Friday, February 18, 2011

Film #54: Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)

Does Dr. Terror see a lot of patients?
As horror fans, yeah, we might go see him.
But, we’d have to guess a guy with a name like Dr. Terror draws in as many paying customers as a dentist named Dr. Drillsalot or a contractor named Hugh Crook.
Likely, this is why the namesake of this week's film opened a House of Horrors. Because really, aren’t doctors' offices just as frightening-- with their death's-doorstep old people and greasy magazines?

This week’s horror adventure starts with a smiling Dr. Terror (Peter Cushing) entering a crowded train car. Room for one more honey, the gents exclaim! Like a desperate singleton dropping his doctor credentials in a bar, Dr. Terror accidently spills his beloved tarot cards at the feet of his cab mates. "Ooops! Oh my, how did THAT happen," he slyly proclaims.

What’s up, doc? The boys call. Well, Dr. Terror isn’t of the medicine ilk, but a edumacated gent who specializes in the dark arts of fortune telling.
One by one, Dr. Terror uses the cards to show the men’s future, which all contain some sort of twisted supernatural drama. The vignettes unfold with increasing horror:

Story 1: A man returns to the mansion he grew up in, and was forced out of, to help the current owners install a ballroom. What he finds behind the walls isn’t your standard mouse droppings and depression-era stashed cash, but the body of a nefarious werewolf thought to be legend. Like any home renovation... it doesn’t go well.

Story 2: A man experiences his own personal house of horrors when a mutated vine grows in his backyard, feeding on Fido and any other fleshy morsel that comes in its path. Just another reason to destroy all vegetation, one oil spill at a time. Bless you BP!

Story 3: A swinging trumpeter steals a buggy Voodoo beat during a trip to the West Indies, despite local’s warnings that the tune belongs to their god. Back in Britain, he performs the ditty, and then his head goes splitty. Death metal it t'was.

Story 4: A snooty art critic (Christopher Lee) goes too far to silence a mocking artist, maiming and murdering the Michelangelo. But the paint-slapper gets the last laugh when his body parts return from the grave for revenge. I've heard of giving a critic the finger, but the whole hand?!

Story 5: A charming Donald Sutherland picks up a sizzling French wife and brings her home to the States. Coincidentally, as soon as they arrive small children and old people begin to get feasted on by a vampire. But it couldn’t be the mysterious woman who likes to lick my hurt cuts, could it, old Donald contemplates?

It is five horror tales in one train-wrapped package as the unfortunate cabin-mates of Dr. T try to avoid their fate, in the 1965 titillator Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors.

RDHP Ratings and Review

C-Rating: 3.5
Chris Dimick woo-wooooos:
“Doctor's are full of shit. Oh, they think they are so smart, and so much better than you with their 10-year degree and $250,000 student loans. But they are just monkeys with pants on, just like the rest of us.
And that is really the leverage they have over us, isn't it, their pants. You go into their stinking office festering with disease bags, wait among the rabble for 45 minutes, and then graduate to another smell-filled room only to be ordered to take off your pants.

Then in waltzes the doctor, in full tie and dress pant, acting important and like your master.

What the hell can you say to a doctor's advice, sitting there with your pants off? You are in no position to question his bullshit.

Not only do you look and feel like an idiot half naked, but here is this guy next to you ordering you around and commanding authority.

After giving you meaningless advice and poking your cold flesh, they send you on your way with a nice $1,000,000,000,000,000 bill to show for your wasted afternoon.

You know what Doctor Terror? I don't care what kind of a doctor you are, be it dermatologist or witch, but go f%#k yourself with your stethoscope. You, and all your lab coat wearing band of @$$holes.

Oh, yeah, and I liked this movie. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Donald Sutherland and a series of horror vignettes. Can't go wrong. Horror fans dream... but not as scary as a doctor's visit.

N-Rating: 2.7
Nick Rich woo-woooos:
"I find investigating what scared people at different times throughout history fascinating. To think about what rattled the human brain during different time periods not only gives you an insight into the times you are studying, but into man himself.

If Dr. Terror's House of Horrors tagline "The Fear of The Year" is to be believed, then in 1965 man was terrified of the following (in the order of the tales):
  • The weight of familial legacy (Weep for the progeny of Astronaut Mike Dexter)
  • Home ownership (Shudder!)
  • Unfamiliar cultures/beliefs (They do what?)
  • Looking foolish (There are oh, so many ways...)
  • Not truly knowing your spouse (You're WHAT?!?)
I'm sure as you reviewed the above list you were able to find at least one thing that horrified you... I know I did. It just goes to show: as much as things change, they stay the same.

While that is all well and good... I didn't find myself falling in love with DTHoH. I found this film interesting to watch as a study in fears throughout the years, but sadly, ill equipped to downright entertain me. The stories were steeped in sheer 60s-ness, which has traditionally entertained me in other decades (usually the 80s, but other decades have stolen my heart in their own special ways), but due to the apparently general boringness of the early 1960s DTHoH fell flat for me.

The stories were predictable, yet somehow felt unique... an odd combination which left me feeling conflicted. Overall I think this flick has stood up nicely over time (much nicer than the print we watched which popped and crackled at us from time to time), but the pacing seemed to drag a bit. Chris didn't seem to notice, but many times during the film I found myself wondering how a movie that runs 1 hour and 37 minutes could feel so long. Add the fact that Tales From The Crypt (which was made 7 years later and, as we discovered, a total rip-off of DTHoH) was much more entertaining (a reflection of the apparently exciting late 60s) and there you have DTHoH's death knell as a 'full-on enjoyable ride'.

As a trailblazer (as far as I know) I was left with a lasting respect good ol' Dr. Terror... but really, how exciting is it when someone says 'I respect you' instead of 'you thrill me'?

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you don't believe how doldrum life could be in the early 60s or if you want to see a flick where Donald Sutherland isn't even mentioned on the movie poster!

Things We Learned From
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors:
-Bands sound better when they got brass.
-Monkeys are always fun, and essential for a 1960s movie.
-The French really suck...blood.
-Christopher Lee got his groove back through murder.
-Severed hands don't burn... so don't even try it.
-"There are lots of things a blind man can do."
-(In Jeff Foxworthy voice) "If your new wife wants to lick your cuts... she might be a vampire."
-Donald Sutherland looked like Donald Sutherland in 1965.
-Fire resistant plants could "mean the end of the world."
-An "unexpected gift" can be a piece of bird crap landing on your head:

Quote of the Viewing:
[A huge killer plant takes root outside a man's home. Scientists debate ways to get rid of it.]

Scientist: "There must be some way to stop this?"
Nick: "Yeah, don't water it. Or expose it to sunlight. Or fire."

RDHP Presents:
Random Tribute to Donald Sutherland

Why do we love D.S. so much? The answer is in his eyes. Yes, his voice doesn't match his strange face. And he is a skinny SOB. But the guy can act, and has done so in more than a few horror pictures. See his illustrious career in horror below. We could have saluted co-stars Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee for their horror exploits... but you'd have seen it coming a mile away.

Puffball: The Devil's Eyeball

An American Haunting



The Puppet Masters

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Rosary Murders

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Die! Die! My Darling!

Castle of the Living Dead