|Index||10 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Boris Karloff is Matthias Morteval, a dying, lonely old nut who lives
in Morhenge Mansion with some servants and tells his doctor friend,
"Don't try to doctor me, doctor! I'm disgustingly healthy!" He invites
his nieces and nephews to his home and warns them they may have
inherited a genetic disease that causes madness by "shrinking the
Morteval/Karloff ends up dying, and murderous "toys" (designed by his dead brother) start killing off the relatives. A mini cannon fires real bullets into a guys face, a life-sized knight in armor attacks with an axe and a dancing Sheik stabs people with a knife. One guy getting strangled makes some hilarious faces. At the end, Julissa and her boyfriend find Karloff is still alive and hiding out in the dungeon where steel gates seal off the room. He plays the recurring organ theme music (sort of a death rattle used for the killings), the brother's spirit starts talking ("The whole house will go with me!") and the mansion goes up in flames.
This senseless mess is too dark, boring and the stupid dialogue never matches the lips.
Felt mine was while watching this...but it seems that is the reason for
insanity running in the family in this film. Not that makes a lot of
sense anyway, as others have mentioned, this was one of Karloff's last
films and it's only his screen presence that lends it any credibility
at all. It's sad that all of the great legends of the horror films in
the sound era were eventually reduced to starring in low grade rubbish
like this. Marginally, Boris did get off slightly better than poor old
Bela Lugosi but not by much.
Boris does his best and give him credit for trying to hold this mess together. The strident background music doesn't help and distracts from any lucid moment. Apart from Boris, the rest of the Mexican cast are dubbed into some strange, clipped, English monotone that is reminiscent of the type used in porn films of the late seventies.
At a guess I think it's Edgar Allen Poe's 'House of Usher' that this is taken from but you'd be hard pressed to find a great deal of Poe in the finished article.
Still, there are far better films out there with Boris Karloff at his best, search them out and give this a wide berth, unless you want the curse of the 'shrinking brain' too!
"House Of Evil" aka "Dance Of Death" of 1968 is the first of four
infamous and odd last movies starring the great Boris Karloff and
directed by Jack Hill and Juan Ibánez. Unlike "Snake People" (1971),
"The Incredible Invasion" (also 1971) and "The Fear Chamber" (1972)
which were all released after Karloff's death in 1969, "House Of Evil"
was released in 1968, when Karloff was still alive. "House Of Evil" is
regarded by many as the worst of these four movies, which are without
doubt all rather crappy, but definitely have their entertainment value
as the unintentional comedies they are. I personally prefer "The Fear
Chamber" and "House Of Evil" over the other two, simply for the reason
that the lack of the slightest logic is even more extreme, and since
there is no suspense whatsoever in any of the movies, the lack of logic
increases the unintentional fun factor.
The odd story (I don't know if I can really call it a 'plot') is set somewhere in Europe in the 19th century. After some girls are murdered and found with their eyes ripped out, Mathias Morteval (Karloff), an enthusiastic organ player, invites his few remaining relatives to his bizarre mansion, which is full of eerie toys. His kinfolk includes Lucy Durant (Julissa), who is engaged to one of the police inspectors investigating the murders.
I won't give away more of the story, but I can assure you that it is quite bizarre throughout the movie. There are some very funny moments, especially some things Karloff's character says. Boris Karloff was without any doubt one of the most brilliant and important icons of the Horror genre who ever lived, and he manages to award this odd movie with a tiny bit of his greatness, and although (or because) his role is (due to a poor script and and directing) in no way scary, it looks like he deliberately plays it with a sense of humor. Just like in the movie's successors "Snake People" and "The Fear Chamber", the female lead is once again played by Julissa.
