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Dr Terror's House of Horrors
Directed by Freddie Francis for Amicus in 1965,
Dr. Terror's House Of Horror is the first of a few anthology style horror pictures that the studio pumped out around this time. It's also one of their best.
The movie begins on a train, a passenger car, where one Doctor W. R. Schreck (Peter Cushing) sits alongside a few other men: Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee), Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum), Biff Bailey (Roy Castle), Bill Rogers (Alan Freeman) and a younger man named Doctor Bob Carroll (surprisingly enough played by Donald Sutherland). As Schreck pulls out a deck of Tarot Cards and begins to tell each man what awaits him in the future...
In the first story, we see Dawson working as an architect heading back to his ancient family home to look after the place. Here he finds out that a female werewolf named Deirdre Biddulph (Ursula Howells) roams the grounds, the result of a family curse as old as the building itself. In the second story, Rogers returns home from some travel to spend some time with his wife and kids only to find that a bizarre plant is taking over the home. In chapter three, we see how Biff Bailey has learned the music of ancient Voodoo and how he plans to use it on his next record. In the fourth story art critic Marsh kills his rival, Eric Landor (Michael Gough) by running him over with his car only to be then chased by the severed hand of the man he just murdered. In the final story, Bob Carroll takes a new job as a small town doctor. Things go well, and he marries the beautiful Nicolle (Jennifer Jayne) but soon comes to believe she may in fact be a vampire.
Of course, the introductory segment that bookends each of the five main stories resoles itself too.
This may not be a particularly sophisticated picture but it does what it does very well and it remains an entertaining watch made all the more fun thanks to the efforts of an excellent cast. Cushing, looking quite maniacal here with his fake bushy eyebrows, does a great job as the titular character and he cuts quite an imposing presence when he first boards the train with the other men. Lee plays the stuffed suit type perfectly here, his snobby art critic character suits his style really well and who better to be pursued by a severed hand than he? Neil McCallum is fun in his part as is Alan Freeman and if Sutherland looks maybe a little bit out of place he completely makes up for it in his final story. In addition to the principals we get some great supporting work from beauties Ursula Howells and Jennifer Jane as well as classic British actors Michael Gough, Jeremy Kemp and even Q himself, Bernard Lee.
The anthology format lends itself well to good pacing. None of the stories nor the wraparound segments overstay their welcome and Francis, no stranger to directing horror pictures, moves things along at a nice clip. In each story we get enough of a basic set up and enough basic character development that, once that's done, we move pretty briskly into the horrific elements and then, from there, the pay off. It's a good strategy for a movie like this where the emphasis is on thrills and chills rather than on lasting effects, and it works. At the same time each story is inventive and creative enough that, on first watch at least, you're not immediately sure where it's going to go. This keeps things suspenseful and fun to watch. We also get some nice costume design, some classy and atmospheric sets and some pretty fun special effects work too (the hand again being a great example of that).The Blu-ray:
Dr. Terror's House Of Horror gets an AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer that looks quite good. The image is clean it is consistent in how it exhibits nice detail. Skin tones look nice and natural and the picture is free of any noise reduction or edge enhancement. The film moves at a good bit rate and there are no obvious compression artifacts, while grain looks nice and organic here. There's a little bit of minor print damage here and there, just a few small specks, but nothing that should bother anyone. Texture and detail are strong across the board, things look very good here.Audio:
The English language DTS-HD Mono track on the disc is rock solid. Dialogue is clean, clear and properly balanced and the score has nice range and depth to it. There are some scenes that do sound a tiny bit flat but that would seem to extend back to the elements rather than the mix here. Hiss and distortion are never a problem and all in all, the audio here is just fine. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided.Extras:
There are no extras, just a static menu offering chapter selection. There is a British Blu-ray out from Odeon that is stacked with extras but this domestic release is a completely barebones affair.Final Thoughts:
Those who want some extras to go along with their feature will want the import but Olive's barebones release of Amicus' excellent anthology Dr. Terror's House Of Horror does present the film in very nice shape and with good quality audio. The movie itself is great, it makes excellent use of a very fine cast and it remains both suspenseful and entertaining. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.