House Of The Long Shadows (1983)
Until 10 minutes from the end, House Of The Long Shadows is a fantastic film - and not just because of the awesome cast. Unfortunately the ludicrous ending, followed by another ending, followed by another one, ruin the previous 90 minutes utterly. I'd suggest that when you get to the point where Christopher Lee asks Desi Arnaz Jr if he's learned anything, you switch it off, take it out of the VCR, lock it in a lead-lined cupboard and throw away the key - trust me. Suffice to say that 90 minutes of Cushing, Lee, Price, some bloke called Carradine, some terrific gory deaths, tons of atmosphere and a gripping storyline are wiped from the memory by what can only be described as a sub-Murder She Wrote finale. You have been warned.
But enough about that - here are the good points...
House Of The Long Shadows was the last genre film Pete Walker made, which is a shame. Apparently he's reduced to directing the occasional episode of Emmerdale these days. Oh, the horror. The legacy he's left behind - Flesh And Blood Show, House Of Whipcord, Frightmare, House Of Mortal Sin, The Comeback, Schizo, speaks for itself. Long Shadows could have been a fitting finale to a run of fantastic films. Not only did he get big bucks to spend on it, but a cast to dream of. Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price - all looking old, but all on top form. And it's also got Walker favourite Sheila Keith in it, who, much like a female Cushing, seems to have never put in a bad performance. It's got a lot going for it script-wise as well - young writer makes a bet with his publisher that he can't write a blockbuster in 24 hours, disappears off to a dodgy old manor in the heart of Wales, and comes across strange goings-on there.
Walker, as he weaves the different story strands, appears to be in his element. The tension is actually palpable as strange noises are heard, and what exactly are Keith and Carradine up to? There aren't supposed to be any caretakers there...
The three big stars are given the chance to shine, too, all get marvellous lightning-lit entrances, the flamboyant Price announcing "I have returned..."
Cushing's performance is brilliant as ever as the lisping drunk, Lee actually bothers to act in this one rather than just looking menacing, and Price is mellower and more reserved than usual, but still a force to be reckoned with.
Considering the PG rating, the film is a typical Walker-esque gore-fest, too. There's throat cuttings, eye gougings, hangings, axe batterings and even a gruelling acid-in-the-face scene. In fact, it's far more brutal than supposedly X-rated shite like Crucible Of Blood. The less said about Arnaz and "love interest" Julie (Emmerdale, again) Peasgood the better.
House Of The Long Shadows could have been the last great creation of the ailing British horror film industry, a grand bowing-out by Walker and the three names synonymous with the genre. Unfortunately, something more horrific than anything else on this site happened to it - is there anything worse than something that almost literally ends with "...and it was all a dream"...? I think not.
Last updated: February 24, 2010
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