It sounds like a fantastic idea, pulling horror icons Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and John Carradine together under one roof. Indeed, this was the only film to manage that. It also happens to be the last in which Cushing and Lee appeared together, after having teamed up as Van Helsing and Dracula in Hammer’s line of vampire pics through the 60’s and 70’s.
Sadly, not even these seasoned actors can save the lame dialogue and boring shenanigans that plod along in this snoozefest of a film.
The absurdity begins at the beginning: American writer Kenneth Magee meets with his agent, Sam, in London to discuss his latest novel. Through some incredibly contrived dialogue, Ken ends up wagering $20,000 (yikes) that he can write a Wuthering Heights-style potboiler in 24 hours, if only he can be provided a location without disturbances. Sam suggests a Welsh mansion that he owns, Baldpate Manor, as the perfect place to pen his mystery.
Thus sets into motion this turtle of a plot. There’s a mysterious woman and lots of wandering around in darkness as one new character after another appears and parades into the mansion. After some deception, they finally confess that they are there for a chance family reunion, and….
Ugh. By now, we’re about an hour into the movie and nothing particularly interesting has happened. Watching four seasoned actors working their best to elevate some truly lame source material is not even enough.
Vincent Price plays Vincent Price – not the sly and conniving Vincent Price of House on Haunted Hill or The Abominable Dr. Phibes, but the damaged and confused Vincent Price of The Fall of the House of Usher. Peter Cushing plays Peter Cushing – not the clever Van Helsing but the pathetic loser of Tales from the Crypt. And the dashing English gentleman who’s interested in buying the house is, of course, Christopher Lee. John Carradine, as always by this late stage in his career, is the old man.
I kept looking out for the advertised Desi Arnaz, only to realize later that I’d been watching Desi Arnaz JR the entire time. He’s Kenneth Magee, the novelist, the guy shouting all his lines, the worst actor of the bunch, around whom the plot revolved.
There are also a couple truly terrible twists. Just when you expect the credits to roll, there’s yet another 10 minutes between you and the rest of your life. I’m sooo surprised this wasn’t a made-for-network-tv movie, because that’s exactly how it felt to me.
House of the Long Shadows claims to be a horror “parody,” but aside from a couple funny gags and one liners (“[Her throat was slit with] piano wire. He must’ve heard her singing.”), it’s hard to muster the energy to laugh when you’re already spending so much of it just trying to keep your eyes open.
Now that you’ve seen the film…
************ SPOILER ALERT *************
Let’s acknowledge first-off about the absurdity of a person even typing out a novel in 24 hours, let alone writing one. Then let’s consider the necessity of undertaking such an experiment if you happen to be in a position to wager $20,000 on it. Finally, if you DO have $20,000 on the line, how likely are you to insist on staying in this house with all these distractions constantly pulling you away? Kenneth is incredibly aloof about all this, as are his reactions toward the entirety of the proceedings.
The implausibility of the whole twist at the end drives the final stake through the heart of this movie. If we’re to understand that Sam maneuvered this entire scheme in a couple hours after their dinner conversation, designing makeup effects and pulling together actors, then I guess it makes sense he didn’t think through the safety issues either.
The most clever bit, and the biggest laugh, for me was seeing Vincent Price as waiter-actor at the end, with bonus props considering his love for fine dining and cuisine. But if you want to see a REAL horror spoof starring Price, you’re best off with the hard-to-find but hilarious Bloodbath at the House of Death.
If you’re a completist and decide it’s at least worth fast-forwarding through, try to seek out a copy that’s better than the one hosted on Amazon Prime right now. The transfer is awful, and relegates most of the film to pitch blackness.
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