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Like some others who've seen this film as children, I have fond memories of Two On a Guillotine when it played as a Friday night movie on network TV in the mid-1960s. The sight of a lifeless Cesar Romero being lowered into a grave in a glass coffin at the beginning sets the spooky tone for the rest of the story. His character, a famous magician, promised to one day perform his greatest feat of all by returning from the dead. His wife (identical to his daughter) died some years before when he botched the guillotine trick she was assisting with. Without giving anything away, a lot of the suspense is built on the anticipation of his re-materializing at any time, to the horror of his daughter. This is a movie which has many of the elements necessary for genuine horror. No spilled guts, no splatter. It works on a neater, more effective plane.
I don't understand the low rating on this film at all. Although I can
understand why people would be skeptical about a horror film starring
Connie Stevens and Walt Disney leading man Dean Jones, these two really
click in this one. John Harley 'Duke' Duquesne (Cesar Romero) is a
magician whose wife (Connie Stevens in a dual role as wife
Melinda/daughter Cassie twenty years later) is part of the act.
Daughter Cassie has been living with an aunt that does not approve of
her show-business parents ever since her mother disappeared when she
was two. Neither father nor mother have ever tried to contact her in
all of these years, and then one day she is notified of her father's
death and comes to the funeral.
Thus Cassie returns to L.A. first for the funeral and then to take up residence in her father's mansion for a week, which is a condition of his will in which he promises to rise from the grave within that time. If he does not, Cassie is free to move out and take possession of her inheritance. In the meantime, reporter Val Henderson (Dean Jones) has taken an interest in the story and in Cassie. Complicating matters is the fact that if Cassie for any reason leaves the mansion between midnight and dawn during these seven days then her former nursemaid and her father's long-time care-taker and her father's former agent get to split the fortune instead. Let me also mention that the fact that Duquesne retired from show business twenty years before has left the two indigent. So when Cassie starts hearing and seeing things in the wee hours, is this Duke back from the dead, is it the two secondary heirs trying to drive her out of the mansion, or something else entirely? Watch and find out.
The big creepy mansion is full of tricks and traps that somewhat presage the ending, and then there's the movie's score that is about the creepiest thing I've ever heard, aptly done by Max Steiner. Take it from me, this is no mediocre six star horror film.
Connie Stevens once again shows what a fine, natural actress she is, here playing a young lass from Wisconsin who must spend seven nights in her late father's house of horrors before she can receive her inheritance; Dean Jones plays a reporter who smells a story and befriends the easily-spooked girl. Terrific second-biller from Warner Bros., ostensibly aimed at kids ("Attention Guillotine-agers!") yet bolstered by a very strong script with nice attention to dialogue. The movie has good effects, funny/spooky scenario, and surprising chemistry between the two leads. Stevens is very good, especially in the prologue playing her own character's uptight mother. It all comes to a commendable ending, thanks to a very clever...EXECUTION! *** from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Years ago I taped this story off of TBS. As a collector, I am glad I
did because this is a very rare film. Shot in 1964 by Warner Brothers
and released in 1965, most reference books do not even mention it.
Unless I am mistaken, it is out of print. (NOTE: a friend informed me
after reading this that Two On a Guillotine is avaialbale on eBay)If
anyone sees it in a video store, please let me know.
That's the bad news. The good news is that it is probably not worth tracking down, unless you are a hard core collector like me and enjoy the thrill of the hunt.
Two on A Guillotine starred Dean Jones and Connie Stevens, with a small but important role for Caesar Romero and a most unusual cameo by John (Attack of the Puppet People, 1958) Hoyt. More on that a little bit later. Running time was 107 minutes and was done in B & W, at a time when B & W was being phased out.
At best, this is a two star film, but is easy and enjoyable viewing. There is nothing extraordinary about the plot. Old time magician Romero has passed away, leaving his daughter as the sole heir to his estate. The catch is that she has to spend one night in his creepy old mansion. (This plot was worn thin even in 1965). You guessed it, odd things begin to happen, and, thankfully, reporter/boyfriend Dean Jones is usually nearby to save the day. ***SPOILERS BEGIN HERE*** At film's end, he struggles with the not so dead Romero as daughter Stevens is locked into a deadly guillotine set up in one of the mansion's rooms. Seems that Dad had a tragic accident and beheaded his wife accidentally on this same machine years before, and the guilt has ruined his life. Romero wishes to atone for the previous tragedy, so he has promised his daughter that it will work properly "this time."
Does it work properly? Well, I don't want to give the plot away, but I will say that although she was beheaded, the story ends happily.
Two on a Guillotine has somewhat of a House on Haunted Hill (1959) feel to it, probably because it was done in B & W and shared the same era, being done only six years later. Interiors of the creepy house were well done, mood music is adequate, comic relief is better than average, (indeed, almost too good as it almost ruined the horror moments), and the magician's props were used to full advantage. One trick was of a dummy on a wire trundling down a high ceiling to scare Miss Stevens. I wonder if William Castle was a consultant on this film?
But the best and oddest part of the story was when the dead magician's will was read. It was read on-stage by John Hoyt (portraying the attorney) at the Hollywood Bowl in broad daylight! For readers who live in the Los Angeles area, there are some very fine location shots in and around the Hollywood Bowl. One gets an excellent view of what that area looked like 40 years ago.
