Film Review: The House That Dripped Blood

It’s not October without a review of an Amicus film, and this year I’ve got another Amicus Anthology here – the one with the title that grabbed my attention the most – The House That Dripped Blood. Unfortunately, it’s also probably the most disappointing I’ve seen to date.

Movie poster for The House That Dripped Blood

The House That Drips Blood is made up of a collection of about 4 horror stories, each based around one house, with a framing narrative focused on a Detective Inspector from London coming to investigate the most recent disappearance at that house – of an actor working on a vampire film. The cast isn’t exactly the same Murderer’s Row as some of the other horror films I’ve covered so far (particularly Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors), but it’s nothing to sneeze at either. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing – who have basically become as much a staple of Amicus’ films as they have been with Hammer – are here, as are two relative newcomers to Amicus – Denholm Elliot (who would also appear in Vault of Horror) and the Third Doctor himself – Jon Pertwee.

Generally, everyone puts in great work – Cushing has the material with heavier emotional range, and Lee has the material that has him playing a more cold, harsh, and emotionally distant character – which is pretty much exactly to the types that Amicus has cast them in other films. It leads, to an extent, Elliott and Pertwee’s stories being a little more interesting, because they’re newcomers, so I didn’t know what to expect. Elliott’s story is a kind of story that feels like what would be the Stephen King Special – a horror writer goes to a house to write his next book when weird crap starts happening to him. In this case, he’s seeing the serial killer he’s writing about in his story, and eventually, people start getting murdered.

Pertwee’s story, on the other hand, is one he almost feels out of place in. On the one hand, Doctor Who, in a lot of respects, has often been a horror science-fiction series, occasionally stepping out of that range some other, more conventional series. So Pertwee playing a horror actor sort of works – even with this being early in his tenure as The Doctor. On the other hand, while reading up on the movie, I saw some notes that the first pick for Pertwee’s role in The House That Drips Blood was Vincent Price, and I absolutely see it. The character Pertwee plays – long-time horror actor Paul Henderson, in town for a vampire movie role – feels like he was written for Price, particularly with the character being written as being an actor who was a long-time veteran of horror. Possibly the only person who could do better than Price in this role would be Christopher Lee himself – though I’ll admit that I don’t know if Lee would have been willing to poke fun at his own career in the ways that Vincent Price never really appeared to be self-conscious about. That said, the inclusion of Ingrid Pitt, fresh off the first of Hammer’s Karnstein movies was an excellent inclusion – Pertwee and Pitt play off each other well – and certainly people were aware of this, considering that Pitt was brought onto Doctor Who for a later story with Pertwee.

Ultimately though, the main weakness of the film is that the frame story never really provides an opportunity for the leads of the individual stories to interact with each other in the frame narrative the way they did in previous anthologies like Doctor Terror’s. We know Cushing and Lee have chemistry, but it would have been great to have had the three share some screen time together – and sadly this is the only real dedicated horror film in Pertwee’s filmography.

In all, The House That Dripped Blood isn’t a bad film, but it is a deeply underwhelming film. Ultimately, that puts it down on the list of my ranking of Amicus films.

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