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Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • Five strangers board a train and are joined by a mysterious fortune teller who offers to read their Tarot cards. Five separate stories unfold: An architect returns to his ancestral home to find a werewolf out for revenge; a doctor suspects his new wife is a vampire; an intelligent vine takes over a house; a jazz musician plagiarizes music from a voodoo ceremony; a pompous art critic is pursued by a disembodied hand.

  • Five passengers are in a cabin of the train to Bradley, when a sixth one asks whether he may join them in their cabin. He introduces himself as the tarot cards reader Dr. Schreck, a.k.a. Dr. Terror, who can tell the future of those who tap his cards deck three times. The first passenger to tap is the architect Jim Dawson, who is traveling to an island to renovate the house that belonged to his family that Mrs. Deirdre Biddulph bought from him. He will learn that there is a werewolf in the house. Bill Rogers, who is traveling on vacation to meet his wife and daughter, taps the deck and learns that an intelligent creeper vine will threat their lives at his summer house. Then the musician Biff Bailey taps the deck and learns that he will bring a voodoo song from his tour in Caribe with creepy consequences. Then the snobbish and arrogant art critic Franklyn Marsh learns that the artist Eric Landor will expose his arrogance and Franklyn will revenge with tragic consequences. Last, Dr. Bob Carroll taps the deck and learns that he will discover a secret about his fiancee Nicolle Carroll, who has just moved to a small town in New England to live with him, and his colleague Dr. Blake. Further, they find their fate and who the mysterious fortune teller Dr. Terror is.

  • Aboard a British train, mysterious fortune teller Dr. Schreck uses tarot cards to read the futures of five fellow passengers.

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Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Five strangers board a train and are joined by a mysterious fortune teller [Peter Cushing] who offers to read their Tarot cards. Five separate stories unfold: An architect returns to his ancestoral home to find a werewolf out for revenge; a doctor discovers his new wife is a vampire; a huge plant takes over a house; a musician gets involved with voodoo; an art critic is pursued by a disembodied hand. By the end, the train riders learn of their true fates in one of the best twists in cinematic history.

    In "The Vampire" segment, Dr Bob Carroll [Donald Sutherland] draws the Empress, the Hermit, the Star, and the Lovers. His story reveals him marrying a French girl, Nicole [Jennifer Jane]. Upon moving into their new house, Bob cuts his finger and Nicole sucks the blood. At night, she stares out the window at the stars. One morning, Bob and his associate Dr Blake [Max Adrian], examine a boy with anemia and two wounds on neck. Blake suggests that there is a vampire around. That night, Nicole goes to Blake and, as a bat, attempts to bite him. He throws his arms into a cross and she flies away. Next day, the boy is worse. Blake spends the night with him and shoots at a bat. Nicole wakens Bob; she has bloody fingers and claims she cut herself on window. Blake tells Bob that his wife is vampire and he must kill her with a stake. He does so. Police come. Blake denies ever saying such a thing. As Bob is taken away, Blake says, "This town isn't big enough for two doctors...or two vampires," whereupon Blake turns into a bat and flies away. [Synopsis by bj_kuehl]

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    KrystelClaire's synopsis:

    We begin with the 7:55 train for Bradley. Five very different gentlemen coincide in a coach. One of them is a weirdly mysterious tarot reader Dr Shreck (Peter Cushing), who seems to be checking his company. The initials in his briefcase read W. R. S.. Its contents fall to the floor, and Dr Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland) wonders at the strange cards. Dr Shreck is a doctor in Metaphysics, and his surname means "terror", so he is the Dr Terror of the title. He says that he sometimes predicts horrible things, although he's an amiable person. These tarot cards predict the natural and the supranatural, and he Shreck calls them his "house of horrors". In spite of some of the disbelief, one of them decides to give it a go. After all, if it can't be changed it's better to know. Dr Terror tells him that he is a courageous man, and tells him to touch the tarot cards three times. Dr Terror shows four cards.

    Tale 1: Wereworlf

    Mr Tod Callaghan (Edward Underdown)'s office. There are to architects in that office, him and Jim "Jamie" Dawson (Neil McCallum) and Mrs. Deirdre Biddulph (Ursula Howells) wants to make some structural changes to her new house. A hansom carriage takes him to the mansion. It's a misty night. Caleb (Peter Madden) welcomes Mr Jamie. Valda (Katy Wild) opens the door - she's Caleb's grandchild. They three used to know each other from childhood. Jim's family used to live there for centuries before, until they had to sell it. Deirdre used to be a doctor's wife, but now as a widow she's still beautiful. She wants to demolish a wall to create a bigger ballroom. She had suffered a nervous breakdown at her husband's funeral; he used to be an archaeologist, and she wants to make a museum in his honour.

