Step inside, pull up a seat and have a drink, the hearth is lit and it’s nice and warm in here. I wouldn’t get too uncomfortable, after all this is from a more innocent time, one before the greu and gore of what would follow. This is no house with laughing windows nor is it one located on the left, by the cemetery, on dead end street or by the edge of the park. We are in 1970 and the picturesque village of Bray near Berkshire (although filmed in fact nearer Shepperton Studios), what could possibly go wrong? The House That Dripped Blood actually doesn’t, I doubt Amicus who were responsible for this 1970 feature could afford the budget to pull of such an effect but there’s plenty of ghastly fun to be had once you step over the threshold as well as a host of stars from the Golden era of horror.
Much loved and remembered from late night showings at a time when we had only a couple of channels and if we were lucky a colour TV this is one of several portmanteau or anthology horror films that the likes of British film production Amicus were knocking out at the time. The House That Dripped Blood along with Asylum are two such examples and have both recently been revamped (pun intended) by Second Sight in limited edition sets with hardcases and booklets which are now out of print. Luckily if you missed out, both have stand alone versions with just the films and extras coming out on Jan 6th, in this case nearly 50 years after it originally was seen by thrill seekers on the cinema screen. Anthology films were a good way of providing several stories and a large cast over their running time and giving audiences a series of shocks and tales with a quick denouement and a sting in their tale; this was no exception.
Produced by the erstwhile team of Milton Subotsky & Max Rosenberg and written by Robert Bloch these stories take inspiration in many cases from the comic world of Weird Tales as literary source. Although hardly huge budget they are performance driven and make the most of their locations such as the quaint British countryside where our particular house nestles here. A wrap around story sees a Police inspector down from the big smoke to investigate the disappearance of a famous actor. With the help of the local bobby and somewhat sinister estate agent Stoker he unravels the fact that previous tenants of this impressively fully furnished manse had also met strange fates. Exploring further these tales are unravelled and could ultimately see our erstwhile sleuth ignoring the fact and plunging into his own inevitable doom.
The first part ‘Method For Murder’ sees horror writer and wife Charles and Alice Hillyer (Denholm Elliott and Joanna Dunham) taking up residence in the hope that his creative juices will flow and his writers block will cease allowing him to write his next grizzly tale. The spirit of the house welcomes him with open arms but the problem is the fiction of his writing seeps into reality and who knows what is actually real and not? ‘Waxworks’ takes a classic approach which has Philip Grayson (Peter Cushing) looking for some chill time at the house as he escapes from sad memories of love and tragedy. However, a local museum of horrors proves to live up to its name and he is spurred on by forces in the house ensnared in its malevolent web. Who is the real dummy here? The third and to my mind the best of the bunch is Sweets To The Sweet which sees Father and daughter John And Jane Reid (Christopher Lee & Chloe Franks) moving in, also looking at escaping the past. An authoritarian father figure Lee is as ever a formidable presence and it is left to a teacher Ann Norton (Nyree Dawn Porter) to unravel the mystery of why the little girl is allowed no friends or toys. The terrible truth turning out really quite shocking. Doctor Who himself Jon Pertwee is the missing actor Paul Henderson who is on location shooting a nearby horror film with Carla Lynde (Ingrid Pitt). An irascible rogue and a stickler for his craft being taken seriously he goes off in search for an authentic vampire cape so he can really get his fangs into his part. Needless to say, he has bitten off rather more than he can chew.
The House That Dripped Blood is damn good fun. It never takes itself too seriously and indeed the comedic parts of the Pertwee segment shine through even if this was apparently partly by accident with cast and crew thinking that this was the intended direction, much to the dismay of the producers when they found out. The acting from this legendary mob is as expected excellent and supporting cast shine through, doing their jobs and never cluttering up things and making them anything more than straightforward. You will probably guess the eventuality of the individual segments but maybe not as there are surprises to be found here. At the very least you will find yourself creeped out by Michael Dress’s admirable score and no doubt hungering back to a time that these sorts of films were made. It looks a lot better than the rest of us hitting our half centuries too. There’s plenty of daylight scenes where the locale sparkles, the set-design and things to look at in the house really stand out as does the dress sense of the time with plenty of bold primary colours. You could of course pick holes in the vintage walls of this house if you really wanted to but frankly that would be churlish and it is much better to look back it fondly as a true classic of its era. I kind of accidently on purpose watched it the same weekend as Peter Medak’s The Changeling which shows just how the haunted house story would change in just 10 years (also available via Second Sight) and can’t wait to get stuck into Asylum next.
There’s 2 commentary tracks firstly by film historian Troy Howarth and secondly director Peter Duffell, moderated by Jonathan Rigby. Then we get a short interview with 2nd Assistant Director Mike Higgins and a 17-minute featurette on ‘A Rated’ horror with director Peter Duffell and actors Geoffrey Bayldon, Ingrid Pitt and Chloe Franks. Topping it all off are trailers, Amicus radio spots, a still gallery and of course striking new artwork by Graham Humphreys. And that’s a full-house!