Dr Terror's House Of Horror

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  1. Dave

    Dave Pimp

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    [​IMG] Reviewer: rkellner
    Review Date: October 9, 2016

    Released by: Olive Films
    Release date: 10/27/2015
    Progressive Scan
    Codec: AVC, 1080p
    Widescreen 2.35:1
    1965

    The Story

    A train pulls out of the station on a dreary night. Christopher Lee, a scruffy and thick accented Peter Cushing, a young Donald Sutherland…and a couple other gentlemen I don’t recognize on sight occupy a cramped passenger car. Peter Cushing as Dr. Schreck (which is translated as “Dr. Terror”, get it?) starts to show his skeptical cabin mates the power of his mystical tarot cards (which he calls his “House of Horrors”, get it?). As he draws them in, he explains that each one of us in life has two different destinies, the natural and the supernatural. While we may not be able to know our natural destiny, the cards in his hand are attracted to each man’s own supernatural calling, the mysterious, the terrifying part of one’s destiny. In fact, the tarot cards can sometimes foretell and illuminate that part of one’s supernatural truth. One has to only tap the cards three times and cards will present one’s destiny.

    Thus the wraparound to each of the tales has been laid out fairly ingeniously and more logically than most of the anthology genre.

    (Writers note: each one of these anthology stories is so short that to describe the set up inevitably spoils “the twist!” to each one of them. IMDB is guilty of it, and I am probably going to do a bit of the same in order to review this movie).

    inline Image The first tale tells of an architect, Jim Dawson, played by Neil McCallum who gets called out on assignment to a desolate island to visit an attractive widow who has bought his family’s old childhood home and is looking to do some renovations following the death of her archaeologist husband. As Jim explores the old familiar house he discovers in the basement a new wall that has been put up to hide the coffin of Cosmo Waldemar, a 200 year old werewolf who had owned the house two centuries ago and vowed that he would return one day (interesting that Paul Naschy would take the moniker of Waldemar Daninsky for 13 movies to starting three years later). Without giving too much away, the first segment moves at breakneck pace and is a great way to get the film moving along, even at the expense of a great grand payoff.

    inline Image Tale two involves Bill, played by Alan Freeman coming back from vacation with his wife and daughter. Upon their return, he discovers a quickly growing odd vine has started to take over the outer facade his large home. However, when he tries to cut it down not only does it cry out, but the plant begins to resist his attacks. Things start to get serious and transcends home maintenance when the plant claims the life of a small dog. The local botanists are called in to give their expert opinion, including Bernard Lee who played “M” in numerous early Bond films, start to study the plant and come to the conclusion that “the plant that could take over the world!” Thus, the body count starts to rise as the plant turns malicious. Segment two kind of ends without much of a resolution, but it is a bit of a silly premise anyway, so onto the next!

    inline Image Segment three finds us following a jazz trumpeter, Biff Bailey, played by Roy Castle whose agent books the band at an imposing West Indies hotel. Upon getting there, they start to socialize with the females in the audience and quickly realize that all the women in the village bear the same face of a voodoo idol on their jewelry. This leads them to decide to check out some late night ceremonies that are occurring off the grid deep in the jungle. Always looking for that new hot sound, Biff takes note of the voodoo beat that is being played that night and brings the tune back to England. However, once he and his band play the voodoo jive in a local club, the paranoia starts to set in and things take a turn toward the supernatural. I rather liked this segment as it reminds me of elements of Curse of the Demon as it takes the notion of incantations and tribal voodoo rhythms seriously and not as camp. Roy Castle is particularly good in it as well.

    inline Image Segment four stars Christopher Lee as Franklin Marsh, an incendiary art critic and supernatural skeptic who has creative differences with a notable artist, Eric Landor played by Michael Gough (later noteworthy for playing Alfred in the 90’s Batman cycle as well as 200 or so other roles). However, after the critic is thoroughly humiliated by the artist Eric, Franklin runs him over with his car. Feel free to read whatever you want into the notion of writing a story where the critic and the artist feud. The accident results in Eric’s hand being severed, ending his career and leads to his eventual suicide. However, the hand then comes back to stalk Franklin for revenge! Fans of Evil Dead 2 will find much to love here as Christopher Lee is repeatedly assaulted by a slow moving, mechanized, creeping rubber hand. C’mon, how can this not be highly enjoyable?

    inline Image The last segment involves a steely Donald Sutherland, in first substantial movie role, as a pediatrician who ha recently married a mysterious woman. Soon after moving into their new home, cases of young boys with two puncture wounds on their neck start accumulating. For anyone who has seen a couple dozen horror movies, it doesn’t take a lot of deductive reasoning to figure out what is causing the outbreak. Fortunately, the senior physician not only knows medicine, but is a resident expert on vampires as well! However, his reasons for being so knowledgeable are only revealed at the end.

    Finally the wraparound segment concludes very strongly on a memorable ending, which is noteworthy for the fact that the wraparound segments are (almost) always the weak link in the horror anthology genre. Most of them are usually just a way of setting up the story, to facilitate the reason you are about to tell four or five unrelated tales, which usually leaves their finale as an afterthought. However in this case, the wraparound serves some strong narrative purpose and ends the anthology on a good but unsettling note. Granted, those who have seen numerous anthologies will no doubt see the final resolution coming as it has been used a fair amount of times, but for 1965, I may be hard pressed to come up with a use of this device before it.

