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In Bride of Frankenstein, Dr Pretorius, played by the inimitable Ernest Thesiger, raises his glass and offers a toast to Colin Clive’s Henry Frankenstein – “to a new world of Gods and monsters. “I invite you to join me in exploring this world, focusing on horror films from the dawn of the Universal Monster films in 1931 to the collapse of the studio system and the rise of the new Hollywood rebels. in the late 1960s. With this period as our focus and occasional adventures beyond, we will explore this beautiful world of classic horror. So I raise my glass to you and invite you to join me for the toast. .
From the late 1950s, Hammer Films of London became the undisputed champion of British horror. Then, in the late 1960s, a renegade duo of American producers gave them bang for their buck with their business, Amicus Productions, headquartered at Shepperton Studios. New Yorkers Milton Subostsky and Max J. Rosenberg partially imitated the Hammer model in their approach: small budgets, limited locations, and a focus on genre films. They even used much of Hammer’s talent stable, including stars. Pierre Cushing and Christophe lee as well as director Freddie Francois. Amicus set itself apart from Hammer by focusing on modern set films rather than largely Gothic period pieces from the most famous studio. They also came across a structure that became their daily bread between 1967 and 1974: the coat rack or anthology film. No one has made these kinds of movies like Amicus, and best of all is 1971 The house that flowed with blood.
In another similar move to Hammer at the time, Amicus brought in one of America’s great horror writers for several of their films. Hammer had used the author of “I Am Legend” Richard Matheson to adapt the novel by Dennis Wheatley The devil goes away (1968), one of their best films. Amicus hired Robert bloch, best known for writing the original novel psychopath, to write several films for them. Bloch started out like many of his generation, writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror stories for the ubiquitous pulp magazines of the 1940s and 1950s. Following the success of Alfred Hitchcock’s film version of his novel, he turned to writing for television, providing scripts for shows including Polar, Alfred Hitchcock presents, and Star Trek. He wrote two films for William Castle: Straight jacket (1964), which is very psychopath counterfeiting, and The Night Walker (1964), another psychological thriller.
Where Castle, who was posing as Hitchcock on a budget, only really hired Bloch because of his association with psychopath, Milton Subotsky really admired the work of the writer and adapted his story “The skull of the Marquis de Sade” into the film Skull (1965) for Amicus. Impressed with his television work, Subotsky hired Bloch to write The psychopath and Deadly bees (both in 1966) followed by the studio’s second coat rack film, The garden of torture (1967), based on Bloch’s own stories. The success of this film led to The house that flowed with blood.
None of the stories lodge are of particular thematic depth or complexity, but all are engaging, often with an O. Henry twist designed to appeal to fans of series like The twilight zone and Polar. The fact that Bloch cut his teeth writing for the pulp gave him a wealth of material for the three anthologies he wrote for Amicus. The stories in this film are diverse in tone and subject, but are loosely held together by a clever setting story, one that was kind of a departure for Amicus. The two Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) and The garden of torture adhere more to the Death of the night (1945), a film that Subotsky and Rosenberg greatly admired, formulates for the story of the frame. In these films, and then again in later Amicus anthologies, a group of strangers come together to hear or tell a story in which each of them plays the main character.
The house that flowed with blood follows Inspector Holloway (John bennett) while investigating the disappearance of horror film actor Paul Henderson. He discovers that Henderson was only the last occupant of the former title country house to suffer a strange misfortune. He learns from two of his sergeant’s previous tenants (John malcolm) and the next two from the house’s realtor, Stoker, before exploring the house himself. This departure emphasizes “the wrong place,” a classic horror tradition. It’s not so much that the house is haunted, but it’s sort of clever and exerts a strong influence on its occupants.
The first story, “Method for murder,” stars Denholm Elliott, long before his turn as Indiana Jones’ college colleague Marcus Brody as the writer’s favorite character to create a writer. In this atmospheric segment, Elliott stars as Charles, a horror writer who rented an old house with his wife Alice (Joanna dunham) to complete his latest novel. The main character of his story is a terrifying and violent figure named Dominick. Dominick is so creepy and alive that Charles is afraid even to continue writing but is forced to finish his work. His fears escalate when it appears that Dominick has taken flesh and is a threat to him and his wife. It’s Bloch as the psychological storyteller we know best and perhaps the darkest story of the four.
