Director: Peter Duffell
Screenplay: Robert Bloch
Starring: John Bennett, Denholm Elliott, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Jon Pertwee, Ingrid Pitt
Running Time: 102min
BBFC Certificate: 12
One of Amicus Productions anthology pieces of the late 60’s and early 70’s, The House That Dripped Blood is a gloriously fun collection of four horror short stories that has an incredibly misleading title. Intended for a wider audience than most horror fare of the era, The House That Dripped BLood does not, in fact, feature a single drop of the red stuff (with one notable exception, but we’ll get to that later). In fact, director Peter Duffell initially wanted to use the title Death and the Maiden for the film, but was vetoed by the studio heads in favour of the more gruesome monicker. The lack of gore shouldn’t put off fans of the genre, though; The House That Dripped Blood is well worth your time.
The stories on offer are all centered around a cursed house and are wrapped in a surrounding narrative to hang them loosely together. A Scotland Yard inspector (Bennett) comes to a small country village to investigate the disappearance of a famous actor (Pertwee) who was staying in the aforementioned house while shooting his latest film. As he speaks to the local constable and estate agent, they regale him with dark tales of the ill tidings that have previously befallen lodgers at the house.
“Method For Murder” sees a writer (Elliott) staying at the house whith his wife while he completes his latest horror novel, begins to see visions of his latest horrifying creation. It’s certainly not a bad story and acts as a great appetiser for the film, but is a little predictable in its twist. “Waxworks” is probably the weakest of the stories. A man (Cushing) moves to the village to escape tragedy but sees the image of his former love in an exhibition at the local waxwork museum. This story feels least like it really belongs as it’s less about the house and more about the local folklore. It’s also terribly meandering but does have one of the nicest shots in the film with a trippy dream sequence full of lurid colour and canted angles.
Things really pick up in “Sweets To The Sweet” in which a single father (Lee) moves into the house with his daughter. When he hires a teacher to homeschool her, unsettling truths begin to emerge about this family. This is a great little performance from Lee on typical brooding form as the strict father and while the twist does show its head before its reveal, there’s a nice nasty edge to this story that isn’t really present in the others. The final tale, “The Cloak” focuses on what happened to the actor. It all revolves around a prop cloak that he acquires from a mysterious shop to help him play a vampire in his latest film which has some curious side effects when worn. Jon Pertwee is a blast in this story, playing the aloof actor with gusto and adding a slice of black comedy to the proceedings with pokes at the cheesiness of the horror genre itself.
In many ways, the film is rather subversive towards the traditional films of Amicus and its close cousin, Hammer, with knowing nods in both the casting and the stories. The script is certainly tight, wittily written by Psycho author Robert Bloch, and Duffell’s direction makes use of the small budget and minimal sets that were available. Indeed, this is largely likely why there is little outward “horror” in the stories, but the Tales of the Unexpected air to the proceedings ooze atmosphere that could certainly creep out younger viewers.
The Blu Ray presentation here is nice, but nothing really to write home about. The picture is clear and retains a lot of grain but can be somewhat noisy at times which can be a distraction. The sound design, again, is functional and clear but unremarkable.
- Audio Commentary with Director Peter Duffell and Author Jonathan Rigby
- Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Troy Howarth
- Interview with Second Assistant Director Mike Higgins
- “A Rated Horror Film” – Vintage featurette featuring interviews with Director Peter Duffell and Actors Geoffrey Bayldon, IngridPitt and Chloe Franks
- Theatrical Trailers
- Amicus Radio Spots
- Stills Gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork
- Optional English subtitles for the hard of hearing
The House That Dripped Blood is presented in a Limited Edition set with a handfull of special features and a new 40 page book. The features themselves are fairly mundane, with a featurette that was originally on the 2003 Anchor Bay DVD release, an interview with the Second AD which is interesting but largely anecdotal. The two commentary tracks are worth a listen for an insight into the film and its legacy.
The big draw to this Limited Edition set, however, will be the new artwork which is absolutely gorgeous and highlights the big names present in the film, as well as the 40 page book which we sadly didn’t get a chance to look at.
It’s certainly a disappointingly slim package for such a fun movie, but fans will want to check it out for the new artwork and the book.