THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: PETER DUFFEL / SCREENPLAY: ROBERT BLOCH / STARRING: PETER CUSHING, INGRID PITT, CHRISTOPHER LEE, JON PERTWEE / RELEASE DATE: JULY 29TH
During the 1960s, Hammer Studios’ reign of box office terror was under threat. The pretender to the horror crown was Amicus. Amicus’ specialty was the anthology film such as The House That Dripped Blood. Written by the incomparable Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, The House That Dripped Blood sees Scotland Yard Inspector Holloway investigating a mysterious mansion with a macabre history in four tales of the supernatural.
The first tale, Method for Murder, stars Denholm Elliott as a horror writer whose latest literary creation of a crazed killer becomes a reality. Elliott is excellent in the role, and with the use of clever camera angles and filters, it’s hard not to feel Elliot’s increasing paranoia. The conclusion has a double twist, with the second twist making up for the very generic first twist.
Next comes Waxworks starring Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland as two old friends whom discover a waxwork of a lost love in a local waxwork museum. Events then become a bit ‘choppy’ for them both. Although Cushing and Ackland both deliver fine performances this is the weakest segment.
The third tale, Sweets for the Sweets has Christopher Lee as a strict and aloof father to a lonely little girl. There’s a palpable sense of tension between the two that builds to a shocking denouement, which makes this segment the strongest.
Finally The Cloak has Jon Pertwee as an arrogant horror film star whose insistence on authenticity in his latest film has unexpectedly dire consequences. This is the comedy piece of the ensemble which includes a good humoured dig at Hammer. The scene in question has Pertwee lamenting the state of horror films with their minuscule budgets, inexperienced directors (The House That Dripped Blood was director Peter Duffell’s first feature), and lack of realism not like the classics, “… Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera, Dracula. The one with Lugosi, of course, not that other fella.”
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary with director Peter Duffell and author Jonathan Rigby; an audio commentary with film historian and author Troy Howarth; interview with second assistant director Mike Higgins who points out that the copy of The Lord of the Rings that Christopher Lee is seen reading in the film was in fact Lee’s own copy, and that thirty years later he’s Saruman in Peter Jackson’s adaptations; ‘A Rated Horror Film’ is a vintage feature featuring interesting interviews with director Peter Duffell and Ingrid Pitt amongst others; theatrical trailers from around the globe; radio spots and a stills gallery that features much of Amicus’ catalogue with accompanying radio adverts as a soundtrack. These highlight just how film marketing has changed throughout the decades.
The House That Dripped Blood is somewhat of a misnomer as the house is clearly anaemic with not a single drop of blood being dripped. But that doesn’t matter as the film is such a well-crafted, lovingly made venture that it’s easy to overlook that point. There’s not a single bad performance and the direction is confident and assured with some brave choices in lighting and camerawork. Undoubtedly tame by today’s standards, but nonetheless an absolute Amicus classic brimming with class and charm.