"Now why would anyone build a thing like that in this godfor
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 09/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While I've never lived in a House of the Damned (1963), I did once almost stay in a motel of the objectionable (that is until I found out it had roaches). Written by Harry Spalding (One Little Indian, The Watcher in the Woods) and produced and directed by Maury Dexter (The Day Mars Invaded Earth, The Mini-Skirt Mob), the film stars Ron Foster (Cage of Evil, Operation Bottleneck) and Merry Anders (The Hypnotic Eye, The Time Travelers, Women of the Prehistoric Planet). Also appearing is Richard `Whooping' Crane (The Devil's Partner, Surf Party), Erika Peters (Mr. Sardonicus, Monstrosity), Dal McKennon (The Misadventures of Merlin Jones), who provided the voice of Gumby on the late 1950s Art Clokey television show, and Richard Kiel (Eegah, The Longest Yard), probably best known as the hulking, metal mouthed henchman Jaws from the Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979).
Ron Foster plays Scott Campbell, an architect who gets a job offer to survey a rather large and remote Californian mansion called Rochester Castle from his friend Joe Schiller (Crane) who happens to be a lawyer whose firm is handling the estate. As Scott and his wife Nancy (Anders) arrive, they discover the joint, which was built by some nutty heirless long since put away, isn't really a castle, but is more in the motif of early Spanish/American Dracula. Anyway, after retrieving the keys (thirteen of them, to be exact) from a local real estate man, along with getting a bit of exposition with regards to the last tenant, a man named Arbuckle who just up and disappeared mysteriously, the couple set up shop, and we soon learn perhaps the house isn't as uninhabited as most everyone seems to believe. During the night the keys are stolen, but then mysteriously returned the next day with two missing (there's other strangeness afoot as lights work sporadically and doors seem to be locking and unlocking themselves). Before Scott and Nancy can uncover the mystery of the missing keys (and which doors they go to), a woman named Loy (Peters) makes the scene (she's Joe's wife...seems Joe was planning on making a weekend out of it by he and his wife meeting up with Scott and Nancy). Shortly after Joe appears, has a spat with his wife, and Loy decides to hit the bricks but gets a surprise on her way out in the form of a shirtless Richard Kiel. Realizing Loy is still on the premises (her car is still out front), Scott, Nancy, and Joe begin looking for her (Joe wants to avoid any unnecessary publicity by getting the police involved), and Nancy sees something she wishes she hadn't (I could tell you what it was, but I won't). Seems the house has plenty of secrets, most of them behind the locked doors for which the keys have gone missing, but never fear as all shall be revealed, one way or another...
If you're interested in this film and have yet to see it, do not watch the included trailer or read the blurb on the back of the DVD case as both give away some fairly key details. I've provided a good bit of set up, but I tried to carefully avoid spilling any of the juiciest beans. Also, if you look at the DVD cover art, you may get the impression this is a recently released feature, but know it's a black and white film released back in the early sixties. Also, the bit on the cover that states '13 keys to unleash the living dead' is partially fitting as there are thirteen keys within the story, but it really has nothing to do with any `living dead', at least not in a literal sense. Obviously this was just a skeevy marketing attempt to lure potential, unsuspecting DVD buyers into hucking out their hard earned dough for the disc. I don't mind studios playing up the sensational aspects of a film in order to sell it, but they really should keep it within the context of the feature. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this movie, but if you're coming into it expecting zombies and their ilk rending the flesh of the living, you're going to be sorely disappointed. The film was more akin to William Castle's House on Haunted Hill (1959), sans the theatrical elements and, of course, Vincent Price. The film is short, with a runtime of about 62 minutes (I think it ended a little too soon), spending a good deal of time developing an ookie eeriness that comes across well. It will seem tame by today's standards, but for those who can appreciate spooky fun, it's definitely worth checking out. The actors did well enough, as none of them really stood out as being really good or really bad, but just solid. The strongest aspect, to me at least, was Maury Dexter's direction. He obviously knew what he was doing in terms of developing and delivering tension. I did find the abruptness of the ending kind of odd, but on the flipside I enjoyed it due to the fact of its anti-climatic nature (not every story needs to end with a bang).
The picture, presented in both widescreen (2.35:1) anamorphic and fullscreen (1.33:1), looks beautiful on this 20th Century Fox DVD release, coming across very sharp and cleanly (the DVD is double sided, so the `A' side contains the fullscreen format while the `B' side has the widescreen version). As far as the audio, it's available in both Dolby Digital mono and stereo, and is on par with the picture quality. In terms of extras provided, there's an original theatrical trailer, a poster gallery (containing three images), and subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French.
By the way, I'm sure some will make suppositional ties of this film and another, more controversial feature released back in 1932 by a director with the initials `TB', but any presumed linkage between the two would be purely superficial, in my opinion.
A horror movie in simplistic terms
The Straw Man | Aloof October on April's Birthday | 10/15/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The House of the Damned" is a perfect example that production doesn't have to be millions of dollars in order to create a good, spooky movie. I purchased this movie for only $5.00 in a retail store. Since I am a big fan of older horror movies, I figured it was worth the gambit for the economical cost. I have to admit in hindsight I was very pleased with what I bought.
This movie is barely over an hour long, yet never seems to drag or get boring. The plot is rather simple; an architect is offered a proposition by his friend, who is a lawyer, to appraise the value of an old castle/house in the mountains of California. The architect goes up to this spooky castle/house with his wife and end up staying there as they assess the real-estate. The first night in the castle all sorts of creepy things happen. Which of is a perfect set up for an old horror movie. These conditions continue as the state of affairs comes to a head.
I won't give a great deal of details away, but I will say this is a really good horror/mystery movie. This movie was made in 1963 and is shot in black and white. I found it to be made in good taste and actuality wasn't campy. The characters were believable, likeable and weren't over the top. Minimalism is the best way to describe the premise of plot, but the story is still good quality. The castle/house is also a paramount factor in this film. The cinematography, lighting, or lack there of because shadows play a role in this movie, gave this film a flare of the ominous and the creepiness of a silent vexing.
Overall, "The House of the Damned" isn't what it appears to be as far as horror/mystery movies go. I found it be unique when juxtaposition to other horror films of the time. This would be a great movie to watch around Halloween, at night or a Sunday afternoon. The DVD presents a clear picture of the movie. As for bonus features, has a poster gallery and the original trailer/preview for "The House of the Damned"."
Early 60's schlock, fun and silly
R. Gawlitta | Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA | 10/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Spotlight Review by "cookieman" covered it all. A good review of a not that good film. Indeed, "House of the Damned" stole from "House on Haunted Hill", "The Old Dark House", "Freaks", and a few others. What I'm compelled to add, is that, next to Beverly Garland and Gloria Talbott, Merry Anders is just about the best B-movie actress of that era. I always enjoy seeing her. I guess she was locked into a contract at 20th/Fox, and never recovered. Too bad. She had a lot of class and sass and moxy. I remember stuff like that.The DVD transfer is very fine. The ending is a let-down; too bad it's blabbed away in the trailer and liner notes (as Mr. Cookieman said...) Some spooky moments, and typical of the 60's fare. Don't expect anything to make you jump out of your chair."