House of the Dead (1978)

I feel bad for 1978’s House of the Dead. You say its name and people assume it’s the Uwe Boll movie. Its other name is Alien Zone, which makes absolutely no sense. There are no aliens involved in this anthology flick. I wonder if it was the pilot for some kind of t.v. show trying to be the next Night Gallery or Twilight Zone. That would explain why it was filmed in soap-opera vision.
You guys should be thankful for House of the Dead. It’s from my 50 Chilling Classics collection, which I’ve been watching alphabetically. I thought that I was up to Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, but then I realized that I’d accidentally skipped House of the Dead. My entry about Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter is guaranteed to be sour because I hate these movies where Real Person Meets Fictitious Movie Monster. I blame Abbott and Costello for this trend. Why would Jesse James even be in a position to meet Frankenstein’s daughter (who doesn’t exist, btw)? Why not just make “Hitler Meets Dracula?” That actually sounds amazing and someone should make that movie. Anyway, you’ve been granted a temporary reprieve from crankiness.
First of all, I’d like to say that this movie is absurd. It isn’t a particularly well-filmed or acted movie. This isn’t Creepshow. Yet I genuinely enjoyed it and hope to one day find a print that doesn’t look like it was filmed through Yoo-hoo.
The movie is an anthology flick. The stories are book-ended by Talmudge (John Ericson), a plumber kind of person–it isn’t really clear–who’s having an affair. He also happens to be on his way to some convention.
I’d like to interrupt my regularly schedule recap to note that Ericson was a prominent actor who also posed in Playgirl.

That was for the laaaaaaadies.
Anyrecap, his taxi drops him off at the wrong place and he gets lost in the rain. He ends up meeting this sinister guy who totally glares at him.
Luckily, he’s found by an even more sinister guy (Ivor Francis) who invites Talmudge in to dry off.
It turns out that this guy is a mortician and Talmudge is deeply lucky because this mortician is going to violate about eight ethical rules and show him the bodies of the dead and tell him how they died. Talmudge is extra-special-maxi-with-wings lucky because the mortician swears that he gets the most interesting cases. I bet his Yelp ratings are through the roof.
So, here are the four stories.
1. Miss Sibiler
Miss Sibiler (Judith Novgrod) is the angriest teacher ever and she seems to hate children. That makes her choice of career a bit of a mystery. She goes home and starts to make angry dinner and listen to public domain jazz. But she keeps hearing noises. It becomes clear that someone is messing with her, She gets so scared that she has to take a shower, This isn’t a particularly gratuitous hot horror movie moment because she looks like Olive Oyl’s human body double. There is an actually creepy moment involving a shadow outside the shower curtain. She panics, runs downstairs and finds her nemeses, children. Children in creepy masks. Children in creepy masks with fright teeth. Or are they just children?
For a moment, I thought that the film-makers had made a mistake and just filmed a random angry woman. I’ve read several reviews of this movie and it seems like no one likes this segment, but I do, consarn it! The pacing felt the best of all the segments and it managed to deliver tension. Plus, the ending is all kinds of crazy. The final reveal with the kids sounds like a box full of poorly tuned radios and crickets. It makes no sense but I liked it.
2. Growski
Mr. Growski (Burr DeBenning) looks like Jack Tripper and is a camera creeper. Oh my god, guys, it’s Dr. Ted Stevens from The Incredible Melting Man. He’s the guy who goes “adjka!” and gets mad when his wife doesn’t buy crackers. AnyMST3Kreferenceway, Growski would so take upskirt pics if his character were in the present. He’s a creeper and a serial killer who films all of his kills.
This segment managed to be moderately creepy, but it’s interspersed with these scenes showing Growski being lead by the police and asked if he really killed the women, which kind of takes away from the surprise.
3. Detectives
Detective Malcolm Toliver (Charles Aidman) is the Best Criminologist Ever in the United States. Inspector McDowal (Bernard Fox) is the Best Criminologist Ever in the United Kingdom. McDowal comes to meet Toliver and compare methods. Toliver receives a note saying that someone close to him will die in three days and it’s up to him and McDowal to solve the case.
This segment felt overlong, especially once the ending became clear. However, the way the ending was filmed was interesting, This in no way makes up for how annoying Toliver’s New Yahk accent was.
4. Mr. Cantwell
Mr. Cantwell (Richard Gates) dislikes everyone. Sounds like my kind of guy! He’s completely rude to his secretary and dismisses a burger joint with 23 kinds of burgers (!) as “23 kinds of morons.” Am I the only one who wants to go to a 23 kinds of burgers place? Maybe I’m not the best judge, I’ve eaten at a restaurant devoted entirely to mac and cheese.
He leaves for lunch and is captured by some force that’s greater than him, which is the only way I can describe it. Everyone disappears, he’s pushed down an elevator shaft, and is attacked by a wall of nails.
He’s then trapped and fed nothing but liquor. When he’s finally released, a guy tells him to get a job. Just like Mr. Cantwell yelled at a vagrant! GET IT!?
This segment was definitely interesting but it doesn’t really match the tone of the other segments.
The movie ends with the mortician showing Talmudge an empty coffin. That could be for him! He runs out of the funeral home and realizes that it was actually the hotel. Wait, wat?
The ending makes about as much sense as the rest of the movie. That is, no sense. I still liked this movie, warts and all. This may just be my favorite movie in the 50 Chilling Classics set. Although nothing will beat Leslie Nielson’s sweater.

