The House That Dripped Blood [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Second Sight
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (6th July 2019).
The Film

The disappearance of horror film star Paul Henderson (Doctor Who's Jon Pertwee) brings Scotland Yard's Inspector Holloway (The House in Nightmare Park's John Bennett) down from London where he learns from the local police sergeant (Where Has Poor Mickey Gone?'s John Malcolm) that the house in which Henderson was staying has a bizarre history, the unsolved cases forming the tales within this Amicus anthology. In "Mind for Murder", horror author Charles Hillier (A Room with a View's Denholm Elliott) and his wife Alice (A Day at the Beach's Joanna Dunham) move into house where he is appropriately inspired by the macabre library of the previous owner to create the villain of his latest novel: a strangler named Dominick. Soon enough, Dominick appears in the flesh (The Great Escape's Tom Adams) threatening him to the point where Alice questions his sanity. In "Waxworks", retired stockbroker Philip Grayson (The House of the Long Shadows' Peter Cushing) buys the house and visits a local wax museum where he recognizes in the biblical personage of Salome holding the head of John the Baptist a woman he once knew and loved. The proprietor of the museum (The Message's Wolfe Morris) insists that the likeness is that of his own dead wife who murdered his best friend and then was executed. Believing the woman he loved to be dead, Grayson resolves not to return the museum and tries to forget her; that is, until the sudden arrival of Neville (Crescendo's Joss Ackland) to patch up the friendship eroded so many years before by their affection for the same woman. In spite of Grayson's attempts to dissuade him, Neville is also drawn to the wax museum and Salome whose silver platter is waiting for a new head. Scoffing at the sergeant's insistence that the house is somehow responsible for these unrelated incidents, Holloway goes to see Stoker to learn of the resident just before Henderson's tenancy: widowed John Reid (The Wicker Man's Christopher Lee) and his seven-year-old daughter Jane (Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?'s Chloe Franks). With business taking him into London constantly, he hires former schoolteacher Ann (The Forsyte Saga's Nyree Dawn Porter) as the girl's private tutor. Although she first gets the impression that Jane is a "problem child," Ann starts to suspect that it is her cold father's strict and even cruel behavior that is the problem; but he has a very good reason for forbidding her to play with dolls, so she makes a special one of her own. Finally, in "The Cloak," we meet horror star Paul Henderson who decries the lack of realism in his latest horror film from the tatty sets to a vampire's cloak more suitable for drapery material. He happens upon the curio shop of Von Hartmann (Asylum's Geoffrey Bayldon) who eagerly sells him an old cloak for the bargain of thirteen shillings after which his shop burns to the ground. When Paul puts on the cloak, he gets more realism than he bargained as his reflection disappears and he grows real fangs, nearly putting the bite on co-star Carla (The Vampire Lovers' Ingrid Pitt). His attempts to convince Carla of the cloak's powers are met with amusement… and then she tries it on for herself. With Stoker's accounts even harder to believe than those of sergeant's, Holloway decides to discover the secret of The House That Dripped Blood himself.

The second of three Amicus portmanteau films drawing on the works of the short stories of Psycho author Robert Bloch adapted by the author himself after Torture Garden and preceding Asylum – along with the Amicus feature projects including the earlier features The Skull, The Psychopath, and The Deadly Bees in between his stints on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and Thriller and his collaborations with William Castle on The Night Walker and Strait-Jacket, The House That Dripped Blood is the best of the trio despite its faults. "Method for Murder" is entirely predictable but well-acted by Elliot and Dunham (terrorized again in a house with a history on the later Brian Clemens series Thriller) and director Peter Duffell's handling of the scares. "Waxworks" injects a sense of romantic longing and middle age disappointment – "we're not winners, you and I" says Neville to Grayson while commiserating over their shared lost love – into what was once a more schlocky source story. Undoubtedly the best of the stories, "Sweets to the Sweet" trades on Lee's reputation as mostly horror film villains to disarm the watcher, and "The Cloak" is a funny capper skewering the industry (as well as possibly making light of Lee's and Cushing's feelings about the state of the genre at the time). Stoker makes much of the "secret of the house" before having to explain it to the audience in the final shot, although it does shed light on his earlier remark about one of the previous residents being "dangerous to himself." Producer Milton Subotsky's later Canadian co-production The Uncanny mirrored three of The House That Dripped Blood with the first story featuring a murder plot, the second featuring a young girl who turns witchcraft on her tormentors (including Franks as a jealous and cruel cousin), and the final story being a humorous take on golden age Hollywood horror filmmaking. Amicus would subsequently source EC Comics stories for their portmanteau films Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror and then R. Chetwynd-Hayes for From Beyond the Grave and Subotsky's non-Amicus The Monster Club.

