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A Scotland Yard investigator looks into four mysterious cases involving an unoccupied house: 1) A writer encounters a strangler of his own creation, 2) Two men are obsessed with a wax figure of a woman from their past, 3) A little girl displays an interest in witchcraft, and 4) A film actor discovers a cloak which gives him a vampire's powers. Written by
Wes Clark <email@example.com>
THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD is the third in a series of seven Amicus horror anthologies. If THE MONSTER CLUB is included as part of the series, this would make eight movies. Although, that movie is very different from the others.
I look upon the Amicus anthologies with great memories as I used to love them when I was in my teens. My feelings for them today are just as strong.
I spent many years trying to track down this movie. The synopses of the stories was so appealing that I went as far as paying a substantial amount for it when I eventually found a copy. As great as though the movie is, I did feel a sense of disappointment when I finally saw it. It wasn't quite as good as I was led to believe. Whilst better than its two predecessors, it's nowhere near as good as its four successors as I shall demonstrate.
The linking story sees John Bennett as a police inspector tracking down a missing person who lives in a mysterious old house. His journey begins at the local police station where he learns the stories of previous occupants. The linking story later sees him visiting the estate agent who sold the house. Whilst this linking story seems enticing on paper, it is flat and lifeless in practice and easily the weakest of any Amicus anthology. I couldn't help but get the feeling that John Bennett is a poor man's version of Donald Pleasance or Ian Hendry. I would much rather have seen one of the two aforementioned actors in his role. We could have even had both here - one as the police inspector and another as the estate agent. They could, and I believe would, have brought this weak element of the movie to life much better.
The movie contains four stories, each of which focuses on an inhabitant of the house.
The first story sees Denholm Elliott as a writer of crime stories. He is absorbed into an exciting story about a strangler, even going as far as drawing a sketch to aid his writing. Soon after, he begins seeing visions of his own creation. Some excellent direction by Peter Duffell, particularly with the choice of camera angles helps to detract from the restrained script. Elliott's performance is superb as the tormented writer and he also helps to elevate the story. The story ends with a semi-twist but I couldn't help get the sense of a script which didn't allow it to live up to its potential.
The second story sees Peter Cushing move into the house. He is a lonely man who is still pining for a beautiful young woman who once jilted him and who he keeps a picture of. Cushing's performance really brings this emotionally-moving story to life. He is helped by the director who chooses to include continual focus on Cushing's loneliness. This is taken further with a great hallucination scene that helps us to see inside Cushing's mind. Anyway, Cushing sees a figure at a nearby wax museum that looks just like his girl. Naturally his obsession grows but this seemingly romantic story has a disturbing twist at the end. Joss Ackland plays Cushing's rival but his performance is massively overshadowed by the late great Peter Cushing.
The third story and easily the best sees Christopher Lee - my favourite horror actor of all time - move into the house with his daughter. Mr. Lee gives one his perfect ice cold performances here. He shows no love or attention for his daughter at all. He even brings in a school governess to educate her. The governess, played by Nyree Dawn Porter in another of her superb performances, tries to find out what is wrong. Without giving too much away, I can reveal that witchcraft plays a role. Christopher Lee's presence is truly electrifying in every scene he's in. Chloe Franks deserves special recognition for her massively underrated performance as the little girl who is easily the creepiest character in the whole movie. The movie is worth seeing even for the sake of seeing just this one story.
The final story is played almost entirely for laughs but it certainly does entertain and that's what matters. Jon Pertwee plays a horror movie actor who moves into the house. He is very dissatisfied at the approach his producers take to movies, seeing everything as cheap and fake, particularly the costumes. So he decides to buy an authentic cloak for his latest vampire role. Geoffrey Bayldon has an excellent cameo as a dealer who sells Pertwee an ancient cloak. When Pertwee puts the cloak on, he starts developing fangs and basically transforming into a vampire. Pertwee's performance has to be seen to be believed. It truly is hilarious. Ingrid Pitt is also in this story but her talent is wasted in a role that should have been much larger.
The linking story finishes with a loose connection to the final story. This is particularly fitting since the inspector was looking for Pertwee and naturally decides to visit the house. The rest you'll be able to work out for yourself. As weak as the linking story is, it does have a decent if somewhat unintentionally comical ending.
I'm convinced that the blame for the shortcomings in what should have been a truly magnificent movie doesn't lie with Peter Duffell, the director, who really does his best with what he's got. I think the script was just too restrained and lacking the ambition that can be found in the four later movies.
Overall, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, despite its flaws is a must-see for fans of the Amicus anthologies, fans of other Amicus movies or fans of portmanteau horror movies. If my summary provides the movie with enough appeal in your eyes, check it out. You'll enjoy it!
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