Friday, October 1, 2021

bad monk house.


It's day 1 of this years fang-tastic 31 Days of Horror where I attempt to get more (any?) readers to pay attention to my inane ramblings and I'm starting with a good 'un.

Yup it's all downhill from here.


Haunted House of Horror (aka The Dark, Horror House, 1969).
Dir: Michael Armstrong.
Cast: Frankie Avalon, Gina Warwick, Jill Haworth, Julian Barnes, Mark Wynter, Carol Dilworth, Richard O’Sullivan, Dennis Price, George Sewell, Robin Stewart, Veronica Doran and Clifford Earl.

"the way you dig blood you'd think you were a vampire."

It's 'swinging' 60s London and what better place to start our story than the hip 'n' happening Carnaby Street where the girls are all dishy dolly birds and the guys are all groovy go-getters.

And every single one of them looks like they're just the wrong side of their 30s.

Well it's either that or they've all had fucking tough paper rounds.

In the midst of all this mod-ish madness we meet the raven haired temptress Sylvia (Warwick - not the castle but an actress who once played a librarian in The Champions) who inbetween fixing the wigs on a variety of shop window dummies is desperately trying to find a way of convincing her OAP ex-beau, the sinisterly named Uncle Bob (Sewell on his day off from UFO) that she doesn't fancy him any more.

You see it seems that since the pair split up poor old lovelorn Bob has been following her about in his car whilst telling Sylvia that she'll never get away from him.

Obviously back in the 60s this kinda thing was just seen as playful flirty bantz and not the kind of behavior that, today, would get you locked up.

Ah more innocent times.

To add to her woes it also appears that the fella she actually does want to have stick something in her is actually dating another girl.

Enter - roughly and from behind - the boy in question, the swoonsome Gary (ex-popster Wynter)who is currently enjoying a coffee with the aforementioned girlfriend Dorothy (Dilworth who scarily looks just like Lucy Porter if drawn from memory which was quite disconcerting I can tell you and not just because I have a fairly unhealthy crush on her*) whilst discussing the party being held that evening by their American pal Chris (Avalon taking a break from all those Beach Party flicks by spending his days off in rainy Ealing, each to their own).

Unfortunately Gary remembers that he has a stag do that evening so Dorothy will have to go without him, tho' he promises to turn up late and not be drunk.

Porter - Cabin.

Later than evening and very drunk, Gary finally arrives at the party (after an incredibly realistic stag party that consists of 4 guys standing around a piano singing sub-Blur ditties whilst cradling glasses of bitter) and proceeds to collapse into a bed whilst his pals - including Peter (Robin's Nest star and Brit TV royalty O'Sullivan), his girlfriend Madge (Council estate Wendy Padbury Doran) and Henry (Stewart from Legend of The 7 Golden Vampires and Bless This House) - cover for him.

Dorothy meanwhile and none the wiser that her beau is back continues to stand in the corner licking piss off John Nettles.

Back at the creepy sugar daddy stalker subplot, Sylvia has also just arrived at the party thanks to a lift from Bob and almost immediately attempts to snog Gary but being a nice man - OK being really drunk - he refuses, offering instead to maybe shag her tomorrow when he's sober.

What a guy.

With Sylvia onto a promise she excitedly leaves the bedroom to enjoy the happening party atmosphere only to realise that everyone is sitting around bored senseless and getting totally shit-faced in an attempt to alleviate the boredom, you see it turns out that Chris' party is in fact utter wank and everyone is quickly losing the will to live.

Tho' to be honest I'm not too surprised seeing as they do only seem to have one record and then the only real entertainment seems to be watching Madge creepily undulate in what looks like your gran's babydoll nightie.

Luckily the sinisterly fey Richard (Barnes who you may recall as Jeff Gilbert in Crossroads for a few episodes in 1976) has a plan to add a wee bit of excitement to the proceedings - both on and off screen - and to this end suggests that they take the party to a nearby haunted house and tell spooky stories.

As you do.

So the (main) cast grab a few crates of booze and head out, much to the annoyance of Chris' girlfriend Sheila who, it turns out doesn't dig haunted houses.

Tho' she does like blood.

Which is fair enough.

So off they drive to the infamous - and deserted - Baldpate Manor ready to party, unaware that Uncle Bob is following them.

Thanks to the American producers interference this doesn't actually happen in the film, instead we get a shot of a fat lass dancing. Cheers!

It's not too long before the pals arrive at the rundown mansion and have soon broken in and settled onto some handy blankets to hear Richard's spooky story regarding the house, you see it seems that 20 years ago a member of the Baldpate family went mental, chopping up everyone else in the house with an axe before killing himself.

Tho' to be honest it'd be pretty difficult to do it the other way round.

Anyway it also turns out that the killer's ghost is supposed to haunt the old house.

This has an odd effect on Henry who excitedly exclaims "To hell with the drinks, let's all have an orgy!" before looking at a by now smiling Madge before quickly changing his mind and suggesting a seance instead.

A lucky escape there methinks.

Sylvia, being much more 'mature' than her friends (and by that I mean nearly 40) decides she's had enough of such childish things so elects to go home, Gary offers to take her as far as the front porch and with a kiss waves her off into the night.

With Bob in hot pursuit.

Which judging by his 3-piece suit, woolly overcoat and porkpie hat must be very hot indeed.