    The direction on this is very strong and is helmed by Hammer favorite Freddie Francis, whose directorial output includes other Amicus anthologies, as well as Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, The Skull, The Deadly Bees, Paranoiac, etc. He would later focus on being a director of photography in the 80’s for small films like Glory, Cape Fear, Dune, Elephant Man, and Straight Story. He cut his teeth as a DP on classic horror tales like The Innocents as well.

    These tales were written by Milton Subotsky who would also contribute genre favorites as Horror Hotel (also with Christopher Lee), The Skull (also with Peter Cushing), Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror, and many of the anthology horror films of the time. In the 80’s he would also team up with Stephen King and produce films like Cat’s Eye, Maximum Overdrive, Sometimes They Come Back, and The Lawnmower Man. He has gone on record stating that his inspiration for penning this screenplay was the classic, but underseen Dead of Night (1945) which in my estimation is the granddaddy of anthology horror films, which also contains a best-of-genre wraparound tale! As a young screen writer in the 1940’s the penned many horror short stories, that by the time he hit Hollywood in the 60’s couldn’t really be developed into fully length films. So what do you do with them? Anthology horror movies. Ah ha!

    Concluding thoughts. It does not surprise me whatsoever that Amicus looked at what they had tapped into with Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and the concept of spinning off endless anthologies of short tales tied to one another by some loose concept of a storyteller. It allowed them to mine decades worth of good horror short stories that had a plot twist or conceit that really couldn’t be stretched to 90, but at 15 minutes, in rapid fashion, made for some good entertainment. They stacked the tarot deck for this maiden voyage into the uncharted anthology territory by casting Cushing and Lee, and bringing on Freddie Francis to direct it. After 50 years, its viewers may be a bit wiser to THE TWIST! but it does not diminish the final product of a strong set of anthology horror tales wrapped nicely with a bow with a beginning and ending segment, and competent, colorful horror direction. Highly recommended.

    Image Quality

    inline Image Pinewood Studio’s 4k HD restoration done on this title looks especially nice and was done. I believe that they also licensed this transfer to German company Wicked Visions Media as well for their superior European release (see notes on extras below). Colors, especially in segment three really look bright and vivid with strong visuals, and some good grain present. Granted, this won’t look as sharp as a new movie, but the image is nearly pristine. As a note, there seems to be at least one shot in segment three where the film has some vertical lines, but that may be from the original elements as it only effects a single angle of the scene. The film image is incredibly cinematic and has no dirt of damage whatsoever. Very impressive.

    Sound

    As I am finding, with these old films, the audio is the one part that seems not to translate as well with modern expectations. The DTS-HD 2.0 soundtrack here is good, but not exactly setting my speakers on fire. Everything is clear and moody, and Elisabeth Lutyen’s soundtrack comes across well, but this is far from demo material. Blame the source material methinks.

    Supplemental Material

    Extras? Bueller, Bueller? Nope. Not here.

    As a comparison I present to you the blu ray extras on the disk put out by Wicked Vision Media for the European market which supposedly contains the same Audio and Video elements. They stacked it with worthy extras.
    - Audio Commentary with Director Freddie Francis and Jonathan Sothcott
    - Second Audio Commentary with Uwe Sommerlad, Dr. Rolf Giesen (in German)
    - An unrestored HD version of the original theatrical German print, with one German audio track and no subtitles.
    - An hour-long documentary featuring rare production stills, film clips, and interviews with film experts and historians
    - Original post-production script (HD, in video form).
    - Original theatrical lobby card gallery.
    - Press photo gallery.
    - US Press photo gallery.
    - German press book.
    - German press advertising.
    - US Press book.
    - US Newspaper advertising.
    - A Gallery of various VHS and DVD covers.
    - An Amicus filmography, complete with movie posters.
    - A large collection of original international trailers, all in HD

    Final Thoughts

    It does not surprise me whatsoever that Amicus looked at what they had tapped into with Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and the concept of spinning off endless anthologies of short tales tied to one another by some loose concept of a storyteller. It allowed them to mine decades worth of good horror short stories that had a plot twist or conceit that really couldn’t be stretched to 90 minutes, but at 15 minutes, in rapid-fire fashion, it made for some good bankable entertainment. They stacked the tarot deck for this maiden voyage into the uncharted anthology territory by casting Cushing and Lee, and bringing on Freddie Francis to direct it. After 50 years, its viewers may be a bit wiser to THE TWIST! but it does not diminish the final product of a strong set of anthology horror tales wrapped nicely with a bow with a beginning and ending segment, and competent, colorful horror direction. It is however very disappointing that NONE of the extras from the European disk carried over to this release. Nonetheless, Highly Recommended for horror genre fans.

    Rating

    [​IMG] Movie A-

    Image Quality - A-

    Sound - B

    Supplements - N/A


    Technical Info.
    • Color
    • 1 Disc
    • DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
    Supplements
    • N/A
     

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