For everyone seeing the title, it likely brings smiles and excitement to any horror fan that covering it as an anniversary article and review, noting its 50th, a true testament to the enduring craftsman and artistic manner present on the screen shining the essence of classic gothic horror. The film comes from the legendary Amicus Productions, namely producers Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky who put a series of anthology movies together from 1965 to 1973, that were very macabre and contain underlining both moral and mortality consequences. These features would serve as the baseline, serving exceptionally well and proving these classics so rich in design stood the test of time with a loyal cult following base.

While Subotsky had penned one of their first anthology film Dr Terror’s House of Horrors [1965] he stepped aside for a true horror author and writer Robert Bloch, most known for his novel Psycho; which inspired the movie of the same name, and had successfully delivered multiple anthology screenplays to Amicus for movies entitled Torture Garden [1967] and Asylum [1972]. Bloch’s style was more sinister and contained darker tones that harkened back to strong gothic storylines. However, he also became contributor to three other features The Skull [1965], The Psychopath [1966], and The Deadly Bees [1966]. Nevertheless, for these four tales Bloch wasn’t the only writer he was accompanied by Russ Jones, for the “Waxworks” story and the incredibly talented Richard Matheson with “Sweets For The Sweet”; they each created solid stories with good characters and chilling macabre. Shockingly, the studio chose a director with no horror movie experience that was Peter Duffel, who never again directed a feature in the horror vein. Cinerama Releasing distributed the film via UK and USA in 1971, but since then other countries welcomed the movie to a larger audience; with Scream Factory using a Blu-ray in 2018.

As anyone who has seen an anthology movie knows, the stories contained within, may not appeal to all equally, nonetheless this movie does include a dynamic duo, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, though they star in two different stories. The major difference from other films of this type is that one director handles all the tales, and it is all primarily centered on just one house, Yew Tree House, which actually a lodge structure on the backlot of Shepperton Studios. A final note the film serves a dual purpose while obvious for entertainment there’s some of hidden references to the horror genre, from films and books that came before it, and other filmmakers have used since then.
It all begins with a very famous actor, Paul Henderson (John Pertwee), of the horror genre has vanished without a trace, likely called by growing concern from the studio Scotland Yard sends Detective Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) to assist the local police in their investigation, this begins the wraparound story also known as for this film “Framework”.  He visits the infamous house, noting the gates are chained, then ventures to meet with Sergeant Martin (John Malcolm) of the precinct who believes the problem lies with the house he was renting, and begins to explain about previous renters of the house; this leads into the opening story which the local constable believes that the problem is the house Henderson was renting.  “Method For Murder” is the first story, in which author Charles (Denholm Elliott) and his wife Alice Hillyer (Joanna Dunham), are house hunting for a place where he finds inspiration for his next horror novel filled with gruesome murderous intent and mystery. Set design is absolutely divine, a bookshelf with many curious topics including a book from Poe and another entitled House of Death, a precursor of what this structure holds. Our author invents a deranged killer, Dominic and feels as the story progresses that his sanity has crumbled, as he starts to see him in his own reality. His wife fears Charles, demands he seek help, hence venture to see a Psychiatrist (Robert Lang (The Medusa Touch [1978])), but as the true horror reveals itself, and the blurred lines of fantasy become focus for all to witness. The second episode is entitled “Waxworks” which stars one of the fan favorites of the horror genre, Peter Cushing (Dracula A.D. [1972]) as Philip Grayson, a retired wealthy financial broker, who seems to find himself all alone at the same house; recalling a lost love, which he sacrificed for his career, now partaking in the pleasure of reading, music indulgence, peaceful strolls.  As we watch one hears the beloved classical piece of music Franz Schubert, the movement, Allegro, for the Strig Quartet #14, also known as Death and the Maiden, which is the original title the director wanted for the film but was denied. Therefore, this is a very subtle self-nod to what he intended for his film. Philip one day is strolling through a nearby village and on a whim or perhaps fate, he enters a wax museum and walking through it he encounters his lost love, which he learns was the owner’s wife. The proprietor (Wolfe Morris (The Abominable Snowman [1957])) informs that all men that enter become mesmerized, and fascinated but the beauty of the piece, while making a subtle nod to House of Wax [1953] with a line reference. Neville (Joss Ackland) a friend of Philip visits and too learns that the enjoyment of tour and observance of art has deadly consequences. This story ranks a tad slower to develop, but well worth the time, as it’s wonderfully executed, especially the dream portion, heightens the quality rarely seen in anthology stories. Of course, must note Cushing nails the role extremely well, portrayed a bored businessman with precision from merely his body language and facial expressions. A side note. he tried to remove himself from the role, as his cherished wife Helen was very ill, and he didn’t want to be away from her for too long.

