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.
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.
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.