Dr Terror’s House of Horrors 1965 is the first of the Amicus anthology horrors, delivering a train ride of spooky fun, says DAVID SAUNDERSON
Review of Dr Terror’s House of Horrors 1965
Title: Dr Terror’s House of Horrors
Released: 5 February 1965
Director: Freddie Francis
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Max Adrian, Ann Bell, Peter Madden, Roy Castle and Donald Sutherland
Dr Terror’s House of Horror is the first of Amicus Productions’ legendary portmanteau films – taking a range of short horror stories and wrapping them into one film.
Great horror stars like Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Michael Gough took a vacation from their duties at the House of Hammer during the mid 1960s to take part in Milton Subotksy’s train ride of horror fun.
The idea for the film had begun in the late 1940s, when Subotsky saw Dead of Night (1945), the legendary British portmanteau horror film which he believed was the greatest of all time. Subotsky originally considered it to become a television series but turned it into a film instead.
Directed by Freddie Francis, Dr Terror’s House of Horrors tells five short stories, born out of tarot predictions by the mysterious Dr Schreck (Peter Cushing). (Schreck is the German word for “fright” or “terror”!)
Sharing a carriage on a train journey, metaphysician Dr Schreck tells his fellow passengers that the tarot deck can reveal their futures and how to change these futures. As in any horror film, the futures are not happy ones.
Each of the five horror yarns is short and snappy; they are more fun than horrific. They are:
Werewolf: An architect (Nick McCallum) returns to his old family home in Scotland and discovers an ancient werewolf out for revenge.
Creeping Vine: A man (Alan Freedman) returns with his family from holiday to discover a fast-growing and violent vine in their garden.
Voodoo: A jazz musician (Roy Castle) accepts a gig in the West Indies and along the way steals a tune from a local voodoo ceremony.
Disembodied Hand: A pompous art critic (Christopher Lee) is humiliated by one of the targets of his criticism.
Vampire: A newly-married doctor (Donald Sutherlan) suspects his wife of being a vampire.
In this day and age, they would be considered quite silly. Dr Terror’s House of Horrors could easily be shown on a Saturday afternoon on television.
From vampires to bodiless hands to voodoo gods to murderous plants to Scottish werewolves, Dr Terror’s House of Horrors has something for everyone.
The outcomes are quite predictable but the sheer nonsense and audaciousness of the subjects make this a very watchable horror.
Dr Terror’s House of Horrors may not be the greatest horror film of all time, but in terms of horror fun, it is one of the best.
6 Things you didn’t know about Dr Terror’s House of Horrors
- Dr Terror’s House of Horrors began filming at Shepperton Studios on 25 May 1964 and was completed on 3 July 1964. It cost £105,000 to make.
- The film is the movie debut of Roy Castle, who went on to star alongside Peter Cushing again the same year in Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965).
- Dr Schreck’s card deck is the 1930 Paul Marteau version of the Marseille Tarot, based on 1760 woodblocks by Nicolas Conver.
- While the film implies the Death Card predicts something bad on its way, in real Tarot, the 13th card is actually indicates positive change in one’s life.
- Actor Donald Sutherland was paid £1000 for his role. Kenny Lynch, who appeared in the Voodoo section of the film, said that Sutherland hated the film.
- A scene from the film appears on the front of The Movie Treasury: Horror Movies by Alan G. Frank.
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