Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The House That Dripped Blood [dir. Peter Duffell]

I first saw The House That Dripped Blood (THTDB) on VHS in the 80's and recalled segments from it with some fondness, and I had it on my wishlist for a long time. So when Shout Factory released a blu-ray of it some while ago it was time for me to indulge my craving.

THTDB is an anthology or portmanteau film, meaning it has multiple stories within an overarching framework. It was the third such film from the UK-based Amicus Productions, which specialized in horror portmanteaus. Amicus had a steady partnership with writer Robert 'Psycho' Bloch whose short stories were the basis for this and other films. This anthology has 4 episodes selected from Bloch stories framed around the sinister history of a house whose latest inhabitant has gone missing. The stories include a) a horror writer (Denholm Elliot) whose latest creation, a psychotic strangler, seems to come alive b) a bachelor (Peter Cushing) whose visit to a horror themed waxworks museum has unexpected consequences c) a father (Christopher Lee) who seems to be unduly repressive towards his little daughter, but may have his own reasons d) A horror movie star (Jon Pertwee) finds a vampire cape prop that may be more than just a prop.

Without going into specifics there is, at least for anyone that has spent some time reading / watching horror, a predictability to these stories, and one can generally guess the punchline before it comes, but the scripts are efficiently written and director Peter Duffell brings a pleasing visual aesthetic, with evocative set design and thoughtful lighting / camera choices that belie the production's low-budget short-schedule nature. The actors are very solid, with that singular British talent for taking slight, even silly premises and playing it "like Hamlet". The last story has a more overt humorous bent that goes a little against the other stuff and in retrospect I would have much preferred to see a more commanding John Carradine type do the part (the smoldering Ingrid Pitt's presence is however very welcome).

Shout Factory's blu-ray is quite decent with respect to A/V. The print used is not pristine but boasts a nicely colorful (without looking boosted) and organic look. The mono audio presented as DTS-HD MA 2.0 is clear and the music score (including an excerpt of Schubert's Death and the Maiden) comes across well. Incidentally Death and the Maiden was the director's original choice for the film title, instead of the unnecessarily lurid one they finally used. I saw the archival making of (circa 2003 I believe, which interviews the director and some cast members) and the newer interview with the 2nd AD, both of which provided some nice insight and anecdotes in the making of the charming film. I also heard most of the commentary with horror film historian Jonathan Rigby and the director, which repeats some of the information in the making of, but is a pleasant listen on its own merits. Look forward to finishing it and the new commentary with Troy Howarth. The disc also has trailers and radio spots for the film.
It might be creaky for today's audiences but THTDB has a lot of nostalgic charm for me and Shout Factory's blu-ray is a nice showcase for its merits.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please do not post spam.