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”. 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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]