The House That Dripped Blood (1970)
Directed by Peter Duffell
Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Denholm Elliott, Tom Adams, Jon Pertwee.
The House That Dripped Blood is an atmospheric portmanteau classic horror, based on the novel of the name by Robert Bloch (the author of Psycho), from Amicus Studios and features a collection of stories which should appeal to most fans of classic horror and those with a general interest in the genre and is a veritable who’s who of British actors of the small and silver screen at the time.
The film is divided into four segments and is framed by a Police officer conducting the investigation into the disappearance of a film star and visiting the house he bought shortly before his disappearance and through the estate agent learns of the house’s “cursed” past. The first story is of a horror writer (Denholm Elliott) working on a new novel and trying to create his villain. Once he devises his villain he begins to see the character lurking around the house and is convinced the character he has created has come to life while his wife despairs about his sanity. This is a relatively modern psychological story and Denholm Elliott proves his worth as the slimy yet sympathetic author of whose sanity you are never really quite sure. A heavily made up Tom Adams plays the wraith like apparition with a quite sense of subtlety and unknowing with barely uttering a word and carries an air of silent menace in his eyes.
The second, and frankly weakest, story has a retiring Peter Cushing becoming obsessed with a wax head in an art gallery which supposedly looks like his lost love. The problem here is that the wax head looks absolutely nothing like the lost lover and the director has to shoehorn in a flashback to a photo to get the point across and in doing so completely undermines it because it shows how awful the prop is. If I were going to be sympathetic I could say that the head is cursed to bring back the memory of some lost in the eye of the beholder but it doesn’t really work and the resolution of the story is predictable and seedy rather than creepy.
The third, and in my humble opinion best, story features Christopher Lee as an overly controlling and possibly even abusive father who has moved into the house with his daughter following the death of his wife and he hires a Nanny to look after the child while he works. However all is not quite as it seems as Lee goes mad when the Nanny buys the child a doll and later the child seems to know about a witches tree. According to the director, the film script significantly toned down the character of the father from the novel in order to make him more sympathetic. Young Chloe Franks plays the child superbly and makes an innocent and joyful child’s smile seem ever so sinister.
The fourth and final story nicely bookends with another story about a haunted creative type, this time a performer as opposed to author. The story focuses on an aging horror actor who had a tremendous career in films as a young man, coming into his twilight years and being offered third rate films as he is no longer wanted by movie studios. This story is pretty much a comedy as is illustrated by the lead part being played by Jon Pertwee, who had just finished his first season as Doctor Who and was well known as a comedy performer thanks to his long running radio sitcom The Navy Lark. Pertwee excels as the washed up but arrogant actor who finally gets his recognition for playing vampires from a most unusual audience. Ingrid Pitt offers a strong supporting role and her character sort of foreshadows one of her, if not, most famous. The final story ties up neatly with the framing device unlike a number of the other Amicus films and is perhaps only really let down by the address-to-camera speech summing up the truth about the house.
Is this film going to give you nightmares or jump scares? Well no, the certificate indicates that. But it is an atmospheric film ideal to watched on a wet October early evening.
Special thanks to Alex Dewing whose Autumn films vlog entry gave me the inspiration to start writing this series of posts. I strongly recommend all who read this to pop along and take a gander at her site, which can be found here.