SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!
Dr Terror boards a train with five other men, after discovering he is a fortune teller they ask him to tell them their future. Four Tarot cards are dealt to tell the person's fate, the fifth card tells them how to avoid it. With fates involving severed hands, vampires, werewolves, voodoo and killer plants they may have to take the fifth card's advice.
Dr Terror's House of Horrors is a 1965 Amicus production. It stars Christopher Lee, Roy Castle and Peter Cushing. It was directed by Freddie Francis. This was the first in Amicus' series of portmanteau films.
I'm not too sure why the title comes on screen in German with the English translation as a subtitle. I know Dr Terror is meant to be German but that doesn't mean the title should be in German. Unless Amicus figured that 1965 audiences were so easily scared that even the German language would put the shits up them.
Oh Roy Castle (the film's funny man) pissing off Christopher Lee (the film's angry man) by accidentally closing the train door on him. Bad idea that, but someone had to annoy him. It was inevitable really, if Christopher Lee plays a sophisticated person then you can guarantee he'll get pissed off and angry.
I do love Peter Cushing, but do you know what I love more than him? His dodgy Dr Terror eyebrows. They're so hairy, they'd give Roger Moore's a run for their money.
Jim Dawson returns to his family home to help the new owner (Mrs Biddulph who moved there for solitude after her husband's death) make alterations to the house.
No! Don't do that! If you find a tomb hidden behind the wall of the basement belonging to the man who lost his house to your family and died during a conflict with your family but also swore vengeance on the owner of the house, then DON'T and I repeat, DON'T pull it out and open it!
As it turns out it was all an elaborate trap concocted by Mrs Biddulph who is actually the werewolf who has been skulking around and that she is also the wife of the man in the tomb. She's been waiting 200 years to avenge him.
After being shown his fate Dr Terror then deals the fifth card, the escape card, the card which will tell him how to avoid this nasty fate. The fifth card is Death.
Bill Rogers and his family return from holiday to find a vine has grown up the side of their house. But there's more to this plant than meets the eye.
When Plants Attack! They thought to cut the vine, THEY WERE WRONG! The vine simply smacked the sheers out of Bill's hand. This is no ordinary vine. And as if that wasn't enough. NO! Not the dog! Anyone but the dog! He was one of the good ones! The vine killed the dog.
Bill then enlists the help of some plant specialists, one of which is working at their home and discovers that the plant actually has a brain. But before he's able to tell anyone of his finding the vine kills him too.
Well what do you know. Smoking isn't so bad after all. The other plant specialist decides to light his pipe and does so near the window. But as he does it the plants move away from the window. There he realises FIRE! The one thing everything fears. Then he lights some paper and heads out to bring help. Disappointingly that's it. Now yeah, I know killer plants are bad and all but Bill didn't die or suffer a horrible fate, his story ended with him in the house with his wife and daughter waiting for the other guy to bring help. Yet, his fifth card states his only escape from this actually-not-that-bad-of-a-fate is Death. Bit harsh really if you ask me. I mean come on, they would have been rescued in a bit.
This is the humorous one of the five stories, after all it stars Roy Castle. Biff Bailey is a jazz musician constantly looking for the next hit. But how far will he go?
What a tool! Not only is it common sense to not meddle with voodoo but his friend warns him not to have anything to do with it. Yet, he still goes out to write down and steal the voodoo music being played at a ritual. No! Bad Joojoo don't meddle with voodoo. That's the moral of the story (it's also common fucking sense).
Even the chief voodoo guy tells Bill not to steal the music because it belongs to a jealous and vengeful voodoo God who, if he steals it, will have his revenge. Yet, he still steals it. This guy needs a slap. Then he takes it to a London club and plays it. Whilst playing it, a powerful wind blows through the club and smashes the place up. Then on his way home to work on the music he starts getting nervous and paranoid as he begins to be, in a sense, haunted.
Wait what? He fell over and when he picked himself up there was a poster on the wall for Dr Terror's House of Horrors, to which he looked at it and look even more scared. [shrug] Beats me.
When he makes it to his apartment, doors and windows start slamming and the lights go out. When he turns them back on the voodoo God is there and takes back the sheets of music as Bill collapses to the ground. And that's it, he could well have suffered a heart attack which then at least he died but that isn't specified, so as far as I'm aware he could well have just fainted. And with that, he is given Death as his fifth card too.
Franklyn Marsh is an art critic who is more critical than appreciative of art work. Unfortunately, the artist Eric Landor gets the brunt of it.
