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Never turning up on television, long out of print on video, and never
released to DVD, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS has fallen prey to neglect
in recent times. To a degree, this is understandable; taken purely on
its own, HOUSE at first seems to emerge a bit disappointing today. The
oft-cited problem is that the four horror stars seem painfully
marginalized in order to make way for Desi Arnaz Jr. But, when seen in
a larger context, HOUSE rises far above its humble origins and becomes
something much greater than the sum of its parts. Much like James
Whale's THE OLD DARK HOUSE - a film that shares much in common with
HOUSE - it is a film that requires multiple viewings to fully
Just as Universal's Dracula of 1931 inspired and influenced a cycle of horror films that would grow, mature, mutate, and ultimately flounder in various forms till the late Forties, so too did another horror zeitgeist bloom during the late Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. The British studio that had produced 1957's groundbreaking THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Hammer Films, found great success in the genre over the next twenty years, not infrequently making use of Christopher "Dracula" Lee and Peter "Frankenstein" Cushing. Meanwhile, in Hollywood, American International found their superstar in Vincent Price, whom they headlined in a series of literate, atmospheric Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, beginning with THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER in 1960. Eventually, this series too would cross the Atlantic. The popularity (and profitability) of these scare shows insured a legion of second-rate cheapness from various entities, many of which utilized Shakespearian actor and erstwhile Universal horror veteran John Carradine, who crept his arthritic way through such low-budgeters as GALLERY OF HORRORS and BLOOD OF DRACULA'S CASTLE.
But, by 1982, this cycle of traditional horrors had seemingly come to a dead end. Hammer and AIP were no longer producing feature films, and most of the great horror stars of the time were now electing to either shoot for mainstream success or a semi-retirement save for the occasional film and television cameo appearance. As the Eighties dawned too, the genre was foregoing Gothic horror in favor of the summer camp bloodbath, the holiday massacre, and the dream-slaying slasher. In the midst of these gruesome developments however, director Pete Walker, not unfamiliar with bloody subject matter himself, decided to provide the old-fashioned approach one last go-around, and gather the very icons of that style to do it.
The plot is old humbug, another revitalization of Earl Derr Bigger's old standard Seven Keys to Baldpate, which had been filmed a number of times before. Jaded novelist Arnaz accepts a bet from his impish publisher (Richard Todd), which involves him spending 24 hours in an old Welsh mansion and writing a Bronte-like Gothic story. As the stormy night progresses, various dodgy characters turn up who, as it emerges, are all members of the benighted Grisbane family, gathered on this night to release a horrible secret in the attic. Before long, various unwary visitors - as well as the Grisbanes themselves - begin to be murdered in grisly ways by a mysterious psychopath. Many twists and turns later, the narrative works its way toward a lighthearted conclusion.
There had long been plans to unite the four horror superstars in one film, but scheduling conflicts had made it impossible. Finally, the opportunity arrived with this project, and all are well served by their roles here. Each is allowed to indulge in his particular acting persona. Price is flamboyant and theatrical, Lee imperious and sinister, Cushing genteel and sympathetic, Carradine sonorous and stentorian. Price in particular excels here, and this was his last real opportunity to shine in a full-fledged horror film. Though he would return to the genre two more times before his death in 1993, neither his embarrassing appearance as an expletive-spewing sorcerer in BLOODBATH IN THE HOUSE OF DEATH or his cantankerous turn hosting THE OFFSPRING can compare to his grandly overstated Lionel Grisbane. In particular, Lionel's pitched introduction at the doorway is unforgettable, a true highlight of horror cinema.
If there is a major regret here, it's that Cannon opted to re-cut the film for some theatrical showings - and that's the version released to VHS years ago. This move appears to have been done in order to play up the horror content and mute the comedy. Though I've never seen the original cut, it almost unquestionably would have been preferable. Both Price and Cushing seemed to feel so, and lamented the fact that many of the comic build-ups were left in, only to have the punch lines cut. The real loss was the original end credits sequences, in which each member of the cast steps out of character to take a final bow.
