Friday, May 11, 2018

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971) (Scream Factory Blu-ray)


Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Duration: 102 Minutes
Rating: PG
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Peter Duffell
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Nyree Dawn Porter, Denholm Elliott, Jon Pertwee, Joanna Dunham, Joss Ackland, John Bennett, John Bryans, Wolfe Morris, Tom Adams, Ingrid Pitt

The House That Dripped Blood (1971) was the third portmanteau film from arch Hammer rivals Amicus Films, a delightfully macabre and fun anthology with a wrap around story featuring Scotland Yard's Inspector Holloway (John Bennett, Split Second) investigating the disappearance of an actor living in the area, he speaks to a local cop who in turn spins a yarn of the peculiar property the actor was living in at the time of the disappearance, a mansion whose past tenants have met with mysterious ends, and thus begins our story proper. 

The first segment 'Method For Murder' is the tale of a horror writer named Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott, Trading Places) who as he types away in his study on his latest murderous opus is haunted by one of the characters from his story, a sadistic killer named Dominic (Tom Adams) whom has seemingly manifested from the written page to mind-bending reality. As Domonic lurks in the shadows the writer's sanity begins to slip, slowly losing his grip on reality as the threat grows. It turns out that Charles is the only one who sees the phantom, but is it a figment of the writer's disturbed mind or is there something supernatural afoot, or possibly something more reality-based? The truth is a mix of all three and it's a deliciously tasty EC Comics inspired bit of comeuppance at the end, a great start to one of the all-time great horror anthologies. 

The next unfortunate renter is Philip Grayson (Peter Cushing, Corruption) in the vignette 'Waxworks', Cushing plays a lonely old man who one day visits a creepy (is there any other kind?) wax museum and is struck by how one of the figures bares an uncanny resemblance to a former flame of his. The  mysterious caretaker of the wax museum (Wolfe Morris) informs him the figure is based on his own deceased wife, a murderess executed by the authorities. Even after leaving the establishment Grayson is all-consumed by the likeness and has a surreal nightmare of visiting the figure at the museum, only to be awoken by an estranged friend named Neville (Joss Ackland, Lethal Weapon 2) who's unexpectedly come calling. Grayson shares his waxy nostalgic  encounter with the man, who it turns out also had a unrequited flame for the same woman, leading to an investigative trip to the wax museum with dire consequences for both men. Peter Cushing is typically great here, with an shocker finale at the wax museum that will leave your head rolling. 

In 'Sweets to the Sweet' we have another Hammer horror legend, Christopher Lee (Dracula - Prince of Darkness), appearing as a seemingly cruel father and widow named John Reid who leases the horror-house with his adolescent daughter Jane (Chloe Franks, Who Slew Auntie Roo?). He seems unnecessarily strict in regard to his daughter's upbringing, refusing to allow her to attend school or have friends, to that end he hires a nanny named Ann (Nyree Dawn Porter, From Beyond the Grave), who home schools the girl. We learn that Jane fears fire and is not allowed to play with dolls or candles, which seems odd at first, but when it is revealed that her mum was a suspected witch things begin to come into focus, but is it all unfounded fear on the part of her father or does the young girl have the dark magic of the occult within her? Lee is in fine form as the harsh father, and young Chloe Franks is pretty great as the fresh-faced and mischievous little girl who is none to pleased with her father's restrictive ways, with a wonderfully twisted finale.

The fourth and final story as told to the inspector is the case of the missing person's report that brought the attention of Scotland Yard in the first place, the disappearance of a veteran horror star obviously modeled after Vincent Price in 'The Cloak'. Price was the first choice of the director for the role but whom for contractual reasons with AIP was not available to play fictional horror star Paul Henderson, instead we have Jon Pertwee of TV's Doctor Who in a wonderfully fun performance as an aging actor who is very unhappy, even bitchy, about the state of modern horror films with their cheap sets and lack of imagination. Striving for authenticity on the set of his latest vampire picture the actor refuses to wear the cheap-looking cloak supplied by the production and goes to a local vintage store to find something more sinister and vampyric looking. Sure enough, with the help of a strange shop keeper (Geoffrey Bayldon, Asylum), he finds a cloak that not only makes him look like a vampire, it turns him into one! Ingrid Pitt (Countess Dracula) plays against him as his voluptuous co-star who has her own secret to share with the difficult star. This one is so much fun and well-done, with tongue planted firmly in cheek it's a nice send-up, complete with a jab against Christopher Lee's Hammer bloodsucker! The scenes of Pitt and Pertwee flying around on strings is also a goofy delight, coming to an end with the inspector finally visiting the storied house to dispel any notion of it being evil or cursed, which of course does not end well for him!  