About scarina

I like scary movies a little too much. I thought I'd share my obsession with you.
This entry was posted in 1970's, 50 chilling classics, anthology, killer kids, slasher, supernatural and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to House of the Dead (1978)

  1. Thomas Duke says:

    I have this on one of the Mill Creek sets but haven’t watched it yet. I will try to remember to.

    BTW, this was directed by a woman named Sharron Miller. They’re weren’t that many female directed horror movies in the 70’s that I can think of.

    • scarina says:

      I think it’s also on the “50 Alien Worlds” set as “Alien Zone.” Some movies on those sets feel like being kicked in the groin. This one was very pleasant.
      That’s interesting. I didn’t realize the director was a woman, I thought it was a man with a woman’s name like Leslie. I tried to find more info about her but all I can find is that she mostly did t.v. work. True, offhand, all I can think of is Barbara Peeters who did “Humanoids from the Deep.” I think that was the 70’s.

  2. Fear Street says:

    Does he HAVE to hold the screaming lion that close to his genitals?

  3. Crypticpsych says:

    This just sounds gloriously goofball.

    Also, let that be a lesson to everyone…if you don’t get your crackers, you become a creeper serial killer (God I love The Incredible Melting Man).

    There are some chains that have a metric ton of burger types, though maybe not 23. Red Robin is usually pretty big on that sort of thing. I think Ruby Tuesday tried it for a short time too. Also, Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger technically has that many because there’s a ton of options on their burgers…as well as a ton of shake types…and now I’m hungry.

    Also, I must know where this mystical mac and cheese restaurant is.

    • Crypticpsych says:

      Oh, and side note….Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter currently sits at a glorious 2.6 out of 10 on IMDB. It was also reviewed by The Cinema Snob as part of his public domain week episodes (he just released them on DVD). Sooo…have fun with that?

    • scarina says:

      That is one of my favorite MST3K episodes. Adjka! I’ve never actually seen the movie un-MSTed but it looks very moist.
      I’d be into a place that offers lots of burger fixin’s and also lots of different things to make burgers out of, like salmon or buffalo.
      S’mac is on 12th st. in NYC. It has amazing mac & cheese varieties. I got the cheeseburger flavor & it was like high-end Hamburger Helper.

  4. Nathan says:

    I thought the character Ivor Francis played was “a good feller” because Ivor Francis himself was, “a good feller.”

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