House That Dripped Blood, The (1971)

The House That Dripped Blood (1971)

Vampires! Voodoo! Vixens! Victims!

A Scotland Yard investigator looks into the disappearance of a famous film actor and his search leads him to a mysterious house which has a history of bad deeds. The landlord tells him four stories about the house: a writer once encountered a character from his horror novel there, a man renting the house become obsessed with a wax figure which reminds him of a woman from his past, a little girl became involved in witchcraft and then the film actor himself bought a cloak which allegedly turned him into a vampire.

 

I love the notion of these old fashioned horror anthologies. Write a couple of short horror stories, hire a top notch British cast, throw in some minor blood and scares and mix it up with a dash of old school style and you’ve got the perfect ingredients for success. They’re almost tagged with ‘there’s something here for everyone’ with their array of horror themes and stories: you’ve got werewolves, vampires, ghosts, monsters, slashers, demonic children, haunted houses, grave robbing, black magic, witches….obviously not all in the same film. But these anthology films are like I used to go into my local sweet shop and ask for a ten pence mix – you get a little of everything for your money. Almost every horror anthology created has strong stories and weaker ones. The beauty of these films is that you don’t really get enough time to dwell on the poor ones.

The House That Dripped Blood is another of Amicus’ horror anthologies but this one doesn’t quite have the finishing touch to it like Asylum or Dr Terror’s House of Horrors. It’s probably because the wrap around story is pretty weak. The house was supposed to link the four stories together but it does so pretty unconvincingly – the house has little, if anything, to do with any of the stories – in fact one is set away from the house. It doesn’t drip blood like the title suggests either! In fact there’s not a drop of it in sight and the horror comes from the atmosphere and mood that is nicely built throughout.

The first story, Method for Murder, about the writer dreaming up his horror novel strangler, only for the character to come to life, isn’t too bad. The story does a decent job of keeping you in the dark. You don’t know whether the writer is just cracking up or whether somehow the strangler has come to life. Reliable actor Denholm Elliot is the backbone for this story and it ends on quite a nice double twist.

The second story, Waxworks, about (oddly enough) the waxworks is arguably the weakest story out of the bunch even though it stars Peter Cushing. He’s much better when he’s dishing out the pain and evil to others, not when he is on the receiving end of it! He makes a pretty wimpy hero to say the least and the ending to the segment is given away on the front cover. There’s always something menacing about wax museums and wax models though and this segment makes sure to play on that menace.

Sweets to the Sweet, the third story, stars Christopher Lee as an overbearing father who hires a nanny to look after his daughter. But all the nanny does is to build the little girl’s confidence up so that she soon dabbles in black magic to get her own back. Quite a nasty little story, this one has the big bonus of Lee starring but also the ‘angelic’ Chloe Franks who moves between innocent and evil with ease. Kids make unnerving villains and she is no exception. Much like the story with Cushing in, it’s nice to see Lee as a ‘normal’ character for a change and good use is made of our initial perception of what his character would be.

The final story, The Cloak, is the one which takes us full circle as it charts the story of the film actor of whom the investigator was looking for in the first place. This story is regrettably played for laughs and stars Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt, both of whom ham it up immensely (Pitt completely self-parodies her Hammer roles here). Pertwee stars as the horror actor who buys a cloak to make his role as Dracula more authentic but finds out that the cloak is real and turns him into a vampire. Pertwee does get a few digs in at Hammer too with some of his lines but his comedic presence isn’t really welcome, especially after the previous story built the atmosphere up quite nicely. This story would have worked better had it been played straight instead of jokingly. Having it round off the film is a bad decision as any sort of atmosphere built-up through the serious stories is given the back burner treatment.

 

The Horror That Dripped Blood is once again another solid, if unremarkable, horror anthology. It’s got a great cast as always and there’s something for every horror fan with different sub-genres being tackled. Unfortunately it just lacks the extra scare factor to take it as far as it needed to go. It’s chilling as opposed to thrilling and there’s a real lack of true scares with black humour the order of the day.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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