Dr. Terror's House of Horrors

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A review of the movie "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors"

Five men, all complete strangers to each other, meet in a train car, where they are joined by a mysterious fortune teller (played by Peter Cushing), who offers to tell them their fortunes with his tarot cards.  This sets the stage for five short stories involving werewolves, killer plants, voodoo curses, disembodied hands and vampires.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, when it came to British horror movies, the main competitor to the mighty Hammer Films was Amicus Studios.  Whereas Hammer tended towards lavish period films, Amicus films usually had a contemporary setting and were usually anthology, or portmanteau, films containing four or five self contained stories linked by a framing story.  Released in 1965, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors was the first of these.  Writer and producer Milton Subotsky was inspired to make it by the 1943 movie Dead of Night, which Subotsky apparently considered the best horror film ever made.

The film is tame by today's standards and is unlikely to scare anyone.  The special effects are very ropey, and the film's low budget shines through the whole production.  Yet there is an energy to it that means that it is always watchable.  One of the big advantages of these portmanteau films was if one story wasn't particularly good, then at least there would be something different along in a few minutes.  Here the second and fourth stories are actually pretty good, concerning a family plagued by killer vines, and a snooty art critic (played by Christopher Lee at his most imperious) who becomes the target of a painter's supernatural vengeance.  Probably the weakest story is the third one, an intentionally comedic story, that has some misjudged racial stereotypes.

One of the things that often worked in Amicus' favour was they were very well cast, with an often eclectic range of stars.  Here, accompanying Hammer stalwarts Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, you have a young Donald Sutherland, Michael Gough, Bernard Lee (best known as "M" in the earlier James Bond movies) and Roy Castle (who is probably best known to generations of British kids as the host of TV show Record Breakers).  Certainly everyone seems to be having a great time.

For the viewer, it's a solid piece of hokey entertainment. 

 

  

 

 

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