The third in the Amicus anthology series, The House That Dripped Blood was allocated a budget of £500,000 and filmed at Shepperton Studios.
The four stories are all set in and around the same spooky Home Counties country house where Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) of Scotland Yard is investigating the mysterious disappearance of the last tenant of this infamous and apparently haunted property – faded horror film star Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee).
‘Method For Murder’ has horror novelist Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott) moving into the house with wife Alice (Joanna Dunham) to work on his latest book in (he hopes) peace and quiet.
Hillyer becomes increasingly unsettled by the creepy nature of the house and visions of the murderous protagonist of his latest hack offering, a homicidal strangler called Dominick (Tom Adams). Dominick is soon making eerie cameo appearances in the murky shadows of the house as Hillyer’s sanity and nerves come under increasing strain.
‘Waxworks’ stars the legendary Peter Cushing as Philip Grayson, a rather solitary bachelor who moves into the house with his collection of highly memorable cardigans. Grayson wants a nice quiet life and we see him listening to his classical music records in the house and generally pottering about keeping himself to himself on strolls through the town.
Unfortunately, he just happens to pass by a rather tatty waxworks – Jacquelin’s Museum of Horror – in the high street and becomes oddly entranced by a waxwork of Salome bearing the head of John the Baptist.
This triggers a very bittersweet memory and is the device which sets the story in motion.
The arrival of Phillip’s friend Neville Rogers, played by the excellent Joss Ackland (in one of the campest and largest neck scarves in cinema history) duly complicates matters when he too becomes obsessed with Salome and can’t stay away from the waxworks.
The mystery starts to make sense when we discover the link between the two men – conveyed in a touching line from Ackland. Wolfe Morris is also enjoyable as the nutty owner of Jacquelin’s Museum of Horror, a place that is quite good fun when the characters visit (the Community Hall in Weybridge was used for the exteriors) after being drawn to the place by a particular attraction.
‘Sweets To The Sweet’ stars Christopher Lee as John Reid, a rather stern and unemotional man who moves into the house with his young daughter Jane (Chloe Franks).
Jane’s new home tutor Ann Norton (Nyree Dawn Porter) finds herself increasingly troubled by the strict martinet Reid’s cold refusal to let Jane go to school, see other children, or even have toys.
There is perhaps a strange method to this madness though as Reid suggests when he talks about his late wife; “I was glad when she died because by then I had found out… ”
The final story is called ‘The Cloak’ and stars Jon Pertwee as a flamboyant horror film star named Paul Henderson who moves into the house as he prepares for his latest role.
Although reduced to starring in low-budget clunkers like Curse of the Bloodsucker (his latest film), Henderson is still in possession of a massive ego and enjoys a (then) topical in-joke about Amicus rival Hammer; “That’s what’s wrong with the present-day horror films,” says Henderson. “There’s no realism. Not like the old ones, the great ones. Frankenstein. Phantom of the Opera. Dracula – the one with Bela Lugosi of course, not this new fellow.”
Despite being an old ham, Henderson is a bit of a precious luvvie and to prepare fully for his new vampire role he visits a mysterious shop owned by the very odd Theo von Hartmann (Geoffrey Bayldon) to purchase a cloak befitting a man of his status and fame after rejecting the tattered one on offer from the film studio.
“I’m Paul Henderson,” he says modestly in the shop. “The great film actor.”
Henderson tries on a swanky theatrical cloak in the costume shop but this no ordinary cloak as he soon realises when his reflection immediately vanishes in the mirror.
The final twist/sequence at the end with Inspector Holloway’s investigation (which wraps things up) is actually the tensest and scariest bit of the film.
The titular house was Yew Tree House, a lodge on the back-lot of Shepperton Studios that was demolished in the early 1970s.
Nyree Dawn Porter
Theo von Hartmann