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Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors

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Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee
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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, starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee

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”. He 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:

Five stories

  1. Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum) is a hard-working architect. He’s asked to renovate a widow’s mansion. Later on he discovers an ancient Werewolf’s coffin there, in the basement … and a story of an ancient vendetta unfolds.
  2. Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland) is a happily married man. A clinging vine creeps on the side of his house, terrorizing him. It’s an intelligent plant that doesn’t want to be removed.
  3. Biff Bailey (Roy Castle) is an ambitious jazz performer. He steals the rhythms of an ancient voodoo ritual in an effort to compose a hit song. Later he learns the price he has to pay. 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”.
  4. Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee, Horror of Dracula) 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.
  5. 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.

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]

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