    Jim hears an owl which interrupts their conversation, but can't see anything. Valda seems to be spying on him all the time. Caleb didn't grease a door to the basement. He notices scratches on a wall. There's a hidden room behind that plaster wall. Caleb says it's Cosmo Waldemar's coffin. Cosmo allegedly said that the Dawsons stole the mansion from him, and that one of them would take his place in his coffin; But that happened 200 years ago. In spite of that, the plaster looked new. They can't open the coffin, so they go to find another tool. Immediately, the coffin opens from the inside. The basement door is open and there are footprints on the floor but Deirdre didn't see anything leave the home.

    Valda leaves a note for Jim saying that she wants to talk with him. Caleb finds her immediately, dead. There are bloodstains which lead to the basement. Jim follows them to Cosmo's coffin. Jim tells Deirdre to lock herself in her bedroom. Jim will use a silver crucifix to make silver bullets for the gun which Caleb is going to lend to him. Deirdre is reading, and she is attacked by a wolf. Jim shoots it, but it runs away.

    It's Deirdre who's dangerous. Cosmo will live again when a descendant of the man who killed him will be in the coffin. She is Cosmo Waldemar's widow and has been loyal to him for 200 years.

    The fifth card is DEATH. Jim is nervous, because he's going to that same place. Mr Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee) is very cynic about it all, as he thinks that Dr Terror is just a smooth operator. He thinks that Dr Terror knew his name because he's a renown art critic. Another one says that he's never heard of him.

    Another candidate is Bill Rogers (Alan Freeman). Now he's going on a holiday with his wife and daughter, but when he returns...

    Tale 2: Creeping Vine

    Bill, Carol (Phoebe Nicholls) and Ann (Ann Bell) return home. The latter notices a new plant and tells Bill to kill it off before it affects her flowers. Bill can't cut the plant, and it looks like it screamed. Jerry Drake (Jeremy Kemp) is a botanist who's going to check it out. Carol plays with Rusty, the dog, and a ball. She goes to have tea, and leaves Rusty to pick up a small playball next to the plant. The plant kills Rusty, which was messing with the soil all over the place. Hopkins (Bernard Lee) makes a study about vegetable life; it must be a mutation which has given the plant some intelligence to protect themselves. They think it's a fantasy, but a plant like that could take on the world.

    Under the microscope, a brain is found in one of the plants. Carol won't play in the yard without Rusty. The plant attacks Jerry and strangles him. The vine cuts the phone wire and doesn't let anyone out. Ann holds Carol. The vine is all over the windows. Hopkins realises that the vine is afraid of fire when it tries to get away from a match he lights. Hopkins uses that to leave the home and call for help. However, the vine kills him and learns to put the fire out.

    Dr Horror has as the fifth card death's again. Marsh isn't courageous enough to touch the cards three times.

    Tale 3: Voodoo

    Wally (Russ Henderson) is a musician at a band; he plays the trumpet. The agent, Roy Shine (Harold Lang) sends him to Dupont, in the West Indies, where he'll play at the Flamingo. Sammy Coin (Kenny Lynch) is leaving, and the band is his replacement. The cigarette lady (Valerie St. Clair) has a huge weird ring. Everybody stares at Biff Bailey (Roy Castle) who is mocking voodoo. Sammy tells him not to mess with it, but Biff won't pay attention, and he sees the ritual. Cigarette girl is there, dancing and having a fit. Biff doesn't real that he's been surrounded by male dancers. Vrim (Christopher Carlos) is furious that Biff has written the music of the god Dambala (Thomas Baptiste). Vrim pushes Biff away. Biff says that he'll record the song when he's back in London. He's not afraid of Dambala, but at that moment the balustrade breaks under him, and he falls to a pond.

    Back in London, a musician (Tubby Hayes) tells him to be careful messing with voodoo. Biff and his band play a tune based on the voodoo rhythm. There's an image of Dambala as well. The breeze becomes wind, windows open, it becomes night, customers start to leave and panic spreads. The owner decides to do up all the place again when he collects on insurance. Tubby advises Biff not to take Dambala or the score home. Biff is nervous and falls to the floor. There is a commercial for Dr Terror's House of Horrors .

    Biff arrives home, where he lives alone. The window closes because of the wind, the lights turn themselves out and Dambala picks the score from his voodoo song from the fainting Biff. He leaves while Biff is still on the floor. Biff wants to see his fifth card, and sees that it's the death.

