The House that Dripped Blood

by Joe Dante Aug 26, 2014

Here’s another installment featuring Joe Dante’s reviews from his stint as a critic for Film Bulletin circa 1969-1974. Our thanks to Video Watchdog and Tim Lucas for his editorial embellishments!


Four horror tales centering on haunted house. Well made and acted, an exploitable entry for general dualler markets, but rather mild for more bloodthirsty horror audience. Could have had class potential except for the title. OK boxoffice future overall. Rating: GP.

house_that_dripped_blood_poster-big-590x899Its sanguine title notwithstanding, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD aims at quiet chills rather than boisterous thrills, taking the form of four horror stories of varying quality centering on an accursed country house. Production, direction and acting are of a high standard, although the stories written by PSYCHO’s Robert Bloch lack the sensational aspects to wholly satisfy the present blood‑and‑guts horror market. In fact, were it not for the title, this could be a fairly good prospect for better‑class audiences, since its horrors are on a somewhat higher DEAD OF NIGHT level than might be expected. The British‑made Cinerama release is nevertheless quite exploitable, with cast presence of horror vets Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing a plus for any type of audience.

Director Peter Duffell helms the proceedings intelligently, but the film lacks the force and charm of TORTURE GARDEN, a 1968 omnibus chiller from the same writer and producers (Amicus Productions). The stories are told to detective John Bennett, investigating the disappearance of the house’s last tenant. In the first, horror writer Denholm Elliott is terrified by apparitions of a mad strangler from one of his own novels. The grinning killer’s appearances get pretty scary until, alas, it all turns out to be a plot to drive Elliott insane—always a bit of a cheat, and no less so here. Next, lonely retired broker Peter Cushing becomes fascinated by a wax figure of Salome which resembles his lost love. Eventually his own head ends up on Salome’s platter, severed and covered with wax by the museum proprietor. Drawn out and full of loose ends, it’s the weakest story despite Cushing’s excellent performance, and it doesn’t even take place in the house.

The best story has Christopher Lee as the strict father of angelic 8 year‑old Chloe Franks, whom he considers supernaturally evil. Governess Nyree Dawn Porter soon discovers the child is a witch and like her late mother, is given to torturing her father by voodoo. Strongly played and intriguingly plotted, it ends with the child throwing a wax doll of Lee into the fireplace to the accompaniment of offscreen agony. The last one is a neat comedy spoof with Jon Pertwee as a horror actor who yearns for the good old days of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and DRACULA (“the one with Bela Lugosi, not this new fellow”).

Whenever he dons the vampire cape he bought from a strange old man, he turns into a real vampire. This causes problems on the set—he’s invisible in his make‑up mirror and bites leading lady Ingrid Pitt in the midst of filming. At midnight he even flies off the ground like a bat. He’s finally done in by Miss Pitt, a vampire herself, who explains, “we loved your movies so much we just had to make you one of us!” A few well‑deserved digs at Amicus’ chief competitor, Hammer Films, are also in evidence. Detective Bennett is vampirized at the end by Pertwee and Miss Pitt while searching the house, and the real estate agent notifies the audience that it’s open for new tenants. 

1971. Cinerama (An Amicus Production). Eastman Color. 97 minutes. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing. Produced by Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky. Directed by Peter Duffell.

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD is available for streaming at Amazon Instant Video.

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