Saturday, 12 April 2014


When Cushing, Lee and Subotsky reunited for The House That Dripped Blood (1970), it was in the more familiar context of the horror anthology. The script was again penned by Robert Bloch and it offered an uncommonly consistent array of stories linked together by an interesting mystery device. A skeptical police inspector (John Bennett) is looking into the disappearance of horror star Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee), whose last known residence was the creepy house of the title.

In the course of his investigation, he is told of some other bizarre occurrences that unfolded in and around that house: horror novelist Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott) is driven to madness when it appears that his “fictitious” strangler, Dominick (Tom Addams), has taken on a life of his own; retired stock broker Philip (Cushing) becomes obsessed with the figure of Salome at a nearby wax museum; chilly widower John Reid (Lee) dishes out cruel punishments to his little girl, Jane (Chloe Franks), but it could be that it’s the little girl who is really in charge; and lastly, we see how Paul Henderson may have met his fate while appearing in a low budget horror film at nearby Shepperton Studios.

Director Peter Duffel made his feature debut with this film and he did a magnificent job of it: the individual stories are well paced and executed, while the linking segments keep the suspense factor high until the very end.  Unlike most anthologies, there really is no weak link, though many viewers complain that the Cushing segment doesn’t quite fit the overall theme of the picture; there’s some truth to this, but as an exercise in melancholy mood, it’s hard to fault.

The entire cast is in good form: Cushing’s off-screen suffering over the declining health of his beloved wife, Helen, manifests itself in his character’s sense of loss and regret, Lee is splendid as the aloof father who isn’t quite what he appears to be, Elliott is his usual brilliant and neurotic self as the horror novelist on the verge of a breakdown and Pertwee is a delight as the hammy horror star.

Not surprisingly, Vincent Price was originally offered the latter’s role, but AIP wasn’t involved in the financing and refused to allow their top horror star to go and appear in a film for the “competition.”  Price was reportedly furious over this and dragged his displeasure with him on to the set of his next AIP assignment, Gordon Hessler’s stylish but confused occult thriller The Cry of the Banshee (1970).


Duffel was appalled by the film’s brazenly exploitative title, but co-producer Max J. Rosenberg correctly maintained that it would pack audiences in.  The end result was another hit for the company; it arguably remains their finest anthology and one of the great, albeit unsung, examples of subtle, low key horror.

The Amicus Films Of Peter Cushing Is written by Troy Howarth
with artwork and images by Marcus Brooks

Part Four Coming Soon: I, Monster.

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