Next, Detective Holloway learns the story of a retired stockbroker, Phillip Grayson, played by Amicus and Hammer legend Peter Cushing. In what ultimately becomes a story of lost love and jealousy, Grayson discovers a wax museum containing a figure of Salome that looks remarkably like a long lost and languid for the sake of him and his friend Neville Rogers (Joss ackland). The two had been rivals for his hand years before and now both are drawn to this wax statue made in his image. As in Salomé’s story, a man’s head is perched on the tray she is holding. The question becomes, who is the head on this plateau?
The third story features the other great horror legend Hammer Christopher Lee as John Reid, a widower and stern father of a young girl, Jane (Chloe Francs). In a story with accents of “The Turn of the Screw” crossed with elements of Fritz Leiber The Conjuring Woman (filmed as Burn the mist), Reid hires a tutor, Alice (Joanna dunham) to teach and care for the child. The story unfolds slowly, but soon after, it becomes clear that there is a great deal of animosity between Reid and his daughter, which eventually turns into fear. The reason for this fear turns out to be true when Jane’s intentions and the truth about her mother are revealed.
The final story is the most iconic of the four and features the film’s best-known image of Ingrid Pitt gorgeous as a fanged vampire in a black satin robe and red lined cape. The stars of the segment John Pertwee, fresh out of his tenure as the third Doctor Who, as pompous horror actor Paul Henderson. He walks into the house with his mistress and costar Carla (Hammer grande Ingrid Pitt) as a retreat while filming their last photo, a micro-budget vampire movie. Dissatisfied with the authenticity of the film, he stops in an occult store where he buys a cloak that turns him into a vampire when he wears it. It’s the funniest of the four stories with Pertwee deliciously chewing the landscape as a self-proclaimed expert on all things horror and supernatural.
The story of the setting ends by tying into that final story, a touch that rarely happens so completely in anthology films. We find out about Paul and Carla’s final fate, and Holloway has one hell of a surprise. We also find out the real secret of the house thanks to its aptly named real estate agent, Mr. Stoker. All these deviations from the anthology format: from the varying tones of the segments, to its unique framing device, to the way in which it properly interweaves the story of the frame in the elements of the narrative, make The house that flowed with blood a defining moment in the evolution of the horror anthology. The film was also the most successful produced solely by Amicus (Rosenberg does not include Tales from the Crypt because it was more of a co-production). This would lead to a sequel also written by Bloch, Asylum (1972), and three other anthologies after that: Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Horror Chest (1973), and Beyond the grave (1974).
The visual style of The house that flowed with blood also has a unique cachet in the Amicus coat rack cycle. Director Peter Duffell highlights his influences throughout the film, starting with his title card appearing next to a skull perched atop a copy of The Haunted Screen by Lotte E. Eisner, the preeminent work on expressionism German. The use of deep shadows, the multi-level staging using the house staircase, and the extreme angles also lean his hand towards an affinity for expressionism as well as Hitchcock. Oddly enough, the fact that the film is in color in no way diminishes these effects which are generally best represented in black and white. While visually vibrant, it’s not about style rather than substance, and certainly never distracts attention from the movie’s entertainment value.
Amicus will likely remain in Hammer’s shadow forever, but in the brief existence of the company, it had a big impact on British horror. Perhaps his greatest contribution was to rekindle and perfect the horror anthology in cinema, a subgenre that had been largely relegated to television. The seven anthologies produced by Amicus remain surprisingly strong despite the sheer number of stories involved. The house that flowed with blood is also often held in the shadow of the iconic Tales from the Crypt but deserves at least as much attention as Tales for its strong segments, intelligent wrap, formidable performance and elegant look. He is in the pantheon of great horror anthologies with Dead of Night, Creepshow, and Trick or treats for conveying that delicate balance of a sub-genre and, like those movies, being a lot of fun. These films are the crafts of the collection of news in film form and The house that flowed with blood remains one of the finest examples.