Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

House of the Long Shadows

“Don't interrupt me while I'm soliloquizing.”

Starring some of the greatest horror actors ever, and Desi Arnaz Jr. as well, this movie is an odd mélange of horror and comedy that seems to have been largely forgotten over the years.

The main reason I picked up this DVD in the first place is due to it starring four masters of horror: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and John Carradine. I actually had to buy the thing twice, as my first copy was so dark, you couldn’t see anything in certain parts, making it unwatchable. My second copy is still dark, but atmospherically dark instead of pitch-black. I also note that despite its lack of reviews, several that have done so have commented on this being too dark. I’m curious if they have the same bad DVD as I do. It certainly sounds like it, or perhaps my second copy was lightened to make it watchable.

In either case, I stopped watching the first DVD early on when I could not tell what was happening when our protagonist Kenneth Magee (Desi Arnaz Jr.), made his way to the manor in a nighttime storm, and it was even worse once he was inside prior to the lights being turned on.

The movie is kind of an odd mix of humor and horror, although it never tells outright jokes or creates humorous situations (barring a few unfortunately rare exceptions), making it not the easiest movie to classify, and it suffers a bit since it never feels like it knows what it wants to be. It has some solid moments, and can be amusing, but it’s never hilarious or terrifying, although the opening quote I’ve used for this review is from Vincent Price’s character Lionel Grisbane and was both amusing and presented well in the film.

The basic idea is that Kenneth Magee has a bet with his publisher about writing a novel along the lines of Wuthering Heights in 24 hours, but things don’t go exactly how he plans. What follows is a series of interruptions by more than just our horror greats, as Kenneth deals with people dropping by this supposedly isolated manor while trying to win his bet.

House of the Long Shadows is an example of the whole being less than its parts. While most movies, and especially horror movies, can be arbitrary, part of what brings this one down is that it never soars in any aspect and the continuous train of guests that arrive at this dark old house reinforces this. Besides our hapless author, no fewer than eight other people are present or arrive at the house over the course of the movie, which removes the idea that it’s remote and largely abandoned. What happens with all these unexpected guests is quite a chain of events, with some twists and turns that are a mix of enjoyable and inexplicable.

If you go into this mostly to see four horror greats together, you’ll probably enjoy this. But it’s not a top tier piece for any of them. I certainly had fun watching it, but it’s just not as good as it could have or should have been.

Bits and pieces:

-- Arnaz doesn’t sell his role all that well. Like many other horror protagonists, he can feel very flat in his performance. I do not agree with some of the critics I’ve seen that say he’s awful, but he certainly is one of the weaker parts of this film.

-- The Old Dark House from 1932 is somewhat similar to this movie, but it flows better despite its greater age. It’s also easier to see the dark portions of the film. I mention this partly from my own thoughts, and partly because another horror great, Boris Karloff is in that movie.

-- I really wish the four headliner horror actors had acted together more often when they were younger, especially Carradine. In fact, Carradine died five years after this movie at the age of 82, but he seems older than his late seventies here. I felt that’s part of what marred his performance; he came off far older and feebler than he actually was.

-- The movie is based on a 1913 book Seven Keys to Baldpate, and Kenneth incorrectly calls the Welsh manor of the film by that name instead of the name it has the film, Bllyddpaetwr, much to the chagrin of the station manager that pronounces it correctly and tersely.

Two and a half supposedly cursed mansions out of four.

Morella is a Gen Xer who likes strange things a bit too much.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.