This is a nice film to watch, I'm just afraid you will not be able to find it. Not even Sinister Cinema offers it, a bad sign for lovers of obscure film.
There is no gore, and the scary moments are hardly that by current standards, so this is one horror film that viewers of all ages and tastes can enjoy. You've not seen me recommend that before and probably will not again, so take advantage. Mom, Dad, kids, friends and relatives can enjoy this one together.
I hope you find it and that you do.
Okay, it's not as classic as "House on Haunted Hill", but it's close.
Dean Jones, one of the most unappreciated actors in Hollywood, does a nice turn as the newspaperman trying to romance Connie Stevens in her inherited old horror of a mansion. There's lots of visual tricks and screaming women and surprises behind opened doors, as Connie tries to spend 7 days in the house to fulfill her dead father's will. Connie plays a dual role of mother and daughter. There's also a magician's guillotine that figures prominently in the plot. Virginia Gregg and Parley Baer play the old family retainers; Virginia is great as usual as the alcoholic housekeeper.
This is a hard to find movie; no one lists it for sale, so your only chance of seeing it is to catch it on cable, more than likely late at night and in the summer. TBS and WGN have both shown it in the last few years, but they show it with several scenes cut out of it. I'd love to see this brought out in a restored widescreen version. It's a movie that's really fun to watch. UPDATE: Warner Archive now offers this film in a widescreen, restored DVD release, as of 6/22/10. Run over to their site and order it! The picture is sharp and clear, and appears to be uncut.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Two On A Guillotine" looks for all the world like a WiIliam Castle
spook epic, but it's not. Its actually a bit too mild to match up to
one of Mr C's works, which is saying something. However if you are a
fan of things like "House on Haunted Hill", you should enjoy this.
There's a very slim plot: perky Connie Stevens plays Cassie, called to the funeral and will-reading of her eccentric father who was a famous magician, although the two had been strangers for many years before his mysterious death. The will states that Cassie must spend 7 nights in her fathers mansion or lose the inheritance, which will instead to go two housekeepers. And as soon as she moves in spooky things start happening..will she be frightened into to leaving the house or clever enough to work out who is behind it?
Talk about the creakiest of old plots! There's really nothing in the plot to get excited about, although at least the script does not paint the characters as idiots - Cassie (and her protector/suitor) find out almost straight away that the spooky occurrences are being faked, so at least that's one plot twist out of the way. But who is doing it and why? Again, as I said, there's not much plot to go around and there are hardly any characters in the cast, so guessing the truth is not that hard.
However I still enjoyed the movie. It's nicely shot, in widescreen crisp black and white (well, mostly crisp, as focus goes off now and again), and the dialogue is entertaining. Soem shots are actually very stylish, and there's a pretty cool sequence set in a noisy nightclub that culminates in an embrace, which is set up very strangely, but I really liked how they did it. There's very little to actually scare you, although there is a bit of fun to be found in a couple of "body horror" effects (I'm trying not to reveal what they are!)
Curiously I've been seeking out kooky horror movies my whole life and had never even heard of this film until now (2014), which shows how hard to find it has been, Thankfully now released on the Warner Archive label, it;s a lovely looking print, and worth getting if you like not-too-serious 1960's chillers.
Fun, campy suspense/horror flick that fully satisfies, particularly if you don't take it too seriously. For continuity buffs note the sets in the foyer and library of Cesar Romero's house. Look familiar? Compare them with your copy of "My Fair Lady". No one ever said Jack Warner didn't know how to squeeze a nickel and recycle an expensive set!!
Not bad, lots of fun. Nice job by Dean Jones. I give it 6 stars Connie Stevens is very good and she looks great. Good movie for late at night. Nice to see the Joker out of makeup. Not too long, smart ending. Enjoy it.
This was one of my favorite movies when I was growing up. They just don't make movies like this anymore. I have been trying to find this movie on VHS or DVD for years, apparently it is not available to buy, which doesn't make any sense considering there are a ton of stupid movies out there by the billions and none of this one - which is one of the greatest movies ever! I really hope that Two On A Guillitine comes out on video really really soon, this movie mesmerized me when I was very young, it would be nice to go back to it again! It wasn't a gory type of movie, I am surprised it's considered a thriller actually. I never thought of it as scary. But it definitely should get a lot more credit, A LOT MORE!!!!
My Mom and I just watched this movie on DVD, not the greatest copy but very very viewable. some really good and creepy scenes that almost reminded me of the old black and white The Haunting. Also, there is a scene where the hero and girl are attending a 60's wild night club complete with Go Go girls in cages, I howled, but then the mood deepens as they stare at each other in lust, pure unadulterated lust. I was almost embarrassed for my dear sweet old Mom as the couple meet lips and violins swell and the camera swirls over them....it was truly a hitchcock moment. It was a long hot kiss and they end up horizontal. Worth the price of admission alone. I read one comment that there is no gore, HA! The opening scene where the magician pierces his wife on stage, plenty of blood and you see the sword goe thru her body! not for kiddies! To buy this movie on DVD, go to ioffer.com, click on movies and television and type in Two On A Guillotine. Look for the DVD cover with Romero's picture. It'll be a black and red cover. It is DVD and widescreen and excellent copy.
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