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  • Benjamin May

The House That Dripped Blood (1971) Review

In the English countryside there stands a house, a seemingly benign, ramshackle abode nestled amid the undergrowth and enveloped in mystery. Unfortunate incidents occur to those who stay at the place, as a detective finds out while investigating the disappearance of its' latest dweller. While on the case, he hears of four separate tales of woe that befell those who rented the house, each more macabre and chilling than the last, in Peter Duffell's marvelous horror-comedy 'The House That Dripped Blood.'

An anthology film consisting of four separate stories concerning the titular homestead, 'The House That Dripped Blood' is vintage British horror. Written by Robert Bloch (and an uncredited Russ Jones), the tales within the film are each and all entertaining, full of suspense and chills. The segments vary both in tone and in quality, with the Christopher Lee led "Sweets To The Sweet" impressing and frightening the most, and Jon Pertwee's camp parody "The Cloak" being the weakest offering of the bunch. The other two, "Method For Murder" and 'Waxworks" have their moments, but don't match the sinister atmosphere and psychological terror of Lee's segment and seem unfortunately rushed to market.

In anthology films, it's not uncommon for segments to vary in length, but the first two seem far shorter than the last ones, and this imbalance produces jarring effects. "Method For Murder" and 'Waxworks" breeze by- and while the lengthy, penultimate "Sweets To The Sweet" works brilliantly- the final episode, "The Cloak," feels like it's dragging on in comparison to what came before it. Its considerably lighter tone also means that it feels somewhat inconsequential and pointless. The three preceding stories are full of dark, seedy horror that sometimes drifts into humorous territory; while "The Cloak" fully embraces the comedic and comes across as rather silly and facile.

Though still entertaining, as the whole film is overall- not to mention being technically polished. Ray Parslow's cinematography is striking, and while this isn't exactly a Dario Argento film; it's got an assured visual style that's most impressive. Credit for the film's look must also go to Tony Curtis, whose work as art director has produced distinct results. Additionally, the score from Michael Dress is atmospheric and foreboding, and Peter Tanner's editing is swift and seamless. For a relatively low-budget affair, 'The House That Dripped Blood' has a lot to offer viewers.

Including some fine performances from a large cast of talented actors. Denholm Elliott and Joanna Dunham do good work in "Method For Murder," with Elliott's portrayal of a man descending into madness being especially notable. Peter Cushing is terrific as a lonely man inexplicably drawn to a waxwork figure in "Waxworks," and is on screen for far too short a time. Christopher Lee dominates the film as an austere father in "Sweets To The Sweet," giving a performance both restrained and intense that lingers in the mind long after the credits have rolled. From "The Cloak," the incomparable Ingrid Pitt does memorable work, though is underutilized and overshadowed by her screen partner; the miscast Jon Pertwee (in a role, one might add, tailored for Vincent Price, who would have been perfect).

'The House That Dripped Blood' is a highly enjoyable anthology film that will thrill and chill in equal measure. Well written by Robert Bloch and featuring stylish visuals and an emotive Michael Dress score, the film readily impresses. Though the segments vary in quality, all are entertaining and one- "Sweets To The Sweet"- is nothing short of brilliant. Boasting a cast of stars performing strongly and deft direction from Peter Duffell, 'The House That Dripped Blood' is a fantastic voyage of fun and fear that is sure to frighten, please and amuse.


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