for the whole film.

And so we get to the final, and most famous, segment, which is definitely not as camp and kitsch as you remember it.

The Cloak

Pertwee is a famous horror film star, who has a broad knowledge of his craft (he raises an eyebrow when told the estate agent's name is Stoker and his partner - Pitt - describes him as "pure gothic" at heart). He also cocks a snook at Amicus' preceived competition at the time (Hammer, obviously), saying: "That is what is wrong with your present-day horror films, no realism..." and adding about his favourites: "Dracula, the one with Bela Lugosi in, not that new fella..."

In his quest for wardrobe accuracy, he visits Geoffrey Bayldon's shop and tries on an authentic cloak, which immediately causes him to lose his reflection (careless) and start floating towards ceilings (oops).

After a brief spell of pure ham acting, when he does his trademark gurn for the camera before biting Pitt's neck, we get the obligatory twist ending, when it turns out all is not as it seems, vampire-wise.

"We loved your films so much we wanted you to become one of us... welcome to the club!"

So we come to the end of the film, and the nonplussed policeman, not believing a word of it, is asked whether he's fathomed the secret of the house yet. Nope, neither have we. Unfortunately, we then get a ludicrous speeded-up ending and a rather too-quick despatching of a fanged Mr Pertwee.

But the question still remains - is it any good? Well, perhaps this sums it up better than I ever could. On viewing it, the BBFC gave it a tame "A" rating, meaning that anyone could see it. This was changed, at the insistence of the horrified distributors, to an "X" without any alterations at all. The House That Dripped Blood is okay, and it has it's moments (notably in the Dominic section), but it's only really okay - despite it's stellar cast.

The House That Dripped Blood (1970)

Director: Peter Duffell Writer(s): Robert Bloch, Russ Jones (segment "Waxworks"), Richard Matheson (story Sweets to the Sweet)

Cast: John Bryans - A.J. Stoker, John Bennett - Superintendent Holloway, John Malcolm - Sergeant Martin, Denholm Elliott - Charles Hillyer (segment "Method for Murder"), Joanna Dunham - Alice Hillyer (segment "Method for Murder"), Robert Lang - Dr. Andrews (segment "Method for Murder"), Tom Adams - Richard/Dominic (segment "Method for Murder"), Peter Cushing - Philip Grayson (segment "Waxworks"), Joss Ackland - Neville Rogers (segment "Waxworks"), Wolfe Morris - Waxworks Proprietor (segment "Waxworks"), Christopher Lee - John Reid (segment "Sweets to the Sweet"), Chloe Franks - Jane Reid (segment "Sweets to the Sweet"), Nyree Dawn Porter - Ann Norton (segment "Sweets to the Sweet"), Jon Pertwee - Paul Henderson (segment "The Cloak"), Ingrid Pitt - Carla Lynde (segment "The Cloak"), Geoffrey Bayldon - Theo von Hartmann (segment 'The Clock'), Richard Coe, Roy Evans - Hunchback, Carleton Hobbs, Bernard Hopkins, Joanna Lumley, Jonathan Lynn, Hugh Manning, Winifred Sabine

 

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