Tuesday 4 February 2020


Directed by Peter Duffell. Starring Denholm Elliott, Christopher Lee, Jon Pertwee, Chloe Franks, Peter Cushing, Joss Ackland, Ingrid Pitt, John Bennett. Horror/Thriller, UK, 1971,102 mins, Cert 15.

Originally released in an highly sought-after Limited Edition Blu-ray package back in July 2019, Second Sight have now released the Standard Edition Blu-ray alongside fellow Amicus portmanteau ASYLUM, porting over the previous generous special features and infinitely superior reversible sleeve from Graham Humphreys.  

Amicus anthology flicks are British horror’s equivalent of a comfort blanket, and they don’t get much cosier than director Peter Duffell’s only horror foray: THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD. A charmingly old-fashioned, bloodless (despite the misleading title), quartet of Robert Bloch adapted stories boasting genre stalwarts Cushing and Lee, alongside the ever dependable Denholm Elliott and a film-stealing turn from Jon Pertwee.

Like ASYLUM, the wraparound premise is housed in an imposing building, here a creepy gothic mansion whose occupants find their true natures tested and exposed with fatal consequences. The somewhat tenuous and clunky framing device grinds into gear when a Scotland Yard Inspector (John Bennett) investigates the disappearance of famous horror film star Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee) who was the latest resident at the house, and uncovers a sinister history of tragic events befalling all the previous tenants...   

The first story, METHOD FOR MURDER features Denholm Elliott as Charles, a horror author suffering from writers block until he moves into the inspirationally atmospheric house with his wife Alice (Joanna Dunham). Initially impressed with the library of classic horror books on the dusty shelves, his writing comes along leaps and bounds as he types up his latest horror novel about an escaped homicidal mental patient called Dominic whose modus operandi is strangulation. There’s only one problem, Charles starts seeing his fictional character popping up around the house and gardens. Will a visit to the psychiatrist help him delineate fact from fiction...?  

Peter Cushing is the main protagonists in the second story, WAXWORKS, where he plays Philip a recent retiree still longing after his unattainable deceased true love. A trip to the local wax museum sets in motion a sinister train of events when one of the exhibits seems to be the spitting image of his lost love... 

SWEETS TO THE SWEET stars Christopher Lee as a single father to a young girl (Chloe Franks). Insisting his daughter must be home tutored, he employs private teacher (Nyree Dawn Porter) who is initially perturbed by Lee forbidding the child to have any toys, especially dolls, and missing candles seem to send him into a state of irrational panic. But what exactly is his daughter researching in the encyclopaedia in the ‘W’ section...?
And then, rounding things off with a hilariously show-stealing turn is John Pertwee, an aging prolific horror film actor on the set of his latest picture, a low-budget vampire flick entitled: ‘Curse of the Bloodsuckers’. Disgruntled with the wardrobe department’s offering, he purchases a second-hand cloak from a unique theatrical costumer by the name of Theo von Hartmann (Geoffrey Bayldon). The garment is quite authentic, perhaps too authentic in fact...
Director Duffell originally wanted to call the film ‘Death and the Maiden’ after the classical piece by Schubert Peter Cushing is listening to in the WAXWORKS segment), but was over ruled in favour of a more luridly commercial title. The producer’s even insisted on an ‘X’ rating for the film, despite its entirely anaemic content!
There are some cheeky in-jokes and genre references scattered throughout the film which alert one to the fact that Duffell, whilst treating the stories with care and attention, wasn’t above winking to the audience at times. The classic genre books on the shelves that Denholm Elliott browses through are carefully chosen, and the placing of ‘The Haunted Screen’ (an analysis of Expressionism in German cinema) against the director’s opening credit hints at Duffell’s loftier ideals. The waxworks Cushing attends features a tableau which is clearly Christopher Lee’s DRACULA (ironically the best rendition in the whole set), and poor Mr Lee is also the brunt of an aside by Jon Pertwee’s character when he reminisces about the classic old horror films such as DRACULA: “The one with Bela Lugosi of course, not this new fellow...” 

The opening story METHOD FOR MURDER is the most effective and delivers some genuinely creepy moments, even if Dominic the strangler looks like a cross between Boris Karloff in THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932), perhaps intentionally, and ‘Oddbod’ from CARRY ON SCREAMING! – certainly not.

Peter Cushing is always a consummate professional, and he certainly gives it his all in the otherwise largely underwhelming WAXWORKS segment, particularly during an axe fight. (The actual waxworks are this story’s major hindrance). It’s always nice to see Christopher Lee cast against type in SWEETS TO THE SWEET – even if he is upstaged by little Chloe Franks. And the scene between ‘Doctor Who’ and future ‘Worzel Gummidge (Jon Pertwee) and ‘Catweazle’ and Worzel’s future ‘Crowman’ (Geoffrey Bayldon) – giving his best impression of Ernest Thesiger - is a TV trivia joy to behold. (Quick side note: Geoffrey Bayldon turned down the part of ‘Doctor Who’ when it was offered to him as he was reticent about committing to a TV series – and then the script for ‘Catweazle’ came along).

Whilst THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD doesn't, it does positively ooze with a comforting nostalgic atmosphere. And in these dark times, when you fancy a little lighter genre offering, why not snuggle up and pay this house of Amicus a visit?  

***(out of 5*)

Paul Worts

This review was originally published by FrightFest.