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House of the Long Shadows

House of the Long Shadows (1983), starring Desi Arnaz Jr., Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing

Synopsis of House of the Long Shadows

In House of the Long Shadows, an American writer goes to a remote Welsh manor on a $20,000 bet: can he write a classic novel like “Wuthering Heights” in twenty-four hours? Upon his arrival, however, the writer discovers that the manor, thought empty, actually has several, rather odd, inhabitants.

Cast of characters in House of the Long Shadows

  • Kenneth Magee (Desi Arnaz Jr.Billy Two HatsHere’s Lucy).  The cynical young writer, who takes a bet to write an emotionally compelling novel in 24 hours.  He goes to the supposedly abandoned manor, to find that it’s not abandoned at all.  A “modern” person who doesn’t believe in love, curses freely, looks down on great literature, and doesn’t seem to spend that much time writing.  Despite being the protagonist, not very likeable (the character, not Desi).
  • Mary Norton (Julie Peasgood).  The publisher’s secretary, who appears at the manor to distract Magee.  Along the way, they begin to fall in love.  Until the twist endings.
  • Sam Allyson (Richard Todd, Stage Fright).  Magee’s publisher, who makes the $20,000 bet, and arranges for him to stay at the “abandoned” manor for 24 hours.
  • Elijah Grisbane (John CarradineHouse of FrankensteinThe Grapes of Wrath).  Supposedly the caretaker of the manor, who may be something more.  Head of the Grisbane clan.
  • Victoria Grisbane (Sheila KeithFrightmare).  Elijah’s daughter, another supposed caretaker.
  • Sebastian Grisbane (Peter CushingThe Curse of Frankenstein, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors).  At first pretending to be a stranded motorist, only to reveal himself to be another member of the Grisbane clan.
  • Lionel Grisbane (Vincent PriceThe FlyThe Raven).  The eldest of the Grisbane sons, who also shows up unannounced in the middle of “a dark and stormy night”.  An excellent performance.  “Do not interrupt me while I am soliloquizing.”
  • Mr. Corrigan (Christopher LeeHorror ExpressThe Curse of Frankenstein).  Another unexpected arrival, who supposedly is about to purchase the property and tear it down.
  • Roderick Grisbane – the missing son, who “brought about the fall of the house of Grisbane”.  At the age of 14, he seduced a young girl and made her pregnant.  He then murdered her, and was in turn imprisoned in his room by the family.  But he’s long since escaped and returned as one of the group.  And begins a string of murders.
  • Andrew and Diana Caulder (Richard HunterLouise English).  A young couple that Magee met at the train station.  They serve primarily as murder victims for Roderick.

Review of House of the Long Shadows

A few things to point out right away:

  • Although the cinematography is good, the lighting isn’t.  It’s often difficult to tell what’s going on.  I know that they’re trying to set the “spooky house” atmosphere, but go too far.
  • The “story within a story within a story” get tedious.
  • The ending frankly destroys any emotional investment that the audience has of the characters.  Up to that point, it was an enjoyable movie.  Not great, but enjoyable.

I rate it 3 stars, primarily for the acting of the four great horror actors.

Editorial review of House of the Long Shadows courtesy of Amazon.com

Horror legends Vincent Price (The Oblong Box), Christopher Lee (The Crimson Cult), Peter Cushing (Madhouse) and John Carradine (The Sentinel) star as the screen’s greatest gruesome foursome! When a young novelist, Kenneth Magee (Desi Arnaz, Jr., Billy Two Hats) spends a night at Baldpate Manor to win a bet that he can turn a best-selling novel in 24 hours, he gets more than he bargained for. The grizzly Grisbane clan arrives to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a ghoulish family secret. And their dinner party has murder on the menu. Lightning! Thunder! Torrential rain! Clattering shutters! Creaking doors! A locked attic! A sinister secret! Murder! All the ingredients of the classic Old Dark House tale come together in this top-notch horror film by cult filmmaker Pete Walker (House of Whipcord). Co-starring Richard Todd (The Assassin) and Sheila Keith (Frightmare).