Another horror anthology from the writer/director of Tales from the Crypt, this one with an even weaker framing story. But now it’s Peter Cushing’s turn to be the arch-villain (vith ze fake german accent), a psychic who predicts very specific supernatural deaths for everyone riding in his train car, including skeptic Christopher Lee.

First, Neil McCallum (of forgotten thriller Catacombs) is an architect who clumsily frees an evil werewolf from inside the walls of old Mrs. Biddulph’s home, faces the consequences.

In the silliest segment, Bill (BBC DJ Alan Freeman) brings home botanist Jeremy Kemp (of Blake Edwards’s Darling Lili) to examine his haunted vine. “A plant like that could take over the world,” Bill is told, before it kills them all.

Next, Roy Castle, who joined Cushing in a Dr. Who movie the same year, is musician Biff Bailey. He travels to the West Indies, disrespects voodoo rituals and makes a jazz arrangement of their sacred music, bringing vengeance in the form of a face-painted black man who appears in Biff’s apartment and murders him. Pretty much the same plot as the Papa Benjamin episode of Thriller a few years earlier.

Roy runs across the movie’s own poster:

For some reason the movie doesn’t save the skeptic’s episode for last. “I live by my vision,” says art critic Christopher Lee, so of course he is blinded in crash. But first, he has a cruel rivalry with painter Michael Gough (The Horse’s Mouth), crushes Gough’s hand in a hit-and-run, then after Gough kills himself the hand follows Lee, causing the blinding crash. At least it’s more eventful than the haunted vine.

Finally young doctor Donald Sutherland (in only his second real film role) brings home new wife Nicole (Jennifer Jayne of MST3K-bait The Crawling Eye). Max Adrian (Delius in Delius) is the only other doctor in town, suspects that the blood-drinking bat-morphing Nicole might be a vampire, convinces Donald to kill her with a stake. Twist: Max Adrian is a vampire using Donald to eliminate his competition, as Donald is carted off to jail.

But wait – they were dead all along!

But wait – if that’s true, what was the point of all the stories? Each passenger, even skeptic Christopher Lee, queasily accepted his own ludicrous tale of future demise, never interjecting “oh I doubt a vine is going to kill my whole family” or “but I’ve never even been to the West Indies,” or “then I won’t dig the werewolf casket out of the lady’s wall, so now do I get to live?” The tales are assumed to take place in the future, since on the train Lee is not blind, and Donald is not in jail. Then they’re all supposedly killed in a train accident, so either Dr. Terror was completely fucking with them or else he was holding them captive with his stories in order that they would die – but without the stories, where else would they have gone? All I’m saying is that Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors might contain some inconsistencies.

Don’t think I’ve watched a mummy movie since I was eight, because that’s the last time a living mummy seemed scary or interesting (I’m not counting the 1990’s Mummy series, since those were more about poor computer effects than mummies). But for some reason I watched this instead of The Curse of Frankenstein as my annual Hammer horror. And it wasn’t scary or interesting. Not a terrible movie, a classy-looking production but, well, it’s about a mummy. What can you do with that?

Same writer and director as Hammer’s Dracula and Frankenstein movies, starring Creature/Count Christopher Lee as the mummy and Doctors Frankenstein & Van Helsing Peter Cushing as the wimpy archaeologist who defeats it. Lee appears unbandaged in flashback scenes, a high priest with a forbidden love for a princess (Yvonne Furneaux, title character in something called Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie). He tries to resurrect her after her burial and is caught, mummified alive and buried behind a secret panel in her tomb.

John FrankenHelsing Banning:

However-many years later in 1895, archaeologist Felix Aylmer (of Olivier’s Henry V) digs up the tomb despite warnings about curses. An Egyptian local (George Pastell, actually from Cyprus) who still believes in the ancient gods swears revenge and a couple years later carts the Lee-mummy to Britain and has it assassinate Felix and his buddy. Felix’s son Peter Cushing escapes due to the lucky fact that his wife is the same actress who played the Egyptian princess, and she’s able to override the mummy’s commands.

