DARK PLACES (1973) Reviews and overview

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‘The scariest spookiest movie this year… You’ll be terrified in…’
Dark Places is a 1973 British horror thriller film directed by Don Sharp (Psychomania; The Creeping FleshWitchcraft;The Kiss of the Vampire; et al) from a screenplay by Ed Brennan and Joseph Van Winkle.

The Glenbeigh Limited production stars Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Herbert Lom, Jane Birkin and Robert Hardy.

Doctor Mandeville (Christopher Lee) and his wife Sarah (Joan Collins) try to locate two suitcases of money hidden on a large estate of one of his former patients by posing as a potential heir. Also at the estate is mentally unstable Andrew (Robert Hardy), who begins to have flashbacks to the murders committed by the previous owner Edward (Hardy as well)…

“Sharp resists the temptation to go over the top and manages a few shocks very well (Hardy hacking a whole in a wall and releasing fluttering bats, for example), but it remains a somewhat mechanical effort.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“Sharp also manages to keep his head when all about are losing theirs (literally in the case of the two children) during a grisly denouement. His timing and discretion keep the carnage just the right side of crude excess.” David McGillivray, British Film Institute (BFI) Monthly Film Bulletin, June 1975

” …a bloody mess for all concerned.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“The pace is quite sluggish throughout, and it tends to repeat some of its ideas more often than is strictly necessary. Its worst problems arrive towards the end of the movie; the revelations about the past events in the house have a somewhat silly edge to them, and the movie loses a lot of steam in its final moments and ends with a whimper rather than a bang.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“It’s also never explained why Edward looks exactly like the painting of a younger Marr that hangs inside the manor. I expected a twist ending where a rational explanation is given for all the events, but it never comes. The climax provides more questions than answers […] Considering all the talent involved in it, Dark Places should have turned out to be a much better film.” The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog

“[Don] Sharp does his best with the rather indifferent script, but he’s not the kind of stylistically dominant director who can turn Dark Places into anything more than a solid, watchable movie. Of course, there are worse things than that.” The Horror!?

“Don Sharp is unable to inject much life into a derivative sub-Hammer script and the frissons are few and far between in a leaden movie.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook, Batsford, 1982

“Although marketed as a horror film, it is more a psychological thriller, the appearance of Christopher Lee, probably added to its horror moniker. Joan played another of her icy villainess roles as Christopher’s scheming sister, who seduces Hardy’s character, in order to find out where the hidden money is! Joan looks lovely as ever, apart from a misfortunate wig…” The Joan Collins Archive

“Although director Don Sharp has done some exemplary work elsewhere in the Anglo-horror cycle […] his pace here seems sedate and uninvolving. Though he is making a work that could variously be slapped with labels like horror film, thriller or a semi-ghost story, there is nothing that creates atmosphere or generates tension apart from a couple of jolt killings at the end.” Moria

” …Christopher Lee and especially Joan Collins are game as a pair of schemers, but director Sharp and lead actor Robert Hardy just aren’t up to snuff. It doesn’t add up to much of interest, certainly little of suspense or fright. You tend to twiddle your thumbs when you’re left with just Hardy on screen, which is quite a bit of the film. Ordinary in the extreme and a real waste of a great supporting cast.” Shameless Self Expression

“Typical of a large segment of what the British cinema turns out today – inert, flavourless, uninventive, unimaginable.” The Times, 1973

“This neglected film has the advantage of a good cast and Don Sharp’s usual perceptive direction.” Gary A. Smith, Uneasy Dreams

Buy Uneasy DreamsAmazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

Choice dialogue:

Ian Mandeville [Christopher Lee] to Sarah Mandeville [Joan Collins]: “You dirty, filthy little slut!”

Plot (includes spoilers):
Doctor Mandeville (Christopher Lee) and his sister Sarah (Joan Collins) try to locate two suitcases of money hidden on the large estate of one of his former patients but their plans are thwarted when mentally unstable Edward (Robert Hardy) arrives to claim the estate which had been left to him by the owner before he died.

Edward soon begins to have flashbacks to the murders committed by the previous owner Andrew (Hardy as well). As the story unfolds it sheds light on the events of thirty years or so before when Andrew had planned to leave his wife Victoria (Jean Marsh) for the younger and more attractive governess of their two children.

In desperation, Victoria had encouraged the two children to murder the governess whilst she attempted to seduce Andrew in the bedroom. In a fit of rage, Andrew strangled his wife and killed the children with a sword before bricking all four corpses up behind a wall with the two cases of money.

Edward eventually strangles Sarah and kills Doctor Mandeville with a pickaxe before getting arrested and led away by police…

Cast and characters:
Christopher Lee … Doctor Ian Mandeville
Joan Collins … Sarah Mandeville – Empire of the AntsTales from the CryptTales That Witness Madness; Revenge; Fear in the Night; et al
Herbert Lom … Prescott – Asylum; Count DraculaMark of the DevilThe Phantom of the Opera; et al
Jane Birkin … Alta – Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye
Robert Hardy … Edward Foster / Andrew Marr – 10 Rillington Place; Demons of the MindPsychomania
Jean Marsh … Victoria
Carleton Hobbs … Old Marr
Roy Evans … Baxter
Martin Boddey … Sgt. Riley
John Glyn-Jones … Bank Manager
John Levene … Doctor
Jennifer Thanisch … Jessica
Michael McVey … Francis
Barry Linehan … Asylum Gatekeeper

Filming locations:
Denham railway station as ‘Marr’s Halt’.
An old asylum near Uxbridge, England
Apparently filmed in 1972.

Technical details:
1 hour 31 minutes
Audio: Mono
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1

Theatrical release:
Passed by the BBFC censorship body with no cuts on 19th November 1973.
Distributed in the UK by Anglo/EMI.
Released by Cinerama Releasing Corporation in the USA.

Home media:
The film was released for the first time on DVD by Film 2000 on 20th November 2006.

Image credits: Technicolour Yawn | The Joan Collins Archive

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