 

Following up on Cushing’s performance is his good friend Christopher Lee (Count Dracula [1970]) in the third storyline called “Sweets For The Sweet” where he stars as widower John Reid who also moves in the same home, with his unusual daughter Jane wonderfully acted by Chloe Franks. He also hires a tutor Ann Norton (Nyree Dawn Porter (From Beyond the Grave [1974])) for his daughter, as she is forbidden to attend school, no socializing with anyone and strangely enough she’s also disallowed any toys. Her father rules with an iron fist, while Ann works to help Jane overcome her shyness, her fear of fire and aiding her to become passionate about reading. However, all doesn’t work out well for Jane honoring her father’s wishes, and it is a painful lesson especially since her mother had skillful powers of witchcraft that she’s inherited and her lessons of reading pay-off in a grandiose fashion all beautifully captured. While Lee captures almost scene he’s in, with his commanding presence, Franks (Tales from the Crypt [1972]), equally up to the task to delivering an unnerving role. The fourth and final segment is called “The Cloak”, some mistakenly stated that Vincent Price rejected the title character in this segment, however, that is incorrect he was under an exclusive contract with AIP (American International Pictures) prevented from doing the role. Hence it was offered to Jon Pertwee (Carry on Screaming [1966]) who portrayed an arrogant Paul Henderson, who is starring in low budget horror movie, in a semi-comedic meets exaggerated role. Paul strives through the sets, poking literal holes in the cheap designs, and poor representations of costume, and goes on to name a few classics of Frankenstein [1931] Dracula [1931] and others note their exceptional appearances. This likely to be a true treasure for filmmaking fans, seeing the tribulations of set problems, associated with egomaniacal actors.  Prompting him to travel to a mysterious antique store for a proper cloak for a regal vampire, except this one has a curse attached to it. After his first encounter while wearing the cloak, which obviously scares Paul, he immediately reads several books on the subject, namely “The Vampire: His Kith and Kin” by Montague Summers; as well as other novels with only of them a fake one, which – well I’m not telling. There some quality effects deploy which work to enhance the conflict between Paul and his co-star Carla (Ingrid Pitt (The Vampire Lovers [1970])), but overall, it’s delicious fun tale the anymore details about it might only ruin the enjoyment.

First, many might have overlooked when they saw the film, there’s no blood that dripped throughout the film, I know shocking especially with that title. Some might notice that the realty company is named Stoker, after the famed author Bram with the same name, just another reference for the keen horror fans. Some do consider the wraparound story is a bit unnecessary, however it does work especially since the stories all take place in the same location, and with one director reinforcing on theme and technique used without the sweeping varied stylization found today in so many anthologies. Now some trivia items as previously promised, for the Lord of the Rings fans, Lee who was a huge fan, is seen reading the J.R.R. Tolkien novel. Meanwhile for those fans of sets and locations here’s something for you, “Waxworks” and the antique shop in “The Cloak” are one and the same with only the set pieces changed, in other words saving time and set construction on a very limited budget. In addition, those interested in history, should note that the anthology genre actually originated primarily with Dead of Night [1945], by Ealing Studios and used four different directors. One last little note for those you have a growing library of gothic and horror genre books during the opening titles of the movie show a skull sitting on top of a hardcover copy of Lotte Eisner’s “The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt”. However, one can’t omit discussion some members of the crew, first the art director Tony Curtis, who worked to make the stage sets look very realistic which he later would lend to the similar thing to with other Amicus productions such as Asylum [1972] and Madhouse [1974]. He took the time to rework the ‘Waxworks” from a fearful layout to then a curiosity abound design with “The Cloak” and speaking of the last story in the film, making a fake set look poor inside and on a real movie set. Then there’s the crafty cinematographer Ray Parslow, worked within the set design/art direction of Curtis and equally well with director Duffel. He used his keen talents with camera angles, deploying both zoom and the fish-eyed lenses for the “Waxworks” story, namely the dream sequence and incorporated different sharp lighting tones. He also used almost every visual trick that was available at the time to create a nightmarish scenario, which later worked seamlessly with the sound effects department.
The film does work effectively, and is still memorable all these years later, even though the wraparound story is a little weak it strives forward thanks to the great cast and talented crew. Simply The House That Dripped Blood should be included in any cinema and especially the horror fans’ collection, with a runtime of 101-minutes and four macabre stories gives the delights and entertainment to those who value of classic horror meeting a haunted house.

TAGLINES:

  • Vampires! Voodoo! Vixens! Victims!
  • The horror classic for the first time on DVD! (DVD release)
  • TERROR waits for you in every room in The House That Dripped Blood
  • From The author of Psycho!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065854/

IMDb Rating: 6.6/10

Baron’s rating: 7.0/10

Follows: 

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors [1965]

The Psychopath [1966]

Torture Garden [1967]

Followed by: 

Tales from the Crypt [1972]

Asylum [1972]

The Vault of Horror [1973]

From Beyond the Grave [1974]

The Monster Club [1981]