Their name synonymous with horror anthology films, it is easy to forget that Amicus also produced many varied single narrative features of equally dubious quality, among them The Terrornauts, The Beast Must Die and At The Earth’s Core, but it was with their anthologies they were able to secure named stars for a short period between more prestigious engagements, sufficient to furnish a single segment of a larger picture, marquee names to raise the profile of their productions to bring them to the level of their more famous competitor Hammer.
Known for episodes of Strange Report and The Avengers such as The Winged Avenger, Peter Duffell had only directed one previous feature when he made The House That Dripped Blood, a particularly economic anthology in that the principle setting for all four stories, Method for Murder, Waxworks, Sweets to the Sweet and The Cloak, is the same country house, each tale recounting the subsequent occupants and their demise.
Written by Robert Bloch and Russ Jones and based on previously published stories, the house is beautiful and ornately decorated but oppressive, designed to make the visitor feel unwelcome, at first regarded by horror writer Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliot) as ideal inspiration for his work until he begins to see manifestations of his latest murderous creation, the strangler Dominic (Tom Adams) glimpsed behind him in mirrors.
Frequent Amicus player Peter Cushing’s segment somewhat predictable, all horror stories featuring wax museums inevitably coming to some variation of the same twist, Christopher Lee then takes the lead as aloof widower John Reid who engages Nyree Dawn Porter’s Ann Norton as tutor for his daughter whom he treats cruelly before new arrivals Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt send themselves up as flamboyant film stars Paul Henderson and Carla Lynde, engaged on low-budget horror Curse of the Bloodsucker in the concluding segment.
The frame story concerning the investigation into what is ostensibly The House That Dripped Blood, any blood is purely metaphorical and producer Milton Subotsky insisted on the title over the protests of Duffell, but the film rests on an ensemble of performers well cast in their roles, faces familiar, reliable and even comforting, and like most anthology films the pace is brisk so even the duller moments do not linger overly.
The intended comedic toned down in the edit, nothing can contain the natural ebullience of a showman like Pertwee, arriving in a vintage car and sipping champagne under his own portrait as he entertains guests, but with the four stories disconnected in premise other than the setting it is John Bennett and John Bryans as Inspector Holloway and estate agent Stoker who provide continuity and context for what may not be Amicus’ best film but certainly passes a lazy afternoon.
The House That Dripped Blood is streaming on Arrow now