But, in the end, the shortcomings matter little. HOUSE stands as truly the last of its kind, and more than that, can be seen as the point of embarkation for a new style. Just as Universal provided the iconographic monsters of the Thirties and Forties with a peculiarly reverential send-off in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEN, so too does HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS allow its four veteran bogeymen of the Sixties and Seventies to gracefully bow out, in character and with their dignity intact. It's sublimely appropriate that the film should meld Eighties slasher/body-count horror themes (gruesomely accented ax murders, stabbings, acid baths, etc.) with the traditional Gothic approach these men specialized in; by taking part in those very situations themselves, Price, Lee, Cushing, and Carradine thereby "pass the torch" to the knife-wielding maniacs that would come to rule the genre in their place. Seen in this light, the film's faults seem to considerably melt away, and one realizes what a true, unique gem we have here. That is, a lighthearted but affectionate good-bye to twenty-five years of classic horror films executed with great deft and style.
This is a horror film aficianado's dream - the only time that Peter Cushing,
John Carradine, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price appeared in the same film
and the same scenes together!
Forget about the ponderous build-up to the appearance of the stars and the lamentable arrogance of Desi Arnaz Jr. in a forgettable role (he can't hold a torch to the acting abilities of his famous co-stars!). The cliched surroundings of a dark, haunted house can also be criticised; but this is the ideal platform for the horror greats on show to perform in a typically professional fashion.
Peter Cushing's drunken characterization is very well done and Vincent Price's grand dialogue is reeled off in an extremely believable way. Christopher Lee's role is also enjoyably wooden and in the mould that we have come to expect over the years!
The film is guilty of faulty pacing - the start is slow but the execution of murders later in the film comes relentlessly and with little subtlety in thought or execution. However, the sole purpose of the film is to provide a horrific who-dunnit in an old-fashioned way with the top stars of the genre!
The ending also ensures that the viewer is never quite confident that the story's resolution has been provided.
Not a masterpiece by any means , but a fitting tribute to the stars in the horror field, who have entertained us so much in the past and will continue to do so in the future!
"House of the Long Shadows" is not a very well known film. In fact, most
people I've talked to have never heard of it. It's one of those rare gems
you come across every once in awhile.
If you are a fan of classic horror films, this will certainly be a treat! It has Vincent Price (my personal all-time favorite), Christopher Lee, John Carradine, and Peter Cushing. Plus there several twists and turns throughout the film that keep you guessing until the end.
The supporting cast does a decent job of completing the ensemble and the old mansion where the story takes place makes a delightful setting.
One small complaint is the acting ability of Desi Arnaz, Jr. It's hard to say if his acting was truly bad or if it just didn't measure up to the talents of Price, Lee, and Cushing. Either way, it didn't detract much from the overall enjoyment of the film.
If you want a good old-fashioned thriller with plot twists and a little bit of slasher thrown in, you won't be disappointed in "House of the Long Shadows".
Everyone probably figured that Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter
Cushing would have to all co-star in a movie, but who ever would have
guessed that Desi Arnaz Jr would also co-star? Far removed from his
parents' famous roles, Arnaz plays Kenneth Magee, an American author
who goes to an old Welsh estate to write a novel. He is supposed to
have no disturbances, but Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and John
Carradine arrive to release their brother who has been locked in his
room for forty years, and Christopher Lee arrives to claim ownership of
the mansion. Naturally, things don't go as everyone expects.
"House of the Long Shadows" doesn't have anything that we wouldn't anticipate in a movie about a dark old mansion, but it's got more twists and turns than a roller coaster. So, I recommend it, and I hope that they don't try to remake it.
