Thursday, February 26, 2015

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983) movie review

House of the Long Shadows (1983) d. Pete Walker (UK)

Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and John Carradine are teamed together, and while the film itself is less than momentous, the horror icons actually get to play off one another (unlike, say, Scream and Scream Again) and seem to be enjoying the opportunity. Desi Arnaz, Jr. might wear out his welcome as a brash young writer who takes his publisher’s bet to pen a new novel – in one night, mind you – while under the titular spookhouse’s roof, but the quartet of aging veterans is clearly having a ball (with Cushing’s lisping quakeboots a distinct highlight) and their enthusiasm is infectious. Longtime Walker fave Shelia Keith lends her distinctive flavor of menace – as well as a few off-key high notes (literally) – to the proceedings.

The broad comedy hijinks marked a distinctive change of pace for the English bad boy director, although there are still some enjoyably gruesome set-pieces involving sharp blades and acid baths. It was to prove his final feature; Walker soon left the industry to focus on movie theater restorations and property investments.

The film marked the end of another era, with Cushing moving into semi-retirement, Carradine only nine films away from that great wooden O in the sky, Price slowing his output considerably (with The Offspring aka From a Whisper to a Scream, Dead Heat, and Edward Scissorhands his final decade’s only significant genre contributions), leaving Lee to headline such winners as Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf and Curse III: Blood Sacrifice alone.

Michael Armstrong's vision of the oft-adapted Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers works more often than not, and the same could be said of Julie Peasgood's turn as the requisite blonde damsel in distress. Even if it’s unlikely to become your favorite film of any of the players involved (except maybe Arnaz, unless you’re a big fan of his Fantasy Island appearance back in ’78), this is a charming class reunion for a cadre of talent the likes of which we’ll never see again.


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