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Dr. Terror's House Of Horrors (1965)

DVD Cover (Olive Films)
Genres:
Horror, Horror Anthology, Natural Horror, Supernatural Horror, Vampire Film, Werewolf Film
Director:
Freddie Francis Freddie Francis
Starring:
Christopher Lee Christopher Lee
Max Adrian Max Adrian
Ann Bell Ann Bell
Michael Gough Michael Gough
Jennifer Jayne Jennifer Jayne

6.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: November 11, 2011
I was in the mood for some classic horror today, and what better place to look when craving that sort of thing than Amicus Productions? I dug around a bit and came up with Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, a horror anthology flick that was completely new to me and featured a handful of big names. So, hoping to uncover a lost gem that would proceed to blow me away, I pushed play and kicked back for ninety minutes of entertainment. Unfortunately, while the movie was far from horrible, that's not exactly what happened.

It begins with the obligatory wrap-around story, which finds five men boarding a train for destinations unknown. At the last minute, a creepy old man (Peter Cushing) boards with them, and as we soon discover, he has a deck of tarot cards with him. He offers to take a look at everyone's future, and this is where the stories come from: each story is one man's potential future, and his "story" offers him a chance to change the course of his life.

Werewolf
Story number one finds a young man heading out to a remote island to work on the house of a rich old widow, and there, he discovers that things are a little... off. You see, he discovers a two-hundred-year-old ornate coffin in the cellar, and this leads to the caretaker telling him a little story about the house: the original owner lost the rights and swore to return to reclaim what was his. Oh, and this coffin in the cellar is more than likely his. If you think that the title of this segment spoils the ending, you're partially right, but there is a nice twist to it.

I enjoyed this story, but only to an extent. You see, there is a nice ending that wraps things up in a satisfying fashion, the set is appropriately creepy, and the acting is spotless all around... but the overall story is just sort of bland. It's hard to ever get invested in this story until the ending rolls around, and even then, one must stifle a laugh when they see the "werewolf" (a German shepherd). I know that this is an older movie and I didn't expect modern-equivalent effects, but that was just silly. Combined with a weak story and a slightly above average twist, I have to go with a 5/10 for this one.

Creeping Vine
Next up is the tale of a small family who go on vacation, only to return to their home and find a strange vine growing beside the door. The husband attempts to cut it down, but strangely enough, the vine seems to snatch the shears out of his hands and toss it aside. He goes to a scientist, who discovers that this vine may be the next step in plant evolution: something like the Venus fly trap, only, much bigger and much smarter.

Now, this story was just downright odd, but I have to admit that I liked it. It was original, I will certainly give it that, and even though it was a bit goofy, I can't say that it ever lost my attention. Once again, the acting was flawless (a recurring theme with this film), and the effects used to bring the plant to "life" - while not a marvel by any stretch - were pretty good. An enjoyable tale. 7/10.

Voodoo
Here we find an up-and-coming jazz band heading to the West Indies to perform a show, and there, the leading man comes across a voodoo ritual complete with dancing women and fast-paced music. He thinks that the music would be a hit back home with a little updating, and while he is writing down the notes, one of the voodoo practitioners discovers him. He is warned that this music is only for their cult, and that their God is a vengeful God and will strike him down if he performs it publicly. Obviously, our arrogant leading man ignores him, and bad things happen.

This story had all of the potential in the world. From the minute that voodoo man gives the lead that ominous warning, you just know that some bad shit is going to go down, and waiting to see what will happen to him is the strength of the story. It is original, it has tons of potential, and there is a great build-up to the inevitable climax. Then... we see what happens, and we feel a huge wave of disappointment come over us. Of all the things that could have happened, this ending had to be one of the weakest choices. I won't spoil it, but the ending dragged this down to a low 4/10.

Disembodied Hand
Franklyn Marsh's (Christopher Lee) tale is up next, and as we soon discover, Mr. Marsh is a brutal art critic who has no qualms about stepping on people's feelings. He is especially nasty towards one artist (Michael Gough) in particular, and this leads to that artist playing a joke on him and humiliating him in front of his peers. Marsh, a man who is very unwilling to be the laughing stock of the art world, pays the artist back by running him down with his car, causing the artist to lose his right arm. An artist without a right hand is no longer an artist, and thus, the man turns to suicide. Even though he is now dead, his disembodied hand is still very much alive and seeking vengeance.

Although the story found here is far from original, I have to say that this story was one of the best of the bunch. Christopher Lee plays the asshole character to perfection, while Michael Gough is just as good as the dejected artist. The story itself has been done before, true enough, but it works as well here as it has anywhere else, and the effects used to bring this disembodied hand to life were great. You'll see the ironic twist coming a mile away, but it is still a satisfying ending to a great tale. 8/10.

Vampire
The final story takes a look at the life of Dr. Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland) and his new wife Nicolle (Jennifer Jayne), two young lovers who have moved to America to begin their lives together. However, strange things start to happen in their small little town: most noticeably, a young boy is brought in to the doctor's office with a loss of blood and two small fang marks on his neck. Bob starts to suspect that his new wife may in fact be a vampire, and the other doctor in town believes that he may be right.

I wouldn't say that they saved the best for last, but I do have to admit that I loved this one. It is a perfect old-school vampire tale, complete with bat-transformations and other such stereotypes, and the twist ending is just downright brilliant. Donald Sutherland is exceptionally good in his role, and the entire affair just gets a huge thumbs up from me. 8/10.

The wrap-around story then reaches its conclusion, and yes, this concept has been done before, but it works out well here for one reason: the set that it takes place in is creepy as all hell, and a certain costume comes into play that just looks amazing. Once again, thumbs up.

Overall, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors is an enjoyable horror anthology flick, especially if you're in the mood for some old-school horror, but it is nothing to go out of your way to find. There is plenty of great acting on display and a couple of great stories, but there is also an abundance of weak or simply average stories that drags the entire thing down. Rounding out the scores, we come up with a 6.4/10, and I'm going to go ahead and round that up to an even 7/10 due to the wrap-around story.
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