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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)




You can’t have an Anthology marathon without tossing in some Amicus goodness. Not all the great British horror from the sixties came from Hammer. Amicus made their mark with some great Anthologies, including this one.

Five men step onto a train and end up in the same coach. Finding their seats, they are soon joined by an old man, Dr. Schreck (portrayed by Peter Cushing), who produces a set of Tarot cards and offers to predict their future. This serves as the wrap around story for the five tales of terror to follow. For this review I thought I’d take them one at a time.

In the first we meet an architect that is summoned back to his ancestral home to make some modifications to the structure in a tale called Werewolf. He gets caught up in a mystery and an old legend about a werewolf and his family’s connection to it. This one follows a predictable and fun pattern with some murders and a twist ending that I’m sure we all saw coming. The setting of the old house is solid, and I thought the cast did okay. Not terribly memorable, but a decent way to kick things off.

The next story is called Creeping Vine. Another of the men returns home from holiday only to find a strange plant clinging to the outside wall of the house. He tries to remove it and the thing fights back. He calls in some help from a couple of scientists and they speculate that it must be some new higher form of plant life. The vine traps them in the house until quite by accident they discover it is afraid of fire. Up until then they hadn’t thought of setting the thing on fire! Things end with one of them going for help. Of the five this is the weakest. The story is silly and doesn’t feel like a good horror tale. It’s a damn plant that can slowly creep along and is afraid of fire. How scary can that be?

Starting with the third, titled Voodoo, things get really good. We follow a musician who returns home from the West Indies with a catchy new tune for his band to play. The only problem is that he stole it from a Voodoo ritual that he was spying on. In spite of being warned by multiple people he still decides to play it at the club. This leads to a visit from the angry and jealous god that was summoned by performing it. I really liked this one as it feels like an old EC comic. Roy Castle is great in the lead and we get just enough of the spooky stuff with doors blowing in and strange sounds to make this one work.

The Honeymoon is over!
Story four is by far my favorite and stars the legendary Christopher Lee. Disembodied Hand tells the tale of Lee’s character, a critic who takes great pleasure in tearing down the work of an artist he hates. That artist is played by another familiar face, Michael Gough, who finally gets his revenge by embarrassing the arrogant critic. This leads to Lee’s character angrily running down the artist on the street resulting in a hand being lost. That hand eventually gets revenge on Lee’s character in a very appropriate way. Much like Voodoo this one feels like one of those creepy EC “getting what is coming to you” stories. Plus, there is a hand crawling around, which is always fun.

The fifth and final segment is a good old vampire story with a twist. Vampire stars a very young Donald Sutherland portraying a doctor who has come home with a new bride. Not long after patients start showing up with strange marks on their necks and low on blood. With the help of his mentor he figures that there must be a vampire in town and it is his new wife! There is nothing else that can be done except waiting for her to return one night after feeding and staking her in the heart! He does this, but not everything goes as planned. The twist is fun and while out of left field fits the tone of Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors.

our cast of characters
There is one final twist to be had. Spoiler warning. The men are all told that the final card off of the deck will reveal to them how they can avoid their fate. They all draw the death card! Arriving at their destination and stepping off of the train they realize they have nothing to worry about… because they all died in a train crash!

All of the Anthologies from Amicus are worth checking out and likely you will see more appear here on at Crappy Movie Reviews in the future. This one does a great job capturing the spooky vibe of the horror comics of the fifties in a way that put a smile on my face. I recommend tracking down a copy of Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors.


© Copyright 2019 John Shatzer

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