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 ...
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.
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.