Two on a Guillotine – USA, 1965

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Two on a Guillotine is a 1965 American horror thriller film produced and directed by William Conrad (the portly actor most famous for playing private eye Cannon in the 70s TV series).

The screenplay by John Kneubuhl (The Screaming Skull) and Henry Slesar (Terror from the Year 5000; Murders in the Rue Morgue; Circle of Fear) is based on a story by Slesar. The Panavision cinematography was provided by Sam Leavitt (Cape FearDr. Goldfoot and the Bikini MachineThe Screaming Woman).

The movie stars Connie Stevens (Tales from the Darkside: ‘The Unhappy Medium’), Dean Jones, Cesar Romero (The Joker in 60s TV series Batman), Parley Bear (The Addams Family TV series), Virginia Gregg (The Night Stalker; voice of Norma Bates in PsychoPsycho II and III), Connie Gilchrist, John Hoyt (The Black Castle; Curse of the Undead; X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes), Russell Thorson (Half Human; The Screaming Woman; Night Gallery).

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John Harley Duquesne is a psychotic magician who accidentally beheads his wife Melinda with a guillotine during a performance.

Twenty years later he dies, and his will requires his daughter Cassie (the mirror image of her mother) to spend seven nights in his apparently haunted mansion in order to inherit his estate. Reporter Val Henderson offers to stay with her when he learns Duquesne promised to return in spirit form during Cassie’s week-long vigil.

As the days pass, the two encounter a number of spooky happenings, leading to a climax in which the not-really-dead Duquesne attempts a recreation of his guillotine trick, this time with his daughter as an unwilling assistant who hopefully won’t lose her head…

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Reviews:

“It’s a dull, silly, tedious clinker—and about as hair-raising, be warned, as a jack-o’-lantern.” Howard Thompson, The New York Times, January 14, 1965

 … a unique little film that knows when to have some laughs and, more importantly, when to play it straight. In fact, in terms of how it deals with its subject matter, the flick is a bit ahead of its time. There are twists and turns throughout the movie, and by the time the final reveal comes, you may be a little shocked as to exactly how everything plays out. I know I was.” Dread Central

“… a classy, professional old Hollywood production that still somehow manages to live up to the grand guignol promises of the title. It’s a film that’s got something for everyone, including horror fans with a pretty wicked slow motion beheading and a stylishly effective nightmare sequence.” Horror Digital

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“Suffice it to say that the climax of the film is a real doozy and director Conrad pulls out all the stops to provide maximum suspense. Mention should also be made of the crisp B&W cinematography by Sam Leavitt and the eerie score by none other than the legendary Max Steiner (!).” Lee Pfeiffer, CinemaRetro.com

“Beautiful black and white photography, likeable characters and a solid, if bizarre Max Steiner score (I mean, he has a recurring theme for a little bunny rabbit that lives at the house that pops up in the oddest moments) add up to a movie that shouldn’t be as obscure as it is.” Ain’t It Cool News

“Long-winded and unconvincing shocker with some effectively scary sequences.” Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell’s Film Guide

Digital release:

Warner Bros. released a remastered DVD on July 23, 2010 as part of their Archive Collection.

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Wikipedia | IMDb

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