Christopher Lee, before:

… and after:

Cushing figures out the plot, manages to convince the local police of the facts (it’s rare in a supernatural movie that the police believe the hero’s story), then saunters over to the vengeful Egyptian’s house, introduces himself and insults the man’s silly religion. This of course draws another mummy visit, but this time Cushing is armed – which should lead to the terrific poster artwork with a beam of light passing through a hole in the mummy’s midsection, but sadly doesn’t. Good wins out over evil, assuming Cushing is good – the movie doesn’t mind his participation in the looting of Egypt’s sacred history for the benefit of British museums.

Kind of a slow movie, with flashbacks that repeat whole scenes we just watched 45 minutes earlier. All the IMDB trivia articles are about the various ways Christopher Lee got hurt during the production, but he still stayed with Hammer through the early 70’s.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” – Harker

This was excellent. I knew Hammer Horror was a major hole in my viewing history, but I’d had the wrong idea about it. Somehow assumed it was a studio of low-budget, slow, decorative films a la Blood For Dracula. Here’s Wikipedia on this film’s predecessor, 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein: “Hammer’s first Gothic horror went into production. The use of colour encouraged a previously unseen level of gore. Until The Curse of Frankenstein horror films had not shown blood in a graphic way, or when they did it was concealed by monochrome photography. In this film, it was bright red, and the camera lingered upon it.” Of course, Hammer’s Dracula eventually went the way of all horror franchises, with increasingly silly sequels culminating in a showdown between Dracula and seven kung-fu brothers.

Jonathan Harker: John Van Eyssen, with a minor part in Quatermass 2 and no future in the cinema:
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Harker roams around doing a lot of actory business for the first ten minutes, meets a girl who asks for help in vague terms, seems like the usual. But Harker isn’t the usual patsy – he’s actually here to kill Dracula. The girl, Drac’s wife, vamps out and Christopher Lee makes an awesome bloodshot-eyed bloody-mouthed action appearance, tossing her aside and biting Harker himself. JH goes into the basement the next day with stakes in hand, but stupidly kills the girl first, waking the main man who takes care of Harker easily.

Valerie Gaunt, also with no future in cinema, returning from Curse of Frankenstein:
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Christopher Lee’s first Dracula movie and my first Hammer horror movie (not counting Moon Zero Two’s appearance on Mystery Science Theater). 36-year-old Lee went from minor roles in minor Powell/Pressburger flicks to the new face of British Horror in just two years.
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Jonathan’s buddy Van Helsing figures things out and goes home to inform the family, but Harker’s girl Lucy dies of vampire-related causes. Lucy is the sister of either Mina or her husband Arthur, I dunno which, and V.H. soon becomes suspicious that Mina is under Dracula’s spell.

I don’t know Peter “Grand Moff Tarkin” Cushing very well. Looks like he didn’t recover from the collapse of his horror career in the late 70’s. He’s very good here, and carries the bulk of the movie.
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I can’t remember who Mina was in the original novel but here, Lucy (Carol Marsh, star of a puppet version of Alice In Wonderland a decade prior) is Jonathan’s wife, and Mina (Melissa Stribling of The League of Gentlemen: the film thriller, not the TV comedy) is the wife of her brother Arthur (Michael Gough of The Small Back Room, later Alfred in the 90’s Batman films).
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Mina gets the familiar marks on her neck and Van Helsing discovers Drac is hiding out in his own cellar. Some vampire hunter. Drac flees, tries to bury Mina (?) and gets killed by sunshine. Way more action-packed than the other Drac stories I’ve seen lately.

Hammer respected Dracula’s death less than Universal did – they had Lee play the Count a bunch more times beginning with Dracula: Prince of Darkness in ’66.

Wikipedia again: “The film was an enormous success, not only in Britain, but also in the USA, where it inspired numerous imitations from, amongst others, Roger Corman and American International Pictures. It also found success on the European continent, where Italian directors and audiences were particularly receptive.”