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Roy William Neill
Prof. Horatio Potter:
I shan't be able to go my dear. I must be at the museum. They're going to unwrap the mummy of Ramses the Fourth.
Mrs. Hyacinth Potter:
Listen, you worm: you'll be at Mr. Pren's house tomorrow night and forget all about Ramses the Fourth or I'll make a mummy out of Potter the First!
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An entertaining, but forgettable, dark house flick
Based on the play by Adam Shirk, 'House of Mystery' tells the tale of John Prendergast (Clay Clement), an archaeologist sent from his home country to seek the wisdom of the Hindu religion. While in Asia, John "accidentally" (read as "drunkenly") kills a sacred monkey at a Hindu temple and is soon exposed as a thief (in the future). His fate is then cursed, along with the fates of his descendants. Twenty years pass and the Curse of Kahli still follows him. The investors of his expedition have gathered together at his mansion to seek their share of the fortune that he earned, with the only demand being that the inheritors must remain in the old mansion long enough to claim their money. Unfortunately for all, anangry killer that may be a result of the curse is loose and out for blood.
Like many "dark house" horrors of the early twentieth century, 'House of Mystery' isn't a very complicated film. While it does have a deeper background to it than similar films (many of which feature a lost couple who stumble upon a decrepit manor without much more), the overall feel and style still remains in line with the others of its subgenre. In fact, there isn't much to separate 'House of Mystery' as being very special at all. That's not totally a bad thing, however. It's just one of those decades-old films that have been mostly forgotten because, well, it's fairly forgettable.
The story is entertaining enough (which is really what matters most in a film like this). I liked the backstory set in Asia and the progression to the "present" (i.e. the early 1930s). However, once it gets to the present, it loses the originality that was being built by the introduction and fades into the standard fare of this style of film. Nevertheless, it does remain quite enjoyable with a funny cast of characters and some interesting plot turns. Also, the old mansion is one of the better "dark house" settings I've seen and director William Nigh (who had an astounding 120 directorial credits to his name over his 34-year career including another "killer monkey"-themed film 'The Ape' starring Boris Karloff). Other than that, there isn't a whole lot more to say. The film comes in at a lightning-fast 62 minute runtime, making it worth the short investment for the entertainment value. Overall, fans of the "dark house" subgenre should give it a look as they'll find more enjoyment in it than others, but it's still a fun time regardless for anyone who wants to give it a go.
Final Verdict: 6.5/10.
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