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DVD Review

Bloodbath at the House of Death


Starring: Kenny Everett, Pamela Stephenson, Vincent Price and Gareth Hunt
Nucleus Films
RRP: £14.99
Certificate: 15
Available 28 July 2008

Disgraced surgeon turned parapsychologist, Dr Lukas Mandeville, gathers together a group of experts in their field to investigate reported incidents of paranormal activity at Headstone Manor. The old house has a notorious past when, years before, a dozen people were slain in various ways by mysterious monk-like figures, when it was playing host to the Businessman's Weekend Retreat and Summer Girls Camp. Now, as the scientists gather at the house, they are watched by a coven of Satanists lead by The Sinister Man. Is history about to repeat itself?...

You would expect a film which is scripted by well-known writer and performer Barry Cryer, and starring comedy genius Kenny Everett and stalwarts Pamela (Not the Nine o'clock News) Stephenson, Gareth (The New Avengers) Hunt, and Don (Rising Damp) Warrington - to be an hilarious master class in British humour. Unfortunately, it's not. The truth is, apart from a couple of minor gems, it's simply not funny. Initially, I wondered if it might be the humour itself that has aged; however, several classic sitcoms and a handful of sketch shows from the time prove that the right jokes can be timeless.

A couple of moments might make you chuckle: the Jaws music tribute which has a character creeping warily along corridors as the music becomes insistently dramatic, until Kenny Everett is revealed sitting on the toilet playing a cello. And a flashback scene showing how Mandeville's career as an eminent surgeon came to an abrupt end. The funniest moment on the DVD comes from a Kenny Everett Television Show sketch, shown as an extra, in which he advertises the product "Far Cough." This only goes to show how he is wasted in this movie.

It's rather unsettling, too, to witness horror icon Vincent Price parodying his own previous performances. I appreciate getting into the spirit of things, but this to me just demeans his significant cult status.

There is a valiant attempt to parody the Hammer/Amicus style of horror, and more specifically to pay tribute to a number of recognisable movie moments. There's the aforementioned Jaws, the axe-though-the-door scene from The Shining, The Entity (wherein Pamela Stephenson's character is sexually assaulted by an invisible force), and the notorious chest-bursting bit from Alien (when Everett's KC gets the stomach grumbles). But you might just think "so what?", because these moments are forced into the script without being in any way conducive. More generally, the entire plot appears to be based on The Haunting, but with added satanic monks.

This film has reportedly been lost for more than twenty years; I'm not saying it shouldn't have been recovered, but it is at best average, with no explanation as to what happens to the characters, and to what purpose.


Ty Power

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