Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) starring Peter Cushing, Neil McCallum, Christopher Lee, Roy Castle, Max Adrian, Donald Sutherland
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors was Amicus’ first attempt at an anthology of 5 horror stories, with a very good framing device. The entire film takes place on a train, where 5 gentlemen — total strangers — sit together and wait to reach their destination. To pass the time, these passengers each have their futures foretold by a 6th individual; a quiet, mild man named Doctor Sandor Shreck (Peter Cushing) — Shreck being the German word for “terror” — who relies on a deck of Tarot cards to tell the future. The Doctor instructs each reluctant participant to tap the deck three times; after, the first four images dealt tell the listener his fate, while an extra fifth card explains how it can be avoided. The five stories foretold are:
- Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum), a hard-working architect, is asked to renovate a widow’s mansion, where later on he discovers an ancient Werewolf’s coffin hidden in the basement … and a story of an ancient vendetta unfolds.
- Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland), a happily married man, is terrorized by a clinging vine creeping on the side of the house; an intelligent plant that doesn’t want to be removed.
- Biff Bailey (Roy Castle) is an ambitious jazz performer who steals the rhythms of an ancient voodoo ritual in an effort to compose a hit song; and later learns the price to be paid. When I first saw this, I could have sworn that I had seen it on an episode of Boris Karloff‘s TV series, Thriller, “Voodoo Rhapsody” — I had. Apparently, both are based on the short story, “Papa Benjamin”.
- Franklyn Marsh (Christoper Lee) is a snobbish art critic who delights in humiliating artists with his acerbic wit. When a painter turns the tables and humiliates him in turn, the critic coldly dismembers the painter’s hand in a hit-and-run drive. When the victim commits suicide, his amputated hand returns to life, seeking vengeance.
- The film’s final passenger, Doctor Blake (Max Adrian), is a newlywed, married to a gorgeous, seductive French woman … who a fellow doctor suggests may be a vampire in disguise.
At the end of the train ride, the kindly Dr. Shreck has one way for the men to avoid their fates … in a twist ending.
In all, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors is a very enjoyable film, featuring good acting and interesting stories, and I recommend it.
Editorial review of Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors courtesy of Amazon.com
SYNOPSIS: Five strangers board a train and are joined by a mysterious fortune teller [Peter Cushing] who offers to read their Tarot cards. Five separate stories unfold: An architect returns to his ancestral home to find a werewolf out for revenge; a doctor discovers his new wife is a vampire; a huge plant takes over a house; a musician gets involved with voodoo; an art critic is pursued by a disembodied hand. By the end, the train riders learn of their true fates in one of the best twists in cinematic history.
In ‘The Vampire’ segment, Dr Bob Carroll [Donald Sutherland] draws the Empress, the Hermit, the Star, and the Lovers. His story reveals him marrying a French girl, Nicole [Jennifer Jane]. Upon moving into their new house, Bob cuts his finger and Nicole sucks the blood. At night, she stares out the window at the stars. One morning, Bob and his associate Dr Blake [Max Adrian], examine a boy with anemia and two wounds on neck. Blake suggests that there is a vampire around. That night, Nicole goes to Blake and, as a bat, attempts to bite him. He throws his arms into a cross and she flies away.
Next day, the boy is worse. Blake spends the night with him and shoots at a bat. Nicole wakens Bob; she has bloody fingers and claims she cut herself on window. Blake tells Bob that his wife is vampire and he must kill her with a stake. He does so. Police come. Blake denies ever saying such a thing. As Bob is taken away, Blake says, ‘This town isn’t big enough for two doctors…or two vampires’…
Movie quotes from Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors
Dawson: Schreck? That’s a German word, isn’t it? Means fear or horror.
Dr. Schreck (Peter Cushing): A more exact translation would be terror. An unfortunate misnomer for I am the mildest of men.
Hopkins: Plant like that… could take over the world.
Hopkins: There’s one thing that every intelligent thing is afraid of – fire! If a species ever develops that isn’t, it could be the end of the world.
Dr. Blake: This town isn’t big enough for two doctors… or two vampires.
[turns into a bat and flies away]