This IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, on the Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee anthology movie THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD is from 2004, and it was actually reprinted in October 2010 in the HWA NEWSLETTER, so this marks the third time this particular column has made it into print. Not sure why I chose this one today, except that I figured now was as good a time as any to finally review a Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee movie for CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.
—Michael Arruda, October, 2011
IN THE SPOOKLIGHT
THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971)
By Michael Arruda
There’s a lot to like about THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971), the third anthology movie by England’s Amicus Productions.
Amicus is England’s lesser known horror film company, having operated in the shadow of the more famous Hammer Films. Amicus made horror movies during the same years as Hammer, and even used some of the same stars, such as Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, but never quite made it as a phenomenon.
Yet, Amicus churned out quality horror movies in abundance throughout the 1960s and 70s, and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD is no exception.
There are four tales in THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, plus a linking story, all of them written by the great Robert Bloch, which is one of the main reasons why the film is as enjoyable as it is. It goes without saying, it’s a well-written movie! The stories all take place in the titled house, each chronicling a different owner’s experience within its walls.
The first story, “Method for Murder,” is a neat little tale in which a horror writer (Denholm Elliott) creates a sinister murderer in his latest novel, a strangler by the name of Dominick. The writer is excited about his latest work, until the strangler he created shows up outside his window! A very creepy tale that works surprisingly well.
The second tale “Waxworks” starring Peter Cushing is probably the weakest of the movie and involves strange goings-on inside a wax museum. Director Peter Duffell said the story was basically a “contrivance to get Peter Cushing’s head on a plate” which is one of the more famous images from the film, and later immortalized on a cover of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine.
The third story stars Christopher Lee and is called “Sweets to the Sweet.” It’s about Lee’s strange relationship with his young daughter. He’s terribly frightened of her, and as we find out in the story, with good reason.
The last tale, “The Cloak,” is the story of a horror movie actor (John Pertwee) who buys a cloak for his role as a vampire. When he puts on the cloak, he becomes a real vampire. He has the best line in the film when he’s talking about classic horror movies, he says “That’s what’s wrong with your present-day horror films, no realism! Not like the old ones—the great ones! Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera, Dracula—the one with Bela Lugosi, of course, not that new fella!” This tale also stars Ingrid Pitt who also gets to wear the cloak and strut her stuff as a vampire. Mostly played for laughs, “The Cloak” is the most fun tale of the movie.
First-time director Peter Duffell does a very good job, imbuing the film with both atmosphere and genuine shocks, though he wanted to call the film DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, because he felt THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD was too trashy. Personally, I kinda like THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD.
But the main reason the film succeeds so well is the same reason why so many of the Hammer/Amicus films work, and that is, the people involved take them very seriously. Actors like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing play it straight, so when Lee fears his young daughter, as silly as it seems, you see the look on his face and you believe it too.
THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD is a good Halloween movie, spooky, well-made, well-acted, well-written, and fun.
This Halloween, why not stop by for a visit? I hear they’re looking for new tenants.
© Copyright 2004 by Michael Arruda