Audio/Video: The House That Dripped Blood (1971) finally arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen, the image looks solid, never reference quality, but there's a pleasing layer of grain throughout, never too obtrusive, and colors look accurate and saturated for the most part. The film has some inherent softness and shadow detail suffers bit with some creeping black crush. Print damage is rare with only some minor white speckling throughout, overall a solid image with only a few small niggles. Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with optional English subtitles, the score comes through with some good depth when called upon, the dialogue is clean but a bit thin sounding at times, owing to the original source, but otherwise well presented.   

Onto the extras we get a handful of good one, two audio commentaries, a vintage one with with director Peter Duffell and author Jonathan Rigby and a new one with the always great film historian/author Troy Howarth, who is my go-to guy for Paul Naschy films but he's in fine form here speaking about Amicus anthology film and detailing some great insights into the production and cast/crew. 

There's also an interview with second assistant director Mike Higgins who reveals that this was hist first film for Amicus, it's a bit dry, he goes into a story about actress Nyree Dawn Porter regarding her almost leaving the production, and speaking fondly of director Peter Duffell. We also get a vintage 2003 VisArt featurette, the 17-min 'A-Rated Horror Film' – featuring interviews with director Peter Duffell, actors Geoffrey Bayldon, Ingrid Pitt and Chloe Franks, it's vintage but quite good, and one I hadn't seen before. 

Then we have a full-frame English theatrical trailer plus a widescreen Spanish-language trailer, some fun radio spots with a simple but fun animated graphic, and an image gallery with stills, promotional images, lobby cards and various movie posters, newspaper ads, and home video releases. Perhaps my favorite of all the extras - with the exception of that fantastic Troy Howarth commentary - is the inclusion of a treasure trove of Amicus radio spots, 14 minutes of radio spots that play along to images of stills and movie posters from the films. 

The single disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of artwork, the a-side featuring the iconic keyart for the film with the b-side featuring a rather ugly (blown out/poorly contrasted) image of Peter Cushing from the 'Waxworks' segment. It  has a nice looking spine featuring red lettering on a black background, the disc itself features an excerpt of the same key art as the sleeve. 

Special Features:

- NEW Audio Commentary by film historian/author Troy Howarth
- NEW interview with second assistant director Mike Higgins (9 min) HD
- Audio Commentary with director Peter Duffell and Jonathan Rigby , author of 'English Gothic'
- Vintage Featurette - A-Rated Horror Film – featuring interviews with director Peter Duffell, actors Geoffrey Bayldon, Ingrid Pitt and Chloe Franks (17 min) SD
- Theatrical Trailers (English and Spanish) (4 min) HD
- Radio Spots (3 min) HD
- The Amicus Radio Spots Collection: Asylum (1 min), At The Earth's Core (1 min), From Beyond the Grace (1 min), Madhouse (1 min), Scream And Scream Again (2 min), Tales from the Crypt (1 min), The Beast Must Die (1 min), The Land That Time Forgot (1 min), The Mind of Mr. Soames (1 min), The People That Time Forgot (1 min), Vault Of Horror (2 min) (14 min) SD
- Still Gallery (5 min) HD 

The House That Dripped Blood (1971) is an anthology that wonderfully mixes the macabre with a darklky comedic touch, there's not a bad apple in the bunch, what's not to love?  Sure, some of the special effects (faulty looking severed heads and silly vamps on wires) are a bit hokey but this is one horror anthology that remains a high point of the British portmanteau movies, glad to see Scream Factory add this one to their HD library following their Vault of Horror/Tales from the Crypt double-feature Blu-ray a few years back, this is a no-brainer, essential stuff.