It may be the most confusing movie ever made. By no means is that a good thing here. It skips right past intriguing and mystifying and right to, “What the hell is going on?” In a way, it reminded me of Scream and Scream Again; a movie where we think we know what’s happening in the beginning, and then as the scenes and endless subplots get introduced, we get lost and it all falls apart. Chandler has the look and feel of a good detective story. Starring one of my favorite character actors, the underrated Warren Oates, we are expecting a rough and tumble, edgy plot with a decent level of violence. It never comes.
Meteor is one of those films that you can say was a victim of bad timing. The disaster genre of which this is a part was dead for years. On the flip-side, the special effects required for such a movie to be convincing and terrifying had not yet been developed for productions operating on a smaller scale budget. So, it relied on a star-studded cast to attempt to be successful, and failed miserably. Critics panned it, audiences hated it, and the film slipped into oblivion. American International Pictures went bankrupt shortly after. However, after watching it the other day, I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. No, not in one of those so-bad-it’s-good kind of ways, but genuinely, sincerely liking it. Normally, a movie with a name and story like this would fall victim to my comical wrath. Not the case here. Instead, I find myself arguing why this is a good movie.
This might be the coziest horror movie you will ever see. The House That Dripped Blood takes place in the English countryside, in a beautiful cottage. It is an anthology film, with four different stories presented. Each have two things in common: the house in question and the untimely and bizarre fates of the person who purchased it. Though the title is literally dripping with images of gore and all sorts of violence, there is remarkably little blood on screen, if any. What we have here is an exercise in film marketing. Director John Duffell was even opposed to the title because it does not reflect the actual product. The film relies on terrific acting and a good story rather than gore to entertain. In fact, the film was originally passed with a grade acceptable for all audiences. The studio requested an X rating to give it a more violent allure. It is a similar situation to the film I previously reviewed: Horror Hotel (1960).
They did the best they could with what they had. Like many people, I had been waiting many years to see William Peter Blatty’s vision of Legion put to film. We knew that if the footage was ever found, it would be of a lower quality because it had been sitting in storage over the years. We also knew the ending would be a subtle one, the antithesis to the special effects bonanza the studio made him tack on in what became The Exorcist III. Yet if you read the forums, you will see people are complaining about those two things. To me, judging and reviewing Legion is actually a bit of a tricky task. The question that comes into the equation is do we judge it in comparison to The Exorcist III or as a standalone film that still seems incomplete because of the way that extra footage was handled? The latter gives those disappointed a chance to still wonder about “what might have been” and the former can claim the studio was right in demanding changes.
It’s a shame that so many British horror movies had to be released with a different, catchier title here in the United States to make them more box office friendly. That was actually the norm. For some reason, The City of the Dead was too abstract, and so it became Horror Hotel for us folks here in the “colonies”. I don’t know, the name just cheapens it a little bit. Yes, there is a hotel (more like a small village inn) and there is plenty of horror, but aside from just being the place that hosts the victims, this movie has little to do with a hotel. Christopher Lee plays a college professor who teaches a course on witchcraft. One of his best students (Venetia Stevenson) is captivated by his classes and requests a suggestion for where she can continue her field work outside of class. He tells her to visit Whitewood, site of a witch hysteria in the 1600’s and the place he was born.
This is a movie you would find in one of those cheap yet massive sets of public-domain horror movies. There is no other way to describe why such a movie would be released, and furthermore, why someone would actually want to purchase it. For $2.99 in the clearance bin, it came with 11 other schlock-fests under the moniker of “Gore House Greats”. These are movies that are supposed to be bad. The kind that are so bad they are enjoyable. The Madmen of Mandoras certainly fits the build. In short, it tells the story of a small tropical island where something evil is brewing. During Hitler’s last days in the bunker, his head was removed following his death and transported to Mandoras where they placed it in a glass jar and rigged it up to some high-tech machine to keep it alive. The Third Reich will not only continue, but thrive and take over the world.
There will come a point about 20 minutes into this film when you will realize that there’s still an hour to go. Blood of Dracula’s Castle bears all the signs of one of those bad movies that is still going to be some cheap, campy fun. There’s the bad sets, corny acting, John Carradine in one of his three million movies, a monstrous ogre to do the dirty work, and women chained up in a dungeon to be used for their blood to keep the main vampire characters alive. However, where most of these so-bad-it’s-good-and-we-know-it films realize their identity is the running time of the movie and construction of the script. They don’t try to push the limit. What this one did is drag on endlessly at times, weaving in a minor subplot here and there and having scenes that should have been ended three or four minutes sooner.