This is the only film I can think of that has all four horror greats in the same film at the same time and in the same scenes. Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and John Carradine are the big four, and their presence alone makes seeing this film a must. I don't think any other film had three of these men in the same film, same time, and same scenes(Scream and Scream Again has Lee, Cushing, and Price, but Cushing does not share screen time with either Lee or Price). The men are all still great to see and brought a flood of nostalgia to me as they made their entrances into the film. The film, however, is weak, and there really is no denying that. I like the film because of the four boogeymen, but cannot say in good faith that it is a good film. It is not. The story concerns an author having a bet with his publisher to stay in a creepy place and produce a book in one evening for twenty thousand dollars. It is a very worn plot, and to make matters worse, the scriptwriter butchers his way through the script trying to squeeze out anything that might have been thoughtful and original. The male lead is none other that that master thespian Desi Arnaz Jr. I know hearing his name makes you tingle with anticipation, but this man has no clue how to perform. Plainly put, he is awful, and painful to watch as he delivers hackneyed dialogue with a smug manner. He certainly canot hold his own with the reverent cast or even female character actress Shelia Keith who really shines in her small role. Some of the dialogue is funny, some serious, but there are only four reasons to watch this film: Price, Cushing, Lee, and Carradine. They put in this film what little life this film has. Of the four, watch for Vincent Price playing ever the ham! He is superb.
While Desi Arnaz Jr. may be one of the worst actors I've ever seen, this movie succeeds despite his desperate attempts to ruin every seen he's in. Price, Cushing, Lee and Carradine are, of course, stellar in their various supporting roles, with Cushing's best Elmer Fudd/Peter Cook from The Princess Bride impersonation standing as the comic high watermark of the piece. I'm not one to figure out endings, but I did figure this one out, even through the movie-within-a-movie setup. And still I enjoyed the hell out of the film. It's no Memento, but if you're in the mood for a simple, Old Dark House-style midnight-on-Friday popcorn black horror comedy, here you go. Enjoy! I sure did.
While this movie would not make the list of "Best Movies Ever Made," its cast makes it valuable to any buff of Classic Horror movies. I cannot understand why it is not offered on either VHS or DVD; as far as I know, it has never been made available and it is a great shame.
This film is what old horror buffs want to see. 4 Great horror legends
together on the screen. Too bad Boris, Bella, Lon and Peter weren't
around for it.
It is a dark and stormy night. Leading man goes to big haunted house. Pretty girl, strange relatives, family secrets and tons of atmosphere ensue. Interesting conclusion with a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge at the end.
Sadly, it isn't on DVD. Too bad.
We are now an age of blood, guts and gore that touts itself as the horror genre. Tall, beefy men wearing masks or pounds of prosthetics are the new horror actors....actors?? What acting? Running around with a chainsaw isn't acting. Ditto to our leading men and scantily clad ladies. Being dirty, wet, bloody and screaming isn't acting. Not your faults....blame the writers. It isn't about acting anymore. It's body count and gross out. It accuses the audience of being too vapid to understand the story from the dialog delivered by skilled artists and forces us to in-your-face nastiness..
This movie, as corn-pone and cheese-whiz as it is, is delightful. It's Cushing, Lee, Price and Carridine...representatives of what acting in this genre was really about. They're creepy, rookie, and weird. They make your skin crawl with each delivery. That, my friends, is what scary is about. They may appear benign on the outside, but you just don't know what they might do or are capable of.
I do wish it would go to DVD. It might ignite a new respect for the horror film...maybe change the way they are written.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In my take on the original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' I noted that for
all the accolades the film has received for predating and introducing
what are now standard elements in the slasher genre(or what a certain
portly paragon of film criticism calls 'Dead teenager movies'); that it
is often overlooked just how much of a final statement(and subversion)
of the 'Old Dark house with a homicidally funny family' genre it is.
That's a statement I'm willing to stand by, but TCM was by no means the
last modern horror film to re-use that tried-and-true concept, and
though it was the best, it certainly wasn't the only good one.
'House of the Long Shadows' is a nice tribute to the 'Old Dark House' genre, as well as a refreshing breeze during the era of the slasher. A sarcastic writer(Desi Arnaz Jr.) who hates Gothic novels makes a bet with his publisher(Richard Todd)to write a novel that makes use of the Gothic settings and purple prose that he so despises, and it has to be completed in 2 days time. So our hero takes off to an abandoned manor in Wales. After a frightening encounter at a train station in the pouring rain(which feels like the beginning of a giallo film), he arrives at the manor, only to find that the supposedly deserted mansion is very much inhabited("For a place deserted for 40 years, this house is more active than Time's Square!").
Then a cliché storm sets in while the real storm outside rages.
It's all here: A madman locked up for decades, a creepy developer, bickering family members with unusual habits, 'Ten little Indians'-inspired murders, a contrived romance, flat tires, visitors who kill each other, if you've seen it in an Old Dark house film, it's in here somewhere. The script is taken from the oft-filmed 'Seven Keys to Baldpate', but still manages to work in elements from various other works, such as several Lovecraft & Bloch stories, several William Castle films(notably the underrated 1963 version of 'The Old Dark House') and even the TV. movie 'Bad Ronald'.
This cliché storm needs an umbrella.
It's all by-the-numbers and all the family members are as one-dimensional as can be, defined by speech patterns or clothing and various broadly played traits, but when the family is played by John Carradine, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who could complain? This is like the "Magnificent Seven" of horror. All of these old pros appear to be having a good time, as for the other actors; Arnaz makes us really relate to his irritability and longing for peace and quiet, and unknown Julie Peasgood is good as his love interest, she's definitely unusual looking, but a welcome break from the talentless cheerleader types seen in most '80's horror films.
As cliché as it all is, the film manages to be compelling enough to stick around to the end. And everything ends in a triple twist-ending that works on one-hand, and is infuriating on the other. For one, it explains the ridiculous level of coincidence away, but the next twist cancels it out, then cancels it out AGAIN for a happy ending. It would be much better if the last 5 minutes had been cut. Still, this film is definitely worth-seeing. With much to enjoy on repeat viewings. Recommended.~
Pete Walker's "House Of The Long Shadows" of 1983 may be an extremely
silly and partly even ridiculous movie, all right, but it is still an
absolute must-see for any serious lover of horror, and even for any
serious film fan, as it features FOUR of the greatest Horror icons in
the history of motion pictures, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing,
Christopher Lee and John Carradine in one movie. This unique cast alone
makes this movie essential, regardless of the ridiculous storyline.
Young American author Kenneth Magee (Desi Arnaz Jr.) makes a ridiculous bet with his English publisher that he can write a novel as great as Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" within 24 hours. His publisher therefore sends him to a Welsh manor, where Kenneth is supposed to have the necessary quietude to work effectively. Soon after his arrival, however, some strange guests show up, amongst them some of our favorite Horror icons...
Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee AND John Carradine - A movie with this cast is, once again, absolutely essential for any fan of Horror. These four legendary actors clearly had a lot of fun shooting this over-all silly movie together, especially Price plays his role very humorously and seems to enjoy it a lot. Apart from the four Horror legends, the movie has little to offer. Desi Arnaz Jr. delivers a dreadful performance, and Julie Peasgood is not exactly a very good actress either. The story and its many twists are quite ridiculous. There were some points in the movie when I actually started to like the story, but these moments are quickly destroyed by silly twists again. If it wasn't for this movie's stars, the film would, if for anything, be remembered for its silly premise, but Price, Cushing, Lee and Carradine make this an absolute must-see!
An over-all silly film with a ridiculous storyline, "House Of The Long Shadows" is made a real joy by the four great Horror legends. A film that unites Price, Cushing, Lee and Carradine is a must-see for every Horror fan and serious lover of cinema!
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