Dr. Terror's House of Horrors

NOTE: I found this awesome piece of fan art on DeviantART, but I can't remember the name of the artist. If this is your work, let me know and I'll give you credit.

I told you I had a thing for anthologies. I actually plan on covering another anthology in the coming weeks, but I wouldn't want to get ahead of myself, now would I? Concentrate, Dom...concentrate! Dr. Terror's House of Horrors is an Amicus film from 1965. I extol this studio's syllabus whenever the opportunity presents itself. Amicus was distinct for two reasons. For starters, they were seen as a low-rent Hammer, and while the two frightful foundries could be considered not-so-distant cousins, it would be an affront to label Amicus a poor man's anything. Granted, the budgets were spasmodically skimpy, but the movies themselves were nothing to scoff at. The proof lies in high-caliber creepers such as Asylum, The Skull and my personal favorite, The House That Dripped Blood.

Amicus was also notorious for specializing in anthologies. Up until last night, Dr. Terror was the lone spine-tingler that had escaped me. I did catch the first ten minutes on television years ago. If you've happened to view it on the boob tube, it was probably on AMC (back when Monsterfest was dignified). And the print was probably a smirched salmagundi of obscene proportions. Regrettably, this flick has never been given deluxe DVD treatment, and if any antiquated genre prize needs to be remastered, it's this one. Even the cut on Netflix Instant Streaming looks like a washed out VHS copy. 'Tis a shame, as this is a first-rate reel that deserves to be culled from the arbitrary gulf of obscurity.

Peter Cushing plays Dr. Shreck (a.k.a. Dr. Terror), a brooding metaphysicist who joins a group of strangers on a train. One of the passengers strikes up a conversation with the strange bloke. He notices a deck of tarot cards, which Shreck facetiously refers to as his "house of horrors." He goads each gentleman into tapping the deck three times. According to Dr. Terror, the cards dealt map out the destiny of the ill-omened soul unlucky enough to tap them. We get a glimpse into the future and we see what it holds for these five characters. The vignettes embroil werewolves, vampires, flagitious sprouts (at one point, a dog is killed by roaming vines...!), a voodoo ceremony and a disembodied hand (this segment is entitled "Disembodied Hand").

Aside from the weakest story, none of the plots are particularly original. Dr. Terror doesn't bring fresh ingredients to the table. I guess I should expound on the weakest story. In an effort to infuse the script with fair-tempered comedy, the middle chestnut of doom-laden prescience finds a musician vacationing on some remote island. He walks in on a voodoo ritual, and like most people, his first instinct is to jot down the notes that the African war tribe is playing. In essence, he steals their song. It's a standard tale of just desserts, only the central figure doesn't die. He merely learns his lesson. Boring! That prick wouldn't evade persecution in Creepshow; that's for goddamn sure.

A whole paragraph of disapproval, yet I claim to delight in Dr. Terror. What can I say? It's easier to rant. However, I had fun with this straightforward omnibus picture. It's atmospheric and paced to perfection. The cast is teeming with disciplined veterans (Christopher Lee and Michael Gough both appear in "Disembodied Hand"). There are a couple of noteworthy scenes that are guaranteed to stick to your ribs. For instance, I don't know of any other film that features a werewolf climbing out of a coffin. Moreover, the twist ending of "Vampire" put a serene smirk on my face. I kept vacillating on what rating to ascribe to Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, but when it comes down to it, the rating isn't quite as important as the thrust of the review. The thrust of this review reads as follows...

I dug it.

1 comment:

  1. I dug it as well. The House That Dripped Blood is killer though. Great review as usual!