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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, April 7, 2023

Mansion of the Doomed (1976)

The movie opens with a desperate man on a mission. His name is Dr. Leonard Chaney, and he is an eye specialist. This is ironic as due to an accident his lovely daughter Nancy is now blind. Partially out of love but more so out of guilt (he was driving the car) he is determined to restore her sight. But how can he accomplish that? He decides the only way is to transplant the entire eyeball from a living donor! I bet you can see where this is going.

The first donor/victim is Dr. Bryan who is not only a colleague of Dr. Chaney but was also his daughter’s boyfriend/significant other. It is hinted at that he has left her after she lost her sight, so Chaney seems to think it is a good place to start. Amazingly enough she can see again, but it only lasts for a couple of weeks and her father is back starting all over again. By that I mean he keeps going out and finding victims so he can knock them out and remove their eyes. Though it seems futile because none of the other surgeries even temporarily restore her vision. But being a doctor, he won’t just kill the donors so soon he has a cage full of them in his basement. This leads to an attempted escape, his nurse being murdered by an angry victim, and eventually them being released to get their bloody revenge. Sounds like a good time, no?

I enjoyed the heck out of this movie. I was a bit worried when the credits started off with “A Charles Band” production but this was back when he cared and was trying to make a good movie. The voice over from Dr. Bryan lets us know what he is thinking and sets his desperation up to heal Nancy right away. That then leads to him slowly becoming more and more monstrous as he keeps pushing. In his own mind we see him try to justify the blinding of his Guinea pigs with the “I’ll fix them once I have this perfected” only to conveniently forget that would mean blinding someone else. This total lack of logic as well as the performance from Veteran actor Richard Basehart sells the character and the story.

Speaking of actors selling the story we get a very young Lance Henriksen as the first victim and eventual ringleader of the blind Dr. Bryan. He disappears for a long stretch until his eyeless face is revealed in a cool jump scare. Once that happens we see a lot more of the basement and the caged victims interacting with each other. This makes what has happened to them so much worse. The script also takes the time to show different reactions from comatose, to wanting to escape, and finally homicidal rage for what has happened to them. I was shocked that the script has us spend that much time with them. I was expecting an exploitative drive-in movie, and this was far more than that.

We should talk special effects. This movie doesn’t have many kills as again the doctor tries to be humane; I mean other than ripping their eyes out and keeps them alive. When they do die it is tame with an escapee getting hit by a car and the nurse being strangled. Where the movie shines is the makeup used to show the eyeless prisoners as well as some gruesome gags with the surgeries. I was again shocked and surprised to see a familiar name connected with the work. This is a Stan Winston flick! He manages to make the audience squirm on a low budget, and I dug it.

The final thing that I wanted to note was the director. Michael Pataki is more well known as an actor appearing movies like Graduation Day, Halloween 4, The Return of Count Yorga, and my personal favorite Grave of the Vampire. He only has three directorial credits to his name with this being his first. From what I see here he had some talent as a director, and it is a bummer that we didn’t get to see more from him. If you haven’t figured it out yet I’m recommending Mansion of the Doomed. It is a fun, creepy, and at times gross movie that checks all the boxes I want from a drive-in horror flick with the bonus of an excellent script.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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