Pop Culture Gadabout
Sunday, March 29, 2009
      ( 3/29/2009 08:40:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"FIFTY DOORS IN THE PLACE AND ONLY THIRTEEN KEYS." Fingering through the DVD discount bins, you sometimes can come across some genuine curiosities. Recently, checking out the five buck discs at a local Walgreen's, I happened on the low-budget old dark mansion flick, House of the Damned. Released in 2006 on Fox Home Entertainment Video, the 1963 black-and-white featurette (only runs 63 minutes) comes as a flipper disc in both wide and full screen versions. I recently viewed the wide screen "cinemascope" version and found myself charmed by it, though I suspect that some viewers, bamboozled by the movie's wholly deceptive tagline ("13 Keys to Unleash the Living Dead"), might be pissed off at the picture.

The movie concerns a California Spanish-style mansion with dungeon, that is on the verge of being put up for sale since its previous tenant -- a former tent show owner named Captain Arbuckle -- has disappeared mysteriously and ceased paying his lease. Struggling architect Scott Campbell (Ronald Foster) and his wife Nancy (Merry Anders, a regular on sixties TV series who also had a role in Women of the Prehistoric Planet) have come to the house as part of a possible renovation project. (The only thing vaguely architectural that we see him doing is going around the first floor with a measuring tape.) Because the mansion is, of course, out in the middle of nowhere, the two spend the night, expecting to be joined by Scott's lawyer buddy Joe Schiller (Richard Crane) and his shapely foreign wife Loy (Erika Peters).

Joe and Loy don't show that first night, leaving our couple to be unnerved by a series of mysterious goings on in the house. While they are sleeping, a legless something makes its way into the room and swipes two of the thirteen keys that they've been given by a real estate. An investigation of the house uncovers only one still-locked door, however, though our spooked couple somehow manages to forget that there's a dungeon in the building until late in the movie. Later, when the lawyer's wife Loy is kidnapped by a hulking giant (Richard Kiel, a year after his appearance in Eegah), they still manage to forget about the basement digs until long after they've gone through the rest of the mansion.

Atmospherically filmed by Maury Dexter (The Day Mars Invaded Earth, Maryjane, The Mini-Skirt Mob), House works more on being moody than frightening, though a red herring subplot concerning the mansion's institutionalized former owner contains a decent little jump scare. There's an odd little subtext in the script, pertaining to the two couples' marriages. Scott and Nancy, we're reminded more than once, have just celebrated their anniversary, while the lawyer and his missus are currently experiencing a rough patch thanks to the "excitable" wife's jealousy. Both marriages are meant to be compared and contrasted to the relationships between the house's true denizens, though the script doesn't really do all that much with this theme.

Despite the movie's misleading poster blurb, the solution to all the dark night hi-jinx turns out pretty Scooby Doo-ish. (Soon as you learn the missing Captain Arbuckle once ran a traveling circus, you can see where the plot is going: the culprits are all sideshow human oddities!) The flick's troublemakers prove to be benign at heart; even the house's one dire moment -- the sight of a headless Loy reaching out for Nancy -- turns out to be an old-fashioned carnie gaffe. The whole thing wraps on a somewhat melancholy note, as the movie's mislabeled quartet of the "damned" shuffle up the dungeon steps to venture out into the sunlight. When one of them says they fear "the faces" of the outside world, the group's seeming leader (a none-too-imposing circus fat lady played by Ayllene Gibbons) states simply, "We've all been looked at before." An odd capper to this peculiar little low-budgeter.


# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter