Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Honourable Mention: The Horror of it All

It was 1964 and director Terrence Fisher was working outside the confines of Hammer and created an ‘old dark house’ sort of horror/comedy that fails, in the main, because the comedy is lightweight at best and struggles to find a humorous pace (Uncle Percival (Jack Bligh) aside, and I’ll mention why later) and its horror is even more lightweight as a result.

It begins with a car driven by American Jack Robinson (Pat Boone) and jazz plays over the credits. The actual “Horror of it All” theme is sung by Boone half way through the film. It is a stormy night and Jack has to stop to look at a signpost. Not much further on the car conks out and Jack gets out, pushes and then watches as it rolls away and falls into a ravine! Not to worry, he is in walking distance of his destination.

Jack and Reginald
Said destination is a mansion owned by the Marley family. He tries to knock and the door knocker comes off in his hand. He pushes the bell (there is a 'push at your own risk' warning) and a shot fires out, causing him to drop to the floor. The door swings open and a disembodied voice calls come in. It asks for Jack’s name and the owner of the voice makes himself known. He is Reginald Marley (Valentine Dyall, Horror Hotel and his uncredited voice was in Lust for a Vampire). The bullet, he explains, was a blank to scare off unwanted guests.

Jack and Cynthia
Jack has come because his girlfriend, Cynthia (Erica Rogers), is Reginald’s niece. She has gone home for a month but Jack cannot wait. He wants to ask Reginald for permission to marry Cynthia and for them to marry straight away. Unfortunately his timing is not brilliant. Her cousin Creighton died the night before – of a chill after the window in his room was left open all night. As another cousin, Cornwallis (Dennis Price, Son of Dracula (1974) , The Magic Christian, Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein & Twins of Evil), is poisoned it is clear someone in the house is a “wrong ‘un”. But with them all being so… strange… who could it be.

Andree Melly as Natalia
It is here that I’ll introduce you to the vamp like Natalia (Andree Melly, Brides of Dracula). Through the film she is given both a vamp and vampire like persona. When offered gin, she refuses because it is not her usual drink. When asked what is she replied “Bloody Marys!” Not a great joke, to be honest, indeed it is somewhat laboured. I mentioned the idea of vamp and she does vacillate her persona between predator (presumably for blood) and sexual vamp. She only drinks at night, by the way.

after feeding... ketchup
At one point Jack follows her, having been woken by a strange grunting noise and sees her come out of the kitchen with a smear of – apparently – blood at her mouth but it is quickly revealed to be ketchup. The grunting came from her brother, Muldoon (Archie Duncan), who was an explorer and was captured by head-hunters. They held him for two weeks and he is now convinced that his head has been shrunken and thinks all men are head-hunters after him. He has escaped from three asylums so far. In many respect he takes the hirsute role of the werewolf and Natalia is the only one who can control him.

Muldoon equates to the wolfman
It is for her we give this honourable mention as the concept that she was a vampire was clearly being pushed, though it was never said and wasn’t so. The film, itself, is lightweight and the comedy falls flat. That is except for Uncle Percy, an inventor fifty years behind; who thus invents the lightbulb,moving pictures, the gramophone and the internal combustion engine – unaware that they have all been invented already.

The imdb page is here.


Zahir Blue said...

In an alternate universe where Christopher Lee got to make a big budget, all-star version of DRACULA circa 1960, Andree Melly became Hammer's reigning "scream queen" and breathed life into a series of films about Carmilla Karnstein. Ah, we can dream...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

we can indeed, and a nice dream it is (if frustrating on awakening)