Archive for Chamber of Horrors

Mondo Arcana

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on January 1, 2016 by dcairns

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DARK INTRUDER (1965) is easily recognizable for what it is — a failed TV pilot masquerading as a feature. Like the amiably grim CHAMBER OF HORRORS, released the following year, it’s a kind of occult detective set-up, and one can only wish either or both of these series had been picked up in preference to the somewhat lacklustre KOLCHAK.

Spoilers throughout.

This one is set in foggy, Victorian San Francisco, where an eldritch serial killer is on the prowl, and only carefree socialite and occult detective Leslie Nielsen can stop him (assisted by his dwarf manservant, Nikola). This is way better than it has any business being, with a witty script by Hollywood old-time Barre Lyndon, who had a penchant for the sepulchral (THE AMAZING DR CLITTERHOUSE, THE LODGER, HANGOVER SQUARE, NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES). Nielsen, whose character keeps a potted mandrake to warn him of evil, seems to be having the time of his life, playing the role with a somewhat Wellesian archness. You know that lowering the chin while rolling the eyes up slightly to look ahead, and slowing down and rising in pitch at the end of a sentence?

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The show’s wacky nastiness, which makes it interesting, no doubt spelled its downfall, as with CHAMBER OF HORRORS. The plot, which is easily guessable but unfolded in a pleasing manner, involves a withered parasitic twin, possession, and ritual murder, with a hint of grave-robbing thrown in as a light diversion. Harvey Hart, a prolific Canadian TV director who returned to ritual homicide with the feature THE PYX (distinguished by eerie Karen Black vocals on its soundtrack) directs with gusto and plenty of dry ice to compliment Nielsen’s dry delivery.

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They should totally bring this show back.

eXQUIsITE cOrPsE

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2012 by dcairns

“You? But… you’re dead!”

“Yes, I am. Won’t you… join me?”

With these words, CHAMBER OF HORRORS officially crosses the line into “movies I can’t believe I haven’t seen before.” Long before these immortal words are uttered, we’ve had the FEAR FLASHER and the HORROR HORN, cheapjack gimmicks to alert the squeamish, and we’ve had Patrick O’Neal chopping his own hand off with an axe, while underwater. This is a movie determined to deliver, come rain, snow, sleet or hail — a TV pilot script presumably rejected for gruesomeness, from the authors of MacGyver and THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES, finds itself under the direction of Hy Averback, the not-quite-inspired helmer of films such as I LOVE YOU, ALICE B TOKLAS and huge amounts of TV — so why is it so GOOD?

There’s the script, which has weird concepts and funny lines to spare — what other 1966 movie opens with a madman forcing a priest, at gunpoint, to marry him to a corpse? And there’s even a hint that the marriage may have been consummated (!)… Cesare Danova is only so-so as leading man, but his sidekicks are Wilfred Hyde White and a charismatic Mexican dwarf billed as Tun Tun. And there are cameos by noir’s arch femme fatale Marie Windsor, primo sleazeball Berry Kroeger (in yellowface, no less) and some full-on cheroot-smoking zest from Jeanette Nolan, Orson’s Lady Macbeth. And, for no readily explainable reason, Tony Curtis turns up for thirty seconds, playing cards in a Baltimore brothel. “I have — excuse the expression — a full house.”

The fellow really holding it all together, even as he hacks the rest of the dramatis personae apart, is Patrick O’Neal, who on this evidence could have had Vincent Price’s career (the plot, in which the crazed scion of a wealthy family dismembers the officials who sent him to execution, sending parts to the police as if to assemble a Frankenstein’s homicide victim, seems to pre-echo Price’s PHIBES revenger’s comedies, even as it picks up from his earlier HOUSE OF WAX). O’Neal was a damn good actor, as you can see in KING RAT, but I’ve never seen him have this much fun, throatily whispering menaces, humming gleefully to himself, and attaching an amusing series of weapons to his wrist-stump, the best of these being a pistol concealed within a lifelike wax hand…

Pop!

The movie has perhaps not quite enough jokes, but makes up for it by having some jokes that are well above its station — and the ending will really make you wish that TV series had happened. Joe Dante should make it for Warners, immediately.

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