Old 03-15-2012, 06:44 AM
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors

Taken from Random Reviews.

I told you I had a thing for anthologies. I actually plan on covering another anthology in the coming weeks, but I wouldn't want to get ahead of myself, now would I? Concentrate, Dom...concentrate! Dr. Terror's House of Horrors is an Amicus film from 1965. I extol this studio's syllabus whenever the opportunity presents itself. Amicus was distinct for two reasons. For starters, they were seen as a low-rent Hammer, and while the two frightful foundries could be considered not-so-distant cousins, it would be an affront to label Amicus a poor man's anything. Granted, the budgets were spasmodically skimpy, but the movies themselves were nothing to scoff at. The proof lies in high-caliber creepers such as Asylum, The Skull and my personal favorite, The House That Dripped Blood.

Amicus was also notorious for specializing in anthologies. Up until last night, Dr. Terror was the lone spine-tingler that had escaped me. I did catch the first ten minutes on television years ago. If you've happened to view it on the boob tube, it was probably on AMC (back when Monsterfest was dignified). And the print was probably a smirched salmagundi of obscene proportions. Regrettably, this flick has never been given deluxe DVD treatment, and if any antiquated genre prize needs to be remastered, it's this one. Even the cut on Netflix Instant Streaming looks like a washed out VHS copy. 'Tis a shame, as this is a first-rate reel that deserves to be culled from the arbitrary gulf of obscurity.

Peter Cushing plays Dr. Shreck (a.k.a. Dr. Terror), a brooding metaphysicist who joins a group of strangers on a train. One of the passengers strikes up a conversation with the strange bloke. He notices a deck of tarot cards, which Shreck facetiously refers to as his "house of horrors." He goads each gentleman into tapping the deck three times. According to Dr. Terror, the cards dealt map out the destiny of the ill-omened soul unlucky enough to tap them. We get a glimpse into the future and we see what it holds for these five characters. The vignettes embroil werewolves, vampires, flagitious sprouts (at one point, a dog is killed by roaming vines...!), a voodoo ceremony and a disembodied hand (this segment is entitled "Disembodied Hand").

Aside from the weakest story, none of the plots are particularly original. Dr. Terror doesn't bring fresh ingredients to the table. I guess I should expound on the weakest story. In an effort to infuse the script with fair-tempered comedy, the middle chestnut of doom-laden prescience finds a musician vacationing on some remote island. He walks in on a voodoo ritual, and like most people, his first instinct is to jot down the notes that the African war tribe is playing. In essence, he steals their song. It's a standard tale of just desserts, only the central figure doesn't die. He merely learns his lesson. Boring! That prick wouldn't evade persecution in Creepshow; that's for goddamn sure.

A whole paragraph of disapproval, yet I claim to delight in Dr. Terror. What can I say? It's easier to rant. However, I had fun with this straightforward omnibus picture. It's atmospheric and paced to perfection. The cast is teeming with disciplined veterans (Christopher Lee and Michael Gough both appear in "Disembodied Hand"). There are a couple of noteworthy scenes that are guaranteed to stick to your ribs. For instance, I don't know of any other film that features a werewolf climbing out of a coffin. Moreover, the twist ending of "Vampire" put a serene smirk on my face. I kept vacillating on what rating to ascribe to Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, but when it comes down to it, the rating isn't quite as important as the thrust of the review. The thrust of this review reads as follows...

I dug it.

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Old 03-15-2012, 05:37 PM
Not like anybody couldnīt guess but I love that film. I think itīs biggest flaw is that they put the best segment first, that werwolf story kicks so much ass, itīs hard to keep that level. Iīd call this a classic. Really do.

On the matter of a decent release, Iīve picked up Umbrella Entertaiments "Amicus Collection" some one and a half years ago in Melbourne. It consists of "Dr. Terror", "The House that dripped Blood", "And now the Screaming Starts", "City of the Dead" and "The beast must die". The transfers range from good to very good, only "The beast must die" looks considerably less impressive. Thereīs some fun extras, even an audio-commentary with Freddie Francis for "Dr. Terror". The only bummer is that the best movie "City of the Dead" has no extras worth mentioning. I also saw the films released seperately, by the same label, each about 10$ each. I donīt know where youīre hailing from but it might be worth the shipping cost.
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Old 03-15-2012, 08:22 PM
You're speaking of Region 2 discs. Here in America, we're shortchanged on the Amicus front.
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Old 03-19-2012, 05:29 PM
Oh sorry, didnīt think about that. I own a codefree dvd player (which is nothing but your standard PC-drive, which is why theyīre cheaper than any coded ones around here). The Discs on the Amicus set are actually region 4.

Oh and are you sure the guy doesnīt die at the end of the voodoo episode? Iīve seen this film properbly 40 times but Iīve never noticed that. Wouldnīt that kinda screw up the final twist?
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