House of the Long Shadows – UK, 1982 – reviews

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‘Room for every nightmare… A nightmare in every room’

House of the Long Shadows is a 1982 [released 1983] British comedic horror film directed by Pete Walker (House of Mortal Sin; Frightmare; House of Whipcord) and produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus for their Cannon Group.

The film is notable because four iconic horror film stars, Vincent PriceChristopher LeePeter Cushing and John Carradine are together in one feature, however it was poorly received by critics and filmgoers. The screenplay by Michael Armstrong (ScreamtimeThe Black PantherMark of the Devil) is based on the 1913 novel Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers.

Kenneth Magee, a young American writer, bets $20,000 that he can write a Wuthering Heights-style novel in twenty-four hours. To get in the mood for the undertaking, he goes to a deserted Welsh manor house.

Upon his arrival, however, Magee discovers that the manor is not as empty as he was told. Still there are Lord Grisbane and his daughter, Victoria, who have been maintaining the mansion on their own.

As the stormy night progresses, more people come to the mansion, including Lord Grisbane’s sons Lionel and Sebastian, Magee’s publisher’s secretary, Mary Norton, and Corrigan, a potential buyer of the property.

After much coaxing, the Grisbanes reveal that they are here to release their brother, Roderick, who was imprisoned in his room for forty years because he seduced a village girl when he was fourteen and killed her when he found out she was pregnant. When they go to release him, they find the room empty and conclude that he broke out recently by breaking the bars in front of the window…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Until 10 minutes from the end, House of the Long Shadows is a fantastic film – and not just because of the awesome cast. Unfortunately the ludicrous ending, followed by another ending, followed by another one, ruin the previous 90 minutes utterly.” British Horror Films

“Director Walker, probably England’s most recognized exploitation filmmaker, delivers his most toned-down picture in terms of pure sensationalism and onscreen gore (though the film does deliver several gruesome – albeit PG level – moments) but his style properly fits the ghastly candlelit uncoverings of decades-old betrayal…” DVD Drive-In

“The set-up is sort of hokey, and Arnaz is playing it like he’s in a completely different, and much more shouty, movie, but it’s a really fun premise and features some great, whodunit-style murders, especially once a vacationing English couple show up as well. You probably know the outcome early on, but it’s fun watching it get there.” Kyle Andersen, Nerdist

” … Michael Armstrong fashioned a script of wit and substance, playing with ideas about genre, performance and dramatic truth, much as Shaughnessy had done in The Flesh and Blood Show. It was a fitting elegy for both a version of Gothic melodrama that faded away in the 1970s and for Walker’s own career as an astringent genre revisionist.” Steve Chibnall, British Horror Cinema

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“The plot is utterly trite and was recycled from a 100 plus year old English stage production. Walker never manages to get his picture in stride and as a result the tone is constantly changing from a mystery or thriller to some sort of half-assed tongue in cheek comedy. The ending is a dreadful cop-out…”Christopher Challis, Rare Horror

” …major surprise, and disappointment, is that the film should waste these Grand Old Icons on an entirely superfluous remake of Seven keys to Baldpate […] “Armstrong and Walker display an appalling contempt for the audience.” Kim Newman, Monthly Film Bulletin

“Some of the staging in the last reel is luridly effective and the stars essay their respective roles with gusto, but none of this is compensation for the fact that the story is a con trick which held considerable appeal for audiences in 1913 but was felt to be arcane and annoying by the more sophisticated filmgoers of 1983.” Denis Meikle, Merchant of Menace: The Life and Films of Vincent Price

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Shadows is horrendously slow, marred further by shoddy production values. …and the horror greats are sadly wasted with inadequately scripted parts.” Video Movies

“… In Long Shadows the ‘fearsome foursome’ all get short-changed – as did audiences. The reviewers saved their sharpest knives for Desi Arnaz, Jr., who doesn’t give the impression here that he’s capable of reading (much less writing) a book in 24 hours.” Tom Weaver, John Carradine: The Films

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Choice dialogue:

Kenneth Magee [Desi Arnaz, Jr.]: “As long as they don’t bother me they can perform a black mass down there and an orgy. I don’t wanna know.”

Lionel Grisbane [Vincent Price]: “Like all of us, locked in the past forever.”

Cast and characters:

  • Vincent Price as Lionel Grisbane
  • Christopher Lee as Corrigan/Roderick Grisbane
  • Peter Cushing as Sebastian Grisbane
  • Desi Arnaz, Jr. as Kenneth Magee
  • John Carradine as Lord Elijah Grisbane
  • Sheila Keith as Victoria Grisbane (Doctor Terrible’s House of Horrible; The Comeback; House of Mortal Sin; House of Whipcord; Frightmare)
  • Julie Peasgood as Mary Norton (The Snarling)
  • Richard Todd as Sam Allyson (Asylum; Dorian Gray)
  • Louise English as Diane Caulder
  • Richard Hunter as Andrew Caulder
  • Norman Rossington as Station Master (Death Line)

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Filming locations:

Rotherfield Park, East Tisted, East Hampshire, England

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