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House of the Black Death
Blood of the Man Devil / The Widderburn Horror / Blood of the Man Beast

USA 1965
produced by
Richard Shotwell, William White, Eldon C. Tollett (executive)
directed by Harold Daniels, Jerry Warren (uncredited)
starring Lon Chaney jr, John Carradine, Andrea King, Tom Drake, Dolores Faith, Sabrina, Jerome Thor, Sherwood Keith, Catherine Petty, George Mitchell, Katherine Victor, Margaret Shinn
screenplay by Richard Mahoney, based on the novel The Widderburn Horror by Lora Crozetti

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The Desards have long lived lives as reclusives in their mansion far off the beaten track, because of a family curse that involves lycanthropy. However, Belial Desard (Lon Chaney jr) has fallen out of favour with family patriarch Andre (John Carradine), and being a mighty warlock, he has teamed up with the villagers next door to form a witches coven. Andre, mighty warlock that he might be himself, is on his death bed, so he has called psychiatrists Kate (Andrea King) and Eric (Jerome Thor) for help to cure his son Paul (Tom Drake), who's about to die from the family curse. Paul's sister Valerie (Dolores Faith) meanwhile has fallen for the lure of Belial who promises to save the family using his own brand of black magic, but of course he has more sinister plans, and after Paul has died from the curse a confrontation between Andre and Belial seems inevitable ...

Katherine Victor, as leader of a presumably different witches coven, acts as some sort of Greek choir.

 

There's no two ways to put it, House of the Black Death is a bit of an underwhelming film, despite fine performances by at least Chaney and Carradine (who haven't got a single scene together, they even duel remotely), who do good routines of their stock characters. But the film seems to be disjointed, with key scenes missing or turning up out of place, anc character motivations being unclear or shifting through the course of the film. And of course, some of the sets just look too cardboard to be convincing. Now the reason for this is because the film actually was a disjointed mess as in fact it was never finished by its original director Harold Daniels, and instead director Jerry Warren, who by then had gained a little notoriety for his cut-and-paste way of moviemaking, was asked to film some filler scenes to add congruency and bring the movie to feature length - which is why the scenes with Katherine Victor leading a gang of Warren-regulars, pop up throughout somewhat unrelated to the plot to bridge the gaps.

Disjointed and objectively bad as this film might actually be, it's still fun to watch for trash movie lovers like me, maybe exactly for its shortcomings and its resulting weirdness more than anything else.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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written by
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