Most of he supporting performances are hilariously amateurish, the cinematography is terrible and the locations and sceneries are beneath contempt. The storyline lacks the least bit of logic and the dialogue often does not make the slightest sense. It is the poor story and dialogue, however, that makes this movie so entertaining to watch. "House Of Evil" may be an extremely crappy attempt of a movie, but it is certainly as (unintentionally) funny as it is bad. Fans of Ed Wood's movies should be very amused, I personally found it hilarious. Crappy but entertaining nevertheless, and definitely worth watching since there's Boris Karloff in it and due to the fun factor. 3/10
House of Evil has just one thing going for it, Boris Karloff. One of those actors who always gave his all regardless of the film and material, Karloff's performance is sprightly and dignified, never less than convincing. Unfortunately it is one such performance that deserved a much better film. Nothing else works and any other Karloff film yet to be seen by me has to be really, really bad to be worse than House of Evil. The film is pure tack visually, the sets don't convince at all in Gothic atmosphere and the photography is just slipshod. The dialogue is wretched, a lot of it is ridiculous and senseless and everybody visibly looks awkward saying it. Don't look for a coherent story either, it's instead incredibly dull(not helped by that some scenes are too talky), devoid of thrills, suspense or creepiness and has unintentional humour, mainly because of how bad the dialogue is and how cheesy the deaths are. Let's not forget the music either, shrill, strident and far too obvious, when something sinister or deadly happens the music is annoying and very repetitive too. Last but not least the acting, with the sole exception of Karloff it is very amateurish. In particular Quintin Bulnes seems to be impersonating Peter Lorre, and does so terribly. Julissa is ravishingly beautiful but doesn't have the acting skills to match. All in all, a truly inept film all round apart from Karloff. 2/10 Bethany Cox
This movie is just plain painful. It was cheap, boring, not even goofy bad. Usually Boris Karloff at least keeps passing interest in his films. However, this is one of the exceptions. Even worse, this is one of the last ones he made, making this movie have a worse effect. Recommended for Karloff fans ONLY!
This tale based on two Edgar Allen Poe pieces ("The Fall of the House
of Usher", "Dance of Death" (poem) ) is actually quite creepy from
beginning to end. It is similar to some of the old black-and-white
movies about people that meet in an old decrepit house (for example,
"The Cat and the Canary", "The Old Dark House", "Night of Terror" and
so on). Boris Karloff plays a demented inventor of life-size dolls that
terrorize the guests. He dies early in the film (or does he ? ) and the
residents of the house are subjected to a number of terrifying
experiences. I won't go into too much detail here, but it is definitely
a must-see for fans of old dark house mysteries.
Watch it with plenty of popcorn and soda in a darkened room.
Dan Basinger 8/10
House of Evil (1968)
* 1/2 (out of 4)
One of the four Mexican films Boris Karloff made at the end of his career, this one here being the first to get released. In the film Karloff plays an rich, if eccentric man who calls his family together for a will reading. He ends up dying and his fears of a maniac stalking the house taking out eyeballs appears to be coming true as the family members start dropping dead one by one. Okay, there's certainly a bit of sadness seeing Karloff go out with these Mexican films but at the same time you have to respect his wishes to continue working. From what I've read, he didn't need money so apparently these movies were made simply so he could continue to act. I hadn't seen this film, also known as DANCE OF DEATH, since I was very young and I remember it being quite bad but this repeat viewing shows that it is bad but certainly not as horrible as THE FEAR CHAMBER or SNAKE PEOPLE. I think Karloff turns in a pretty good performance here, which also includes him not being forced to use a wheelchair throughout the production. I think he manages to be quite believable as the mean old man who certainly doesn't have any love for his greedy family. The supporting players are all fairly forgettable as they add nothing to the film although sex pot Julissa, who appeared in three of the four Karloff films, comes off mildly entertaining and apparently is still working today. One thing that does benefit this film is that it actually makes sense. The other three films in the series all have plots that make no sense and the scenes with Karloff appear to have been shot without too much thought going into them as they really don't mix too well with the "other" footage. That's not the case here as everything flows pretty smoothly together. The death scenes are all silly looking but that's to be expected I guess. Karloff fans might want to check this notorious films out but others should certainly stay clear.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film has decent plot--one that is very reminiscent of several
other movies and TV shows. However, the budget is quite low, the film
is too talky and slow, some of the acting pretty crappy and the overall
effects is very sad, as it was one of the last films of Boris Karloff.
Why he chose to make several ultra-low budget Mexican films at this
late stage of his life is beyond me--did he need the money THAT badly?!
Imagine a film that is like a combination of the "Twilight Zone" episode "The Masks" (where a dying old man brings all his awful relatives to his home--as he's dying) as well as the Dr. Phibes films with all the life-sized automatons. Karloff also has a bunch of despicable relatives who only show up to his summons because they want his money after he dies. When he dies soon after their arrival, it looks great for these greedy relatives until one-by-one, they are killed off by Karloff's goofy automatons. If Karloff really dead? Will any of these jerks escape? Does anyone really care since it was all handled so poorly? The only thing more that I'd reveal is that at least it does end on a rather unusual note!
