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DVD Review

DVD cover

Mad House (1974)


Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry and Adrienne Corri
Distributor: Spirit Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 27 May 2013

Paul Toombes is a very well known horror actor, best known for a string of Dr. Death feature films in which he played the sinister lead character. At the launch party for the last movie he announced his impending marriage to his leading lady. However, he also learns something about her past which makes him angry and think twice about the arrangement. Later that night she is found the victim of a brutal murder. Paul is initially accused, but there is no evidence of his guilt. Nevertheless, even Paul doesn’t know if he is responsible, and spends time in a psychiatric facility. Now, years later, he is invited to return to England to star in a TV version of the films. It isn’t long before a number of killings take place, each in the manner of a Dr. Death scene from the old movies...

I have no idea why this film is called Mad House, as it bears no real reference to the plot. It doesn’t really matter though, because this is a highly enjoyable Anglo-American production from Amicus and American International from 1974. Vincent Price is on top form as Toombes, who is both a chilling actor and very much a victim for the most part. Peter Cushing plays Herbert Flay, his long-time acting friend and colleague. There is also a very nice surprise in that when clips of earlier Dr. Death flicks are being projected to a small audience we get acting cameos from Basil Rathbone (who was the best Sherlock Holmes ever) and Boris Karloff (who must have been getting a bit long in the tooth, but still looks great). Excellent stuff! But top marks go to Vincent Price for such a sterling performance that he makes everyone else seem like they’re half asleep.

Mad House is much more of a murder mystery than an out-and-out horror, although the ending gets all supernatural and beyond the grave. There is a steady influx of characters introduced throughout the film as possible suspects for the atrocities, which is very nicely handled. We have the man who used to employ his fiance in the adult movie business, the young woman who tries to get Toombes involved in contrived scandal. The woman’s parents who attempt to blackmail him over the discovery of a pocket watch, an ex-actress who was badly scarred in one of the movies, and a handful of others. It isn’t that difficult to correctly guess the identity of the killer, but that fact in no way detracts from what is essentially a damn fine movie. Long Live Dr. Death.


Ty Power

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