DVD Review: THE HOUSE IN NIGHTMARE PARK (1973)

PrintE-mail Written by John Knott

Review: The House in Nightmare Park / Cert: PG / Director: Peter Sykes / Screenplay: Clive Exton, Terry Nation / Starring: Frankie Howerd, Ray Milland, Hugh Burden, Kenneth Griffith, John Bennett, Rosalie Crutchley, Ruth Denning / Release Date: Out Now

There’s a genre of movie that we’re going to call the “old dark house comedy” that started, appropriately enough, with James Whale’s classic and rather strange The Old Dark House (1932). The idea usually involved an eccentric and dysfunctional family with a dark secret in an inevitably old and dark house with equally inevitable hilarious consequences. The genre had a bit of a revival in the seventies and early eighties with such mirth-free offerings as House of the Long Shadows (1983) or Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984). But what you probably don’t know is that we can, with some accuracy, pin the start of this revival to this fairly obscure Frankie Howerd vehicle, The House in Nightmare Park (1973). This is presumably why this new transfer to DVD is being so hyped as a cult piece of cinema and why so many critics are falling over themselves to tell you about its overlooked greatness. Unfortunately, it would seem nostalgia has clouded their vision.

Howerd plays Foster Twelvetrees, a Victorian actor of dubious abilities invited to entertain at a country house for the nefarious purposes of the old colonial Henderson family. There’s real talent at work here with Ray Milland appearing alongside the aforementioned Howerd and no less than Terry Nation involved in the screenplay. Peter Sykes and Ian Wilson have even come up with some brilliant cinematography with some crazy and effective camera angles that really make use of Oakley Court (a veteran of numerous Hammer Horrors) as the titular House. But you know a movie is in trouble when it’s a Frankie Howerd comedy and you’re talking about the cinematography. We love the late, great Howerd as much as the next man (in fact this reviewer once saw him live and he was quite sublime) but this movie would seem an abject lesson in how not to use his talents. Howerd’s real skill was his fantastic ability to address asides to his audience. This was brilliantly turned into a fairly innovative series of fourth-wall-breaking exercises in Howerd’s TV work and his more successful film outings of Up Pompeii (1971) and Up the Chastity Belt (1971). But for some reason, here that wall stays firmly intact and Howerd just mutters his asides to himself. It doesn’t work; it doesn’t engage with the audience and Howerd hardly seems to engage with the rest of the cast.

Despite the great camera work and some bizarre imagery, this was never going to be a frightening film. These things live or die by their ability to make you laugh and, with the exception of one or two lines, it just doesn’t. Sadly, most comedy-horror is neither funny nor frightening and this is no exception. If you want to watch one that nearly works, search out the pre-revival Carry on Screaming (1966) instead.

Extras: Full Frame 4:3 version / Music-only audio track / Original theatrical trailer, TV spot (mute) / Image gallery


Suggested Articles:
Back in the days of VHS, one of Dreamscape’s releases on the format had a cover that suggested a k
Computers are an integral part of our lives now, but back in 1984, the year Apple released their fir
Following on from their first 12-hour trailer marathon, Umbrella have returned to the vault and foun
Stephanie Rothman is a very interesting filmmaker. An apprentice of Roger Corman, Rothman was writer
scroll back to top

Comments  

 
-3 #1 Martin 2013-05-29 22:38
Sadly, you are wrong in every respect in this silly review, this is a great little film with many amusing scenes and a great Victorian atmosphere. I think The Hangover Part III would be more your cup of tea, don't you think? Your review doesn't work and doesn't engage, you are out of your depth in this genre.
Quote
 

Add comment

Security code
Refresh

Other articles in DVD / Blu-ray Reviews

DREAMSCAPE 22 July 2017

ELECTRIC DREAMS 22 July 2017

DRIVE-IN DELIRIUM: THE OFFSPRING, VOL. 2 22 July 2017

TERMINAL ISLAND 21 July 2017

24: LEGACY 21 July 2017

PSYCHO II 20 July 2017

KONG: SKULL ISLAND 20 July 2017

SPACESHIP 18 July 2017

LIFE 17 July 2017

THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE 17 July 2017

- Entire Category -

Sign up today!
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner