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THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD ****

Directed by Peter Durrell. Starring Denholm Elliott, Christopher Lee, Jon Pertwee, Chloe Franks, Peter Cushing, Joss Ackland, Ingrid Pitt, John Bennett. Horror/Thriller, UK, 101 mins, cert 15.

Released in the UK on Limited Edition Blu-ray by Second Sight Films on 29th July 2019.

 

This has been a long time coming but popular Amicus anthology THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD has finally got a Blu-ray release having been in home entertainment limbo since the DVD got deleted way back in the early days of digital home entertainment, and Second Sight Films have put together a beautiful package for collector’s to ownand enjoy over and over again, because when it came to extremely watchable bites of horror you could do a lot worse than pop on an Amicus anthology.

 

The film itself contains four short stories penned by PSYCHO author Robert Bloch and features the cream of British horror movies from the time. The wraparound story stars John Bennett (THE FIFTH ELEMENT) as a private detective who is investigating an old house with a history of occupants who don’t really have the best of times whilst living there, and as he talks to the estate agent trying to sell the property he learns of four accounts of ghoulish goings-on that cannot be easily explained.

 

The first story is called METHOD FOR MURDER and sees a writer called Charles (Denholm Elliott – RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) and his wife Alice (Joanna Dunham) move into the house so Charles can write his latest horror novel. He has created a character called Dominic, an escaped mental patient with a penchant for strangling his victims, and as he writes Charles begins to see Dominic around the house, but Dominic isn’t real... is he?

 

WAXWORKS sees Peter Cushing (THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN) star as Philip, a middle-aged man who moves into the old house after the death of his true love. A friend of his comes to stay and they visit a local wax museum where one of the figures bears a striking resemblance to somebody they both knew.

 

 SWEETS TO THE SWEET stars Christopher Lee (THE WICKER MAN) as a single father to a young girl (Chloe Franks) who appears to be getting mistreated by his strict behaviour, but his search for a home tutor leads to a friendly lady teacher discovering the horrific truth.

And finally THE CLOAK sees B-movie actor Paul Henderson (played with admirable camp by DOCTOR WHO star Jon Pertwee, who was offered the role when Vincent Price turned it down) purchase a cloak for a role from a very strange gentleman's outfitters. Thing is, when Paul puts the cloak on weird things begin to happen to him, such as being able to fly and sprouting very sharp front teeth.

 

As far as anthologies go THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD is one of the best. The production value is pretty high, the set design for the house being appropriately creepy but with a touch of old-fashioned class, something that is reflected in the high profile cast. It is rare that an anthology film has a level of consistent quality across all of its segments but THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD doesn't really suffer from any baggage, the weakest story being WAXWORKS for the obvious plot - because what else could the wax figures actually be, right? - but Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland carry the story well and director Peter Durrell inserts a Roger Corman-ish dream sequence that adds a bit of a trippy edge (despite the fact you're actually looking at a 60-year-old man in a red lounge jacket staggering around in a green fog) to an otherwise predictable outcome.

 

But apart from that the stories are all engaging and, especially in the case of THE CLOAK, fun on a certain level. All the cast members shine in their roles - another benefit of the short story format - and as you would expect the double-whammy of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee appearing in the same film, albeit not sharing any screen time together, is always a pleasure. Denholm Elliott (did that man ever not look middle-aged?) and Jon Pertwee provide most of the spark with their energised performances and, along with a few in-jokes (“Dracula - the one with Bela Lugosi of course, not this new fellow,” says Paul Henderson at one point when discussing horror movies), THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD may not be the most terrifying anthology movie ever made but it is one of the most entertaining.

 

As well as looking crisp and clean without losing any of the original dark and dusty atmosphere, this limited edition set comes packaged in a rigid slipcase featuring stunning new artwork from the legendary Graham Humphreys, a 40-page booklet featuring writings on the film by Allan Bryce, Kat Ellinger and Jon Towlson and also contains a reversible poster featuring the new and original artworks. The disc itself comes with two audio commentaries, one featuring director Peter Duffell and British horror movie expert and author Jonathan Rigby and the other from film historian Troy Howarth, plus an interview with second assistant director Mike Higgins, an archive featurette featuring interviews with various cast and crew members, and a selection of trailers and TV spots. Considering the age of the film there probably aren’t a lot of cast and crew members left to offer any new perspectives on the film but what is included gives the impression that everyone had a good time making the film, even Chloe Franks who had to get slapped and shouted at by Christopher Lee for most of her time on set, and the final result is a movie that won’t break records or become as revered as some of the Hammer titles from the time but provides enough spooky fun and frolics to enjoy over and over again, making it a lot more enduring than some of the so-called ‘classics’.

 

Chris Ward

 

 

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