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The House of Seven Corpses(1974)
A director is filming on location in a house where seven murders were committed. The caretaker warns them not to mess with things they do not understand (the murders were occult related), but the director wants to be as authentic as possible and has his cast re-enact rituals that took place in the house thus summoning a ghoul from the nearby cemetery to bump the whole film crew off one by one.
For more about The House of Seven Corpses and the The House of Seven Corpses Blu-ray release, see the The House of Seven Corpses Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 8, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: John Ireland, Faith Domergue, John Carradine, Charles Macaulay
Director: Paul Harrison
» See full cast & crew
The House of Seven Corpses Blu-ray Review
Why didn't they mention this film in my Utah history classes?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 8, 2013
Having grown up in Salt Lake City as an outsider (i.e., a non-Mormon), I found Associate Producer Gary Kent's commentary reminiscences of shooting The House of Seven Corpses in and around my birth city and dealing with the prevailing controlling group (i.e., Mormons) quite amusing. Kent details shooting most of the film in the old Utah Historical Society Building (the Society has evidently since moved to the really luxe remodeled Union Station on the west side of the city), a mammoth Georgian building which is only one of many such behemoths visitors will see lining such iconic Salt Lake City avenues as South Temple. What really made me kind of laugh as I watched the opening moments unfold of this frankly little remembered cult item from the early seventies was the thought of erstwhile fifties bombshell Faith Domergue traipsing around on a Society building floor painted with Satanic symbols and magical circles while in the next room Historical Society secretaries, whom I can more or less guarantee were LDS and probably as anti-Devil as it's possible to get, were peeking around the corner to get a glimpse of the action. Such are the vagaries of the movie making business, and in fact those very vagaries are front and center throughout The House of Seven Corpses, since it details the travails of a cast and crew shooting a film in what turns out to be a haunted house. The intersection of horror and show business has shown up in a number of films, including such outings as Fright Night and Frankenstein 1970, and House of Seven Corpses traffics in much the same territory at times, detailing crews that have seen it all before and actors who really want to direct (or something like that). While not any great forgotten classic, The House of Seven Corpses is fun in a goofy kind of way, and it offers a nice chance to see John Carradine in a latter day horror performance.
Perhaps the fact that whatever Satanic ritual is being portrayed in the opening sequence in The House of Seven Corpses turns out to actually be part of a movie being filmed allowed whatever powers that be at the Utah Historical Society to more easily grant permission for so many unseemly symbols to be affixed, albeit temporarily, to the floor of the building. We see Gayle Dorian (Faith Domergue) going through some kind of elaborate scheme, only to become frightened and trying to get away from something. Suddenly we hear the iconic word "Cut!" and realize it's all a sham—or at least, a movie. The director, Eric Hartman (John Ireland) isn't exactly pleased that the mansion's kind of spooky old caretaker Edgar Price (John Carradine) doesn't seem to realize that when a movie is being shot, you're supposed to shut up and stay out of the way.
While some things are left to the viewers' imagination, it seems this film is recounting a series of gruesome murders that once took place in this behemoth of a building, murders that we've already seen in montage form courtesy of the opening credits (Kent reveals that, kind of like the crew in the film within the film, some of the behind the scenes folks stepped up for their little cameo in this sequence). This particular film, again kind of like The House of Seven Corpses itself, is not being made on the most opulent of budgets, something that seems to frost Gayle, an actress who, probably not so coincidentally like Domergue herself, had seen better days at more glorious studios.
Gayle's Satanic recitations end up resuscitating a long dead zombie like creature which begins wreaking havoc on the film's cast and crew. In one of the funnier little moments, this gruesome looking gentleman shuffles up a bunch of flights of stairs to confront Gayle, who of course screams and panics. Meanwhile, her leading man Christopher Millan (Charles Macauley), while hearing her and perhaps wondering in passing what's going on, just kind of rolls his eyes, sighs, and takes a big swig from his ever present booze bottle as he removes the day's makeup. Now that's show business.
In fact probably the most interesting thing about The House of Seven Corpses is its at times quite well done recreation of a low budget film crew struggling to get through a day's requisite number of pages without losing their collective minds. This film within a film gambit is in some ways much more effective than the actual horror element. While the creature's makeup is quite convincing and kind of disturbingly gooey looking, there just isn't a lot of "fear factor" running rampant throughout this film.
The other real allure here, at least for fans of a certain age, will be seeing erstwhile stars like Carradine, Ireland and Domergue lending their talents, albeit to a project that may in fact have been beneath them. Carradine is actually quite a bit of fun as the caretaker who keeps annoying the cast and crew with little tales of the mansion's sordid past. Domergue and Ireland are actually quite believable as former lovers who find themselves nostalgic for their time atop the film world heap. Some of the bit parts are fairly well done, including the "crew" on the film within the film. Somewhat less effective are featured players like Carole Wells as the young ingénue in the film who is also increasingly suspicious that odd things (and/or zombies) are afoot.
The House of Seven Corpses is ultimately one of those trifles that probably played drive-ins back in the day and then was consigned to such late night television outings as Salt Lake City's own Nightmare Theater, a show which first introduced me to the likes of Frankenstein and Dracula at what passed for The Witching Hour in Utah back in the day, namely 10:30 on Friday nights. The film may not be anything overly original or special, but it has a certain charm that should recommend it to genre fans, especially those who like spooky Georgian mansions with John Carradine poking around inside.
The House of Seven Corpses Blu-ray, Video Quality
The House of Seven Corpses is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Severin Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. If compared to previous home video releases, this Blu-ray is a total winner all the way. If assessed on a more purely objective basis, things are a bit less stellar. The elements here have some major issues, including a lot of emulsion damage, especially in what would have been the first reel (rather strangely, it tends to affect the middle of the frame rather than the sides, which is typically where such things tend to occur). While there are also the requisite number of scratches and specks in evidence, as well as some absurdly huge reel change markers, there's also one major if transitory anomaly at slightly past the 50 minute mark where a brief flash replaces the image for a frame or two. Colors are slightly faded, as is probably to be expected, but actually look reasonably dense and well saturated if seen with reasonable expectations. This was obviously not a hugely budgeted affair, and the image is quite soft at times, beset with low light conditions which create a murky, muddy atmosphere at times, along with quite a bit of grain—though that may actually help the film's spooky atmosphere for some.
The House of Seven Corpses Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The House of Seven Corpses features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track that sounds quite good, at least with regard to Bob Emenegger's suitably creepy choral cues. Dialogue can be difficult to hear at times, due perhaps to the filming conditions. There's just a slight amount of clipping when people break out into fulsome screaming. Dynamic range is relatively wide for this type of fare.
The House of Seven Corpses Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The House of Seven Corpses Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I always knew Salt Lake City was kind of a creepy place, so it's nice to know an enterprising film producer thought so, too (of course I kid —kind of). The House of Seven Corpses is no great masterpiece, but it's still kind of fun, especially in its depiction of a low budget film crew trying to keep from going crazy and/or getting killed. This film has languished with bargain basement home video releases for years, and while this Severin release has some built in issues, it's offers a dramatically better picture and soundtrack than I've personally ever experienced with The House of Seven Corpses. The commentary track is a complete hoot, even if you're not from Utah. For genre fans if for no one else, The House of Seven Corpses comes Recommended.
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