In 1983, when House of the Long Shadows came out, it was heavily panned by critics of the time as being derivative of the old film “Seven Keys to Broadpate”, that the ending undermined the story, and it didn’t have much for scares. I would argue that the critics of the time were simply not picking up what this movie is putting down.
There will be spoilers below the cut.
What is House of the Long Shadows putting down? Well, that’s answered by the film’s cast – Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, John Barrymore, and Sheila Keith. Also, this isn’t a pure horror film – it’s a horror comedy. In essence, this is Golan Globus going, “You know, in all those Amicus films, they cast these great British horror actors, and while their individual stories were fine, they rarely got any time together. What if we put these guys in our own version of Corman’s ‘The Raven’?”
Because that’s what this is – The Raven was putting Karloff, Lorre, and Price together and having them comedically snark and snipe at each other (to a degree that Lorre improvised some of his dialog). While I can’t say if there was any similar improv here, the sentiment of the film feels very much the same. The fact that the plot also is built around the story being something of a family reunion with each of the various horror actors makes this work even better. Especially since some of these actors had been together in the past (obviously Lee & Cushing with Hammer, Price and Cushing with Madhouse, Price and Lee with Scream and Scream Again, but never, I believe, all three at once and not with Barrymore).
Now, if you’re going into this expecting these horror titans to crank up the Tall Dark And Spooky, you will certainly be disappointed – Lee does get an opportunity to bring the menace, but sadly Price and Cushing do not. There is a (singular) gore effect in the film, which is also nicely done, but if you’re going “Oh, Cannon films! Bring on the gore!” at the opening credits, you’ll be disappointed.
All of that said, I did have a blast with this movie. This film brings together, much as The Raven did, three of the great horror actors of this era, and lets them play off each other in a fun way. If only we’d gotten something similar with, say, Robert Englund, Brad Dourif, and Doug Bradley. Well, all three of those actors are still around, so – *fingers crossed*.
I’m absolutely looking forward to picking up the Kino Lorber Blu-Ray release at some point in the future. That release, by the way, is available from Amazon – buying anything through that link supports the site.
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