Dr. Terror's House of Horrors
Die Todeskarten des Dr. Schreck
Max J. Rosenberg & Milton Subotsky for Amicus
directed by Freddie Francis
starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Neil McCallum, Alan Freedman, Roy Castle, Donald Sutherland, Max Adrian, Michael Gough, Jennifer Jayne, Bernard Lee, Peter Madden, Katy Wild, Ann Bell, Edward Underdown, Ursula Howells, Sarah Nicholls, Jeremy Kemp, Kenny Lynch, Christopher Carlos
written by Milton Subotsky, music by Tubby Hayes
Amicus omnibus movies
By chance, 6 men meet in a train compartment, and to kill some time, one of
them, Dr. Schreck (Peter Cushing) - which means Terror in German - lays
the others their Tarot cards & tells them their future.
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- The first, architect Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum), will
receive an invitation by widow Deidre (Ursula Howells) to re-arrange her
home, incidently his ancestral home until he had to sell it. But instead
of doing his job, he unearths the coffin of a werewolf of his ancestors
has killed many centuries before & who has sworn vengeance on his
family. But as if this wasn't enough, soon a werewolf seems to be free
on the premises, even killing servant girl Valda (Katy Wild). Jim now
does everything to keep his hostess/client to suffer the same fate - not
knowing that she is actually the centuries-old widow of the werewolf,
and a werewolf herself ...
- Upon coming home from a holiday, Bill (Alan Freeman) will
discover a weird climbing plant climbing up his houses walls, &
every effort to cut it is mysteriously prevented by the plant. After a
while it even kills the family dog, as well as a scientist trying to
examine it. A fellow scientist (Bernard Lee) finds out the plant has a
conscious defensive system but fears fire, so he goes to town to fetch a
flamethrower - a moment too soon, as it turns out, as the plant soon
learns how to extinguish fire, & prepares to seal Bill & family
(Ann Bell, Sarah Nicholls) up inside their house & kill them ...
- Jazz-trumpet player Biff Bailey (Roy Castle) will receive
an invitiation to the West Indies to play at a club for 2 months. Once
ther, he witnesses a voodoo ritual out of hiding & takes its music
down. He is caught though & has to promise to never play the music .
Neglecting his promise though, he plays it as soon as he's back to
London, which immediately results in a tornado (in an indoor nightclub
no less) as a first warning, & when Biff refuses to even then give
up the music, the voodoo horror gets back on him ...
- Franklyn March (Christopher Lee) is a renowned art critic
who loves the sound of his own voice & takes delight in tearing down
artists he doesn't like - especially Eric Landor (Michael Gough). Landor
though gets back at him by presenting him with the picture of a new
artist, for which March is full of praise in front of a listening
public, but which turns out to have been painted by an ape ...
& as if this wasn't humiliation enough, from now on at every
social event Landor turns up with some ape-allusions, which leads to
March losing his cool after a while when he even sees Landor. Thus he
decides to do the only sensible thing - run Landor over with his car.
Landor survives, but loses his right hand, making him useless as an
artist, so he shoots himself.
His hand though, which was never found, comes back to haunt March,
until it causes a car crash that blinds March, making him useless as an
art critic ...
- Bob (Donald Sutherland) & his new wife Nicole
(Jennifer Jayne) have just moved to his hometown, where he starts
working as a doctor ... & soon he & his colleague Dr. Blake (Max
Adrian) encounter a boy with massive bloodloss - which could be credited
to a vampire, due to the marks on his neck. round the same time, Nicole
starts acting a little weird, & soon Blake manages to convince Bob
that she is a vampire - & he is right, too, so before long, Bob
stakes his wife ... But when the police arrests him for the murder,
& he claims Blake gave him the idea in the first place, Blake denies
having anything to do with it.
Why ?, you might ask.
"This town isn't big enough for two doctors ... or two
vampires." (Get it ?)
Having told his stories, Schreck mysteriously disappears ... but when the other
five men get off the train at the next stop, they realize they are not in
Bradley but in the Beyond ... & a newspaper article tells them they were
the 5 casualties in a train crash ...
Despite their contributions to the British horror film, Amicus started
out as an American production house called Vanguard
Productions that took up production in the mid-fifties
churning out mainly cheap teen- & pop-music-flicks of minor importance. The first British horror-movie
by Amicus-heads Milton Subotsky and Max J.Rosenberg was 1960's The
City of the Dead (a.k.a. Horror Hotel)
- produced by a company called Vulcan
-, but it wasn't until Doctor Terror's House of
Horrors that Amicus really found its niche in horror film history -
& it also pretty much set the tone for all their omnibus-movies to come - a
mysterious stranger tells some (usually 5 macabre) stories to & about his
listeners, which eventually leads to some twist ending, usually they find out
they are all dead.
Amicus did come to England by the way because British laws would
allow big tax cuts on locally produced film-production, & once there they
decided to jump the bandwagon of the horror boom created by Hammer,
& did so by hiring recognized (& recognizable) Hammer
talent (e.g. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Freddie Francis).
The movie itself, arguably the best of the many Amicus omnibus
movies, is neither a milestone in subtlety nor originality, but the stories are
quite entertaining, tightly directed & competently acted, making this a
rather enjoyable experience.
review © by Mike Haberfelner
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