Video

Released theatrically in the US, UK, and Mexico by Cinerama Releasing, The House That Dripped Blood came to VHS in the U.S. from Prism Entertainment in 1985 and the U.K. in 1984 from Brent Walker. The film came to DVD in 2003 in the U.S. from Lionsgate and the U.K. separately and as part of The Amicus Collection Anchor Bay coffin boxed set. Severin announced a U.S. Blu-ray release but that was cancelled citing concerns with the master which then turned up on DVD from Hen's Tooth Video in 2013 looking more colorful and cleaner than the LionsGate edition. The film was regrettably not part of Severin's limited The Amicus Collection from last year which included And Now the Screaming Starts, Asylum, and The Beast Must Die that rung in the new year of 2018, but Scream Factory brought it out to Blu-ray later in the year. Second Sight's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray is derived from the same master, and the results are quite startling for those used to the film on VHS and DVD. The textures of the location exterior and the studio interiors are more evident before, showing the lie to the cheap shoddiness of the sets in the vampire film-within-a-film as indicative of Amicus' own professionalism, detail is enhanced in skin, hair, and definitely the seventies wardrobe. It is still impossible to discern the author of the book "The House of Death" in close-up but other details are now noticeable like a vampire leaving their shoes behind on the floor while levitating in "The Cloak." While specs and scratches are at a minimum, there is a bit of momentary instability at one of the reel changes.

Audio

While the Lionsgate and Hen's Tooth DVDs retained the original mono track, the Anchor Bay UK editions featured DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 upmixes and a 2.0 downmix that gave the soundtrack some spread but it was obvious that they did not have access to DME tracks to remix. Like the Scream Factory edition, Second Sight drops these upmixes in favor of the mono track, here in LPCM 1.0. The uncompressed track makes itself known from the start with the stabbing organ, delicate harpsichord, and low bongos of the score by Michael Dress (The Mind of Mr. Soames) as well as drawing attention to some throwaway lines like Pertwee's "Safe as houses" quip. Optional English HoH subtitles are included.

Extras

Extras are identical to the Scream Factory edition, starting with the Anchor Bay-ported audio commentary by director Peter Duffell, moderated by Jonathan Rigby in which he starts off remarking on his dislike of the title, having wanted to call the film Death and the Maiden (the Schubert piece is used in the "Waxworks" segment) but co-producer Max J. Rosenberg (Bloody Birthday) convinced him that marketing supported the more exploitative title (Duffell also reveals that a BBFC X certificate was necessary for a horror film of the period, and that the film's rating was adjusted upward even though there was no blood or nudity in the film). He and Rigby also discuss working with the stars as well as some of the lesser-appreciated supporting cast members, Bloch's reactions to the changes he made to "Waxworks" compared to the earlier Thriller adaptation (which Duffell did not think was all that good when he saw it years later courtesy of British horror film researcher Mark Miller), and his battles with Subotsky which lead to him turning down the opportunity to director I, Monster (an adaptation of "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" to be shot in 3D utilizing a process that required no special taking or projection lens). Ported from the Scream Factory release is the newer audio commentary by film historian Troy Howarth who repeats a lot of information from the earlier track and the Anchor Bay featurette below, but he augments it with a lot of production data including locations and shooting dates, as well as more detailed comparisons of the film adaptations and the source stories. Also ported over from the Scream Factory edition and the German Blu-ray is an interview with second assistant director Mike Higgins (9:30) who provides some brief remarks about the film but expands upon his experience working with actress Porter who was fragile from a personal tragedy. Higgins appointed her a stand-in and insisted the woman remain on the production even though another higher paying job came about (the woman later revealed to him that the experience lead to Porter bringing her onto The Protectors as her own "personal stand-in" guaranteeing her two years of steady work). Ported over from the Anchor Bay edition is “A-Rated Horror Film” (17:03) featuring Duffell and actors Bayldon, Pitt and Franks. Duffell repeats remarks from the commentary – including Lee's joke about never working with animals and children when the rushes showed that Franks was able to steal focus from him in their introductory shot – Bayldon discusses his character being inspired by actor Ernest Thesiger (The Old Dark House), Pitt recalls Pertwee calling her up and asking her to do the film with him (although Duffell recalls that Lee, Cushing, and Pitt were packaged with the film before he did any other casting), and Franks recalls working as a child actor up against Lee and the usually patient Duffell. The disc also includes U.S. and Mexican theatrical trailers (3:38), Amicus Radio Spots (17:37), and a stills gallery (5:04).

The limited edition contents are: new artwork by Graham Humphreys, a 40-page booklet with new essays by Allan Bryce, Jon Towlson and Kat Ellinger, a reversible poster featuring new and original artwork, and the rigid cardboard slipcase.

Overall

The second of three Amicus portmanteau flicks scripted by Robert Bloch from his own short stories, The House That Dripped Blood is the most consistently entertaining.

 


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