    Tale 4: Disembodied Hand

    Franklyn Marsh says that Eric Landor (Michael Gough)'s painting is remarkable... because it's an atrocity. A group of spectators. a Lady (Faith Kent) tells Landor of what's happening. The painter goes out to talk to Marsh and question his authority to judge his black-and-white abstract etchings. The lady brings out a colourful painting, whom Marsh praises to no end: the balance, the colour, the brushwork, the humour of the whole composition. Landor shows him and the audience who painted everything: it was a monkey dressed in overalls and a navy t-shirt. A spectator (Pauline Chamberlain) laughs with a shrill voice.

    At a formal dinner, a toastmaster (Frank Forsyth) introduces Marsh, who has to give a speech, but Landor shows him cutouts of a monkey, and that makes Franklyn feel dizzy. In another exhibition, Landon inquiries about Marsh's opinions. Landon scares him away just for standing by his side. Marsh runs over Landor in purpose. At hospital, a nurse (Judy Cornwell) tells the surgeon that the patient is Eric Landor, the artist. The surgeon says "not anymore". The newscast announces that Landor is at St Michael's hospital, still unconscious. Eric Landor wakes up to find that his right hand is missing.

    Franklyn tells workpal George (Brian Hawkins) at the newspaper that he can't concentrate, and doesn't want to go for a drink. Eric Landor commits suicide because his professional life is over.

    A hand crawls behind Franklyn Marsh while he's driving. The hand attacks him but Marsh throws it out of the window. He gets home feeling very distressed. There are some knocks on the door, but nobody outside number 27. Marsh locks himself in without realising that the hand has crawled in. He tries to get his shit together until he feels the hand is grabbing one of his legs. He puts the dusty hand on the bonfire of his fireplace.

    The following day, the darkened hand crawls into his office and gets up into his table; then, it jumps to his neck to strangle it. Marsh uses a letter opener to stab the hand several times, and put it into a box. He wraps the box into a packet and throws it into a river. George and Franklyn drink at a pub. Another friend (John Martin) congratulates Franklyn in solving whatever problem was affecting him. It's a dark, rainy night when Franklyn leaves home, driving.

    Suddenly, the hand appears outside the windscreen holding onto a wiper. Franklyn's so startled that he steers like a madman and has a car accident. When the police and the ambulance arrive, a man (Walter Sparrow) comments that Franklyn won't die, but that he'll be blind forever. He comments that there are many things which a blind man can still do.

    The Franklyn Marsh in the train is startled about the story although he doesn't want to admit it. Dr Terror picks the death card again when he's questioned how to prevent this from happening.

    Tale 5: Vampire

    Dr Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland) cuts himself with a can opener. Nicolle (Jennifer Jayne), his wife, doesn't want him to tend to the small wound, but kisses and sucks on it. That night, there is a bat outside.

    Bob feels tired and is waiting for Dr. Blake (Max Adrian), whom he works with in a clinic. She can take his car because Blake will drive Bob to work anyway. There, a boy called Johnny Barry (Frank Barry), feels week and has little blood. His mother, Mrs Ellis (Irene Richmond) said that it began suddenly. Blake comments like it looks as if a vampire has attacked Johnny while the nurse (Laurie Leigh) takes Johnny away. Bob mocks the notion in front of Nicholle, who takes things in her own hands. Blake pretends to leave and then follows Nicholle up the stairs. Suddenly, a huge bat appears out of nowhere. He tells Bob that the bat didn't attack him because he did the sign of the cross with this arms.

    Blake wants to accompany Johnny while he sleeps with his window open, as he's seen two punctures in his neck. The bat appears and he shoots it.

    Bob wakes up and sees Nicholle who says that she's caught her hand when was about to close the window. Blake wants to put a wooden stick in Nicholle's heart, or, more precisely, he wants Bob to do it, as it'd be easier to do it. He notices the bat returning through the window and then Nicholle is there. Bob pretends to be sleeping, but says "I love you" to her.

    Cut to a police car with its sirens on. A detective (Al Mulock) listens to Bob's story with incredulity. Bob tells him that Dr Blake will confirm his story; but when he enters, he says it's a ridiculous excuse for having committed murder. Bob insists that he told him; Blake doesn't acknowledge to have been attacked. Bob is arrested on the spot. Blake stays behind and he says that the town is too small for two doctors... or two vampires.

    Dr Terror shows him his fifth card: death.

    Dr Terror touches the cards three times. He picks one and it's death as well. They realise that it's the train, which is going to have an accident. Marsh interrogates Dr Terror, asking who he is. He vanishes when they go through a dark tunnel.

    The five gentlemen are very satisfied: they have reached their destination without accidents. They get off, but the foggy atmosphere and void town looks unnatural. A used newspaper appears taken by the wind: TRAIN CRASHES - FIVE DEAD. They stare at each other.

    Dr Schreck is Death himself, and he shows himself as a skull in a robe.

    The five gentlemen walk slowly after Dr Schreck.

    ---written by KrystelClaire

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