THE BRIDE aka THE HOUSE THAT CRIED MURDER (1972) Reviews and overview

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‘Don’t throw rice… just scream your head off!’

The Bride is a 1972 American horror feature film directed by Jean Marie Pélissié from a screenplay written by producer John Grissmer, the director of Scalpel (1976) and Blood Rage (1983). It has also been released as The House That Cried MurderNo Way Out and Last House on Massacre Street

Composer Peter Bernstein, son of Elmer, also contributed scores to Silent Rage; Dark Asylum and Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys.

The film stars Robin Strasser (also in supernatural TV movie And the Bones Came Together), Arthur Roberts (Chopping Mall; Not of This Earth; The Mummy’s Kiss), John Beal (The Vampire, 1957 and Amityville 3-D) and Iva Jean Saraceni (Creepshow).

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Barbara (Robin Strasser) is about to marry David (Arthur Roberts) who works for her father (John Beal). A strong-willed woman, she intends that she and David will move into a house she has designed and built herself, which stands isolated in the middle of the countryside.

On their wedding day, after the ceremony, Barbara discovers David in a steamy clinch with his old flame Helen (Iva Jean Saraceni) and attacks him with a pair of scissors, before smashing the wedding cake and driving away in the bridal limousine.

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Weeks pass by and she doesn’t return. David invites Helen to move in with him at his house but it’s not long before strange events proliferate: the two of them receive threatening telephone calls and David suffers terrifying nightmares about Barbara…

Is she still alive and seeking vengeance, or is she dead and haunting him? Either way, the pressure is driving him towards madness, culminating in a terrifying visit to the house that Barbara built…

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Shot in thirty days in June and July 1972, on location in Connecticut and North Salem, New York, The Bride is a strange little film that feels as though it was written to make use of the central location, a bizarre modernist monstrosity with sharply angled walls and giant windows looking out over beautiful cornfields.

There is also a kind of feminist slant to the action, with David’s weaknesses and Barbara’s strengths contrasted. Barbara is the dominant force in their relationship, and the idea that she designed and built the projected marital home herself emphasises the inversion of traditional gender roles. By comparison, David is weak, lazy, dishonourable, and lacking a sense of personal responsibility.

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However, neither David nor Barbara are portrayed sympathetically. Barbara may be strong but she’s also breezily indifferent to her husband’s misgivings about the new house, making plans for their future without paying attention to his opinion; her arrogant assurance that things will be done her way makes her difficult to root for. Having said that, there’s no doubt that David deserves what he gets. He’s a total bastard, betraying his new wife with their wedding vows still ringing in his ears, then hanging on to his well-paid job with the bride’s father by pretending the ensuing scene was all her fault.

Despite the scissor attack, at first, both David and Helen fail to take the threat of a vengeful Barbara seriously, but their easy dismissals don’t last. Barbara’s father spooks David by telling him about a dark side to her character: “Barbara has a special talent for tormenting,” he says, as a warning.

It’s all too much for David, and in one of the film’s stand-out scenes, he has a nightmare about being trapped in the house that Barbara built. Sweating with fear he stumbles around the empty building, menaced by bizarre camerawork, extreme lighting and electronic weirdness on the soundtrack. The scene builds upon a comment from Barbara in an early scene: “A house is always the reflection of its builder.” The film thus condenses its underlying contradictions (a fearful ‘celebration’ of women’s liberation) into a single powerful image – a weak and foolish man trapped in a world created by a malevolent stronger woman.

If the later scenes at the house feel slightly undercooked, The Bride remains a chilling little treat for fans of oddball independent horror, with an ambiguous finale that recalls Mario Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon: a husband trapped in the power of a malevolent wife whose lust for revenge seems likely to keep them busy forever and ever…   

Stephen Thrower, MOVIES and MANIA

Jack the Ripper Goes West + Legacy of Satan + The Bride + Blood Song Blood Bath 2 DVD

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Other reviews:

“The disorientating, multi-surprise ending involves an axe and ghosts and the soundtrack features loud guitar blasts. It’s a pretty interesting obscurity.” Michael J. Weldon, The Psychotronic Video Guide

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