The bottom line is that this cheesy film sat on the shelf for years after it was made--a sure sign that the film was a turkey. Not surprisingly, the DVD release has an ugly dark print, no special features and is pretty dull with little to recommend it. I've seen a lot worse, but considering this was one of Karloff's swan songs, it's a darn shame--he deserved better than this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the four Mexican horrors that Boris Karloff made in the year
that he died; all of them are pretty bad but Karloff's presence at
least means that they deserve a cursory glance from the horror fan.
DANCE OF DEATH is a muddled movie which has, as its basis, one of those
clichéd "reading of the will" type plots, set in a typically spooky old
mansion, but which also throws in about half a dozen other plot
elements as well to try and keep things interesting. However, it
doesn't really work.
Things kick off with the discovery of an eyeless corpse - ie. an actress with a bit of blood splashed on her face. This is as gory as the film gets, by the way. Via a quick jump-cut we are immediately introduced to Boris Karloff, who soon snuffs it - or so it seems. It's actually quite sad to watch an obviously close to death Karloff in this film, to see how frail and ill-looking he looked at the very end. By this time he was half-dead anyway and apparently one of his lungs had collapsed, but like a trooper he kept on working till the (bitter end). Still, it's pleasing to watch Karloff in a movie again and he's invariably the best actor of the bunch.
The rest of the cast are instantly forgettable Mexican faces, forgettable due to their amateurish and wooden acting skills. The only one of any note is a woman called Julissa (just one name), who is at least partially memorable but only for her good looks. She was also in two other Karloff films of this time. Also it's rather obvious that Karloff's scenes were actually filmed in America while the rest were in Mexico due to the difference of film clarity and the sets used.
After Karloff's death, his sinister goateed doctor makes everybody wait before they hear the reading of the will. It is at this moment that people begin to die, killed by Karloff's apparently animated toys. One woman is brutally stabbed by the figure of a dancer, another man throttled by a knight, an obese victim shot in the eyes by two miniature cannons. All deaths are executed clumsily so they don't have much impact. While this is going on, the young police inspector hero is lying around somewhere sleeping while his girlfriend is in peril!
The influences on this movie are clear. They're obviously trying to emulate some of Corman's Poe films starring Vincent Price, with less impressive effects, it has to be said. This led to the credit "based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe" appearing on the video box I have. At other times we see Karloff playing the organ, scenes which resemble THE BLACK CAT made 33 years earlier. Except there, the music was haunting and mournful, and here, it's screeching and awful!
This is a very low budget movie, with the direction on the amateurish side. The camera-work is boring and inept (at one point the cameraman's shadow appears on a table) and the editing particularly confusing; scenes jump from one to another directly after a line of dialogue has just been said; no pauses or dissolves, just a sudden new scene. The same can be said of the abrupt ending. However, there are some atmospheric moments set in cobwebby corridors and a crypt, and one frightening scene sees our hero besieged by killer mechanical soldiers in a museum. The themes of killer toys would further be explored in plus countless cheapie '80s and 90's straight-to-video flicks. DANCE OF DEATH is a poorly-made film, but the sheer quantity of bizarrely-mixed elements make it watchable, if a bit dull.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The legendary Boris Karloff ended his illustrious career by making four cheapie fright flick clunkers in Mexico. This is the token moody period Gothic horror entry from the bunch. Karloff gives a typically spry and dignified performance as Matthias Morteval, an elderly eccentric patriarch who invites several of his petty, greedy and backbiting no-count relatives to his creepy rundown castle for the reading of a will. Pretty soon the hateful guests are getting bumped off by lethal life-sized toy people who populate the place. Onetime Mexican sex symbol Andres Garcia of "Tintorera" infamy portrays the dashing police officer hero and Julissa looks absolutely ravishing as the sole likable female character. The clunky, plodding (non)direction, trite by-the-numbers script, ugly, washed-out cinematography, ridiculous murder set pieces (a gross fat slob gets blasted right in the face by a miniature cannon!), overwrought string score, morbid gloom-doom atmosphere, largely lousy acting (Karloff notably excepted), cheesy mild gore, poor dubbing and rousing fiery conclusion all lend this enjoyably awful lemon a certain endearingly cruddy and hence oddly amusing ratty charm. A real campy hoot.
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