Don't get too concerned tho' as she's soon hitched a lift home leaving the pervy oldster to go back to furtively smoking behind a tree.

At least some lights are on.

It's all go back at the house tho' the rest of the gang ready themselves for the seance but upon realising that they have absolutely no clue what to do decide to just wander around the place looking for the ghost instead so off they trot into the dark for what seems like hours of folk popping out behind cupboards shouting "Boo!" whilst dropping their candles.

But not their knickers alas.

All this tomfoolery soon comes crashing to a close however when, out of nowhere, Gary is messily stabbed to death by an unseen assailant which kinda puts a damper on the whole evening.

Meeting up in the drawing room and with hysterical ladies slapped and sitcom star vomited (nice gag acting from O'Sullivan) Chris steps in to decide what to do and, after assuming that the killer is 'one of them' (as in a member of the gang not a homosexualist), reckons that rather than call the police and report a murder they must hide Gary's body in a field a few miles away and just forget it ever happened.

No, really.

Thanks to the power of the slow dissolve it's now 3 days later and the local police - led by the inappropriately named Inspector Manley (An obviously sozzled Price) are investigating the disappearance of poor Gary.

The reason that they're so interested in his whereabouts is due to the fact that the year before Gary was involved in a drugs bust where the police found 8 stone of crack in Madge's pants so assume it must be related so to this end they pull the gang in for questioning.

Meanwhile poor old - an I do mean old - Bob is in a right tizzy seeing as Sylvia appears to have lost the cigarette lighter he bought her and it maybe at the old house.

No, me neither.

"And this is all the fucks I give."

With a grumpy shout of  "If they find it it could finish us both!" he stomps off to his car and drives back to the house in order to find it.

And by find it I mean get stabbed.

To death.

As the pals show signs of cracking under pressure, Chris calls a meeting where Peter stiffly suggests that the only way to sort things out is to head back to the house and re-create the night in question.

But with less killings obviously.

And maybe a pot plant in the place of Gary.


Will our groovy gang discover the killer's identity before it's too late?

Is the missing lighter anything at all to do with the murders or just a way to off a cast member to keep viewer interest with a subplot that makes no sense?

Will Dennis Price appear in any scenes where he's not clutching a desk for fear of falling over?

And will the climax make any sense?

Edgar Allan NO more like.

From the pen (and eyes) of cult film royalty Michael Armstrong - amongst other things he's given us the Udo Kier classic Mark of the Devil (1970), the sight of David Warbeck's pert arse thrusting atop Diane Keen in The Sex Thief (1973), the Katy Manning starring sex comedy Eskimo Nell (1975), the Black Country based bad man movie The Black Panther (1977), the Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine classic House of the Long Shadows (1983) he also worked as an uncredited script doctor on LifeForce (1983) as well as writing and directing the David Bowie short The Image - comes his first full length feature - from a script called The Dark - he wrote when he was 15.

I'll let that sink in, I mean what were you doing when you were 15?**


To be fair he did rewrite it 7 years later so any goodwill we could have is kinda pissed up the wall cos frankly it's pretty shite.

Tho' if you delve into the story behind it you get a tale way scarier - and much more depressing - than anything on screen.

Something about 'thighs' and 'limits' possibly.

Originally pitched as a story that explored "The dark psycho-sexual themes reflected in the current cynical underbelly beneath the superficial 60s culture." and with David Bowie penciled in to play the killer, the script was recommended to Witchfinder General and Repulsion producer Tony Tenser who immediately set up a deal with American International Pictures (famous for their Vincent Price starring, Roger Corman produced Poe movies) who after much thought and bags of potato chips insisted that it be shot (cheaply) in the UK, have a couple of American actors in it for 'international appeal', feature way more sexy stuff and star Boris Karloff.

Karloff would have played the role later taken by Dennis Price and not the sexy male lead obviously tho' being close to death at the time he turned it down.

Which was a blessed relief for him seeing as he got to make the slightly more entertaining Curse of the Crimson Altar instead.

Even tho' it was the year before.

I probably just mentioned it as no-one seems to have read my review.

Anyway for that part Armstrong suggested Ian Ogilvy but American cash meant an American lead so to this end Frankie Avalon was cast, scuppering any chance of an appearance by David Bowie in case the pair "didn't get on".

Tho' it was more likely that Bowie wouldn't have been seen dead in the collection of ghastly turtlenecks (topped off with a  nice mustard coloured V neck sweater) that Avalon is forced to wear.

Seriously he looks like the shittest Captain Kirk kissagram ever.

Even more so than Chris Pine.
Ask yer mum.

Further rewrites ensued as more and more saucy sex stuff was added and then removed (alongside most of the plot) until all that remained was an essence of the original psycho-sexual slasher hobbled by reams of stilted dialogue delivered by plum-mouthed posh types, one fairly gruesome murder scene and Gina Warwick in a pretty frock.

Which let's be honest isn't really enough to recommend it.

Plus the house isn't even bloody haunted.

What a swizz.

Saying that tho' there is - allegedly - a version where Gina Warwick (and Mark Wynter unfortunately) get sweaty and naked but to be honest I'm not that desperate.

*Lucy Porter that is, not Carol Dilworth, I mean she's old enough to be my gran. 


















**And no, your mum's best friend doesn't count.

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