Yey! Christopher Lee being an arsehole art critic. Double Yey! Michael Gough is the artist Eric Landor.
Oh harsh! But yes I like it. Landor gets even with Marsh by showing him a painting by a new rising artist, Marsh loves the painting and asks to meet the artist. To his surprise and humiliation it's a monkey. From then on Landor continues to torment Marsh with paper cut outs of monkeys when he's trying to deliver a speech and so on. But Marsh being the arsehole that he is, he's not going to stand for this much longer, so he runs Landor over crushing his hand.
This has to be the single most harsh sentence to leave a doctor's lips. After being told that the patient is an artist he replies “Artist? Not anymore.” What a bastard!
Shortly after leaving the hospital Landor kills himself, but then his severed hand takes on a life of it's own and begins terrorising Marsh. He burns it, stabs it, drops it to the bottom of a river and still it continues to come back. I think Marsh might need a hand with this one. Ho-Ho.
The hand comes back one last time and makes Marsh swerve off the road and crash. As he is being placed into the ambulance a guy says “he'll be blind for the rest of his life.” Then we hear Marsh scream. Now that is what I call a dreaded horrible fate. And like the others his fifth card is also Death.
Dr Bob Carroll returns home with his newly wed wife. But there's something not quite right.
Freaky bitch! It can't be good when a woman sucks the blood from your cut finger. GET OUT BOB! GET OUT NOW! AH! Whilst Bob sleeps his wife turns into a bat and flies out the window! VAMPIRE!
Dr Blake is a good doctor. After seeing a kid with fang marks on his neck who claims to be feeling weak, he jumps straight to the conclusion of VAMPIRES! There's no reasonable explanation first just straight to the supernatural. Surely he should be grounded a bit more in reality, after all he is a doctor. What's next, A kid entering puberty who has stubble? WEREWOLF!
Oh, that was cool. As Dr Blake was about to be attacked by the vampire bat he coincidently made the shape of the cross with his arms as he defended himself. This obviously caused the bat to fly away.
Oh shit! Dr Blake (rather easily I might add) persuaded Bob to stake his wife because she's a vampire. After he does it the police and Dr Blake arrive, but Dr Blake denies telling him to kill his wife and says there's no such thing as vampires. After the police arrest Bob and leave, Dr Blake turns to the camera and says “This town isn't big enough for two doctors...or two vampires.” then he turns into a bat and flies away.
Again, the fifth card is Death.
WARNING! I'M ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE ENDING! WARNING!
The five men then tell Dr Terror to deal his own cards and his fifth card is also Death. Coming to the conclusion that none of them has a future they believe that it must be the train, and that it must be going to crash. I don't fully understand the logic in that but I'll come back to it. Marsh then turns to Dr Terror and asks “Who are you?” to which he replies “Have you not guessed?” Then the lights go out. When they come back on Dr Terror has vanished and the train has stopped. Believing it to be all over and that all is well they exit the train to find an empty platform and the train to have vanished. They then see a newspaper with the headline “TRAIN CRASH – FIVE DEAD” They then see Dr Terror who has now revealed his true identity – Death. I love that, I think it's brilliant that they were travelling with Death all along I think that's a great twist. But that doesn't forgive it of it's other problems.
As far as I'm concerned they've been shown their future, surely by knowing your future you could avoid it. It doesn't make sense for the only way to avoid it is to die before it happens because they now know what lies ahead and can simply not do it. On top of that, not all the stories ended nastily, some ended in such a way that the guy will be fine afterwards. For instance, the killer plant story Bill and his family will be rescued, the other guy went for help so why was he dealt Death as his only option to avoid it? In fact why were any of them dealt Death as the only option because as I mentioned earlier they now know their own future and can simply just avoid it by not going back to the family house, informing plant specialists immediately, not stealing voodoo music, not being an arsehole and not marrying a vampire. But that BIG problem aside, I quite like Dr Terror's House of Horrors. The stories aren't that great but it was always one of my favourite classic British horror films, that might well be because it was one of the first ones I ever saw but it isn't bad. The best stories are probably the last two, the other three aren't that good. But for Amicus' first portmanteau story it's pretty good, when compared to their other productions though, it's not that good. But as a starting point this was pinnacle for what would come in the following years from Amicus. If you're interested in Amicus then sure I'd say give it a look but I'd recommend seeing it after seeing one or two of their others because they made some brilliant portmanteau films, unfortunately this isn't one of them.
Dr Terror's House of Horrors 3/5