During the 60s and 70s, British film makers Amicus productions made a series of films containing several short horror stories, linked by a framing story.
Starring many big names (for the time), these low/medium budget films
told several stories mainly concerning ghosts and the supernatural in a
typically British way, and usually featured some sort of twist ending.
The third of these was "The House That Dripped Blood", released in 1971.
Detective Inspector Holloway (John Bennett ) of Scotland Yard is assigned to investigate the mysterious and sudden disappearance of popular actor Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee ). Initially visiting the house that Henderson was renting from a Mr. A.J Stoker , he finds the gates locked and barred, so he calls in and introduces himself at the local police station. Holloway resents being pulled away from more important duties to, as he puts it "chase around after temperamental film stars".
Sergeant Martin, the local bobby who reported the disappearance, admits that although he filed the report as quickly as he could, he did leave out an important part, namely that this wasn't the first time that something had happened to people who had lived in that house. He hands Holloway a file containing reports of previous cases relating to Mr.Stokers mysterious house, and they begin to read together....
Story #1 - "Method For Murder"
Pulp novel writer Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott ) and his wife Alice rent the property from Mr. Stoker. Alice doesn't like the houses "olde worlde" atmosphere, but Charles loves it due to is extensive library containing many of his favourite classic horror novels, and the fact that he needs some peace and quiet to finish writing his new book (he is suffering from writers block due to the hustle and bustle of living in London).
His creative juices soon start flowing, and he begins writing a story centred around a character called "Dominic", who is a psychopathic murderer who escaped from an insane asylum and stalks the countryside looking for victims. He even presents his wife with a picture he has drawn of the character, saying he was inspired that very afternoon while staring out of the window.
Over the next few days, Charles works away feverishly on his book, becoming more and more obsessed with the character of Dominic, saying that he feels as though the character is actually a real person.
That night, as he takes a break from writing to smoke a cigarette, Charles sees what he believes is "Dominic" standing at the top of the stairs reflected in a mirror, but when he turns round, there is no one there. He pours himself a stiff drink but is startled by the sound of an evil laugh coming from upstairs, but when he checks on it, once again, no one is there. He returns to his study and sees that the picture he drew of "Dominic" has gone missing, and decides to call it a night after Alice comes home and startles him.
The drawing mysteriously reappears on his desk the next day, but as he watches the screwed up picture float away when he throws it in the nearby river, he is terrified to see a ghostly looking "Dominic" fish the paper out of the water while grinning at him evilly.
Clearly shaken up, he returns home and tells Alice what he has seen, but she tells him he is working too hard and should take a rest from writing, but Charles refuses and says he must get his book finished.
That night, while once again working late, he looks up and sees the ghostly form of "Dominic" staring at him through the window, he cries out in terror and flees the room, causing Alice to come and see what is wrong. He explains that "Dominic" is in his study, but when she enters the room, there is no one there, despite Charles insistence that he can still see him, firstly sat in his reclining chair, and then hiding in a dark corner. Alice once again implores him to take a break from writing, and tells him to go and see a doctor, he reluctantly agrees. The doctor/psychiatrist he sees doesn't offer much by way of help, except to tell him he needs to see him a few more times.
Charles once again gets writers block, and explains to Alice that the psychiatrist says that it appears that he is letting himself become too overtaken by the character of "Dominic", in many ways using the character to act out some of his own dark fantasies.
While Alice is in the kitchen, Charles wakes from a brief sleep to see "Dominic" seemingly strangling her, he rushes to her aid, but finds her alone and terrified of him. He asks what happened and she says that it was Charles who was strangling her. She calls for his psychiatrist to come and see him immediately, but the psychiatrist insists once again that "Dominic" is actually an extension of Charles darker side, who bears some hostility to his wife and the world around him, and like an actor that has become too immersed in a part, he is beginning to act out the role of "Dominic" for real.
Whilst attending another session at the psychiatrists offices, Charles explains that he finds it odd that despite writing about murders for years, that he should suddenly start to want to commit murder himself, when he doesn't get a response to his statement, Charles looks up and sees "Dominic" standing over the psychiatrists dead body, and he laughs maniacally as Charles screams in horror.
Alice paces around their home worriedly, when suddenly "Dominic" enters the room, instead of being terrified, she embraces him and asks if everything went according to plan. "Dominic" removes his mask and wig and says everything went fine, Alice says that with Charles out of the way, they can run away together and make a new life living off the money made from Charles's books. The phone rings and Alice is informed that Charles has been found dead, strangled, alongside the psychiatrist. Shocked, she asks "Dominic" what has happened, as the plan was for it to be made to look as though Charles had gone insane and killed the psychiatrist. "Richard", as she now calls him, says that he killed both of them because it felt "better that way", but Alice says that it was stupid because the police will now be looking for a killer, perhaps even "Richard" himself. "Richard" says he doesn't know anyone by that name, as he is called "Dominic", before he strangles Alice to death.....
Holloway closes the file and holds his head in his hands as Martin explains that they found Dominic/Richard stood over Alice's corpse, laughing like a loon. He adds that it is not the man that is at fault, but the house itself, as it has something wrong about it. Holloway dismisses the notion as being absurd, and says he wants facts, not fantasies. Martin proceeds to tell him the tale of a Mr. Grayson, another tenant of the house...
Story #2 - "Waxworks"
Phillip Grayson (Peter Cushing ) is a former stockbroker who has retired to the country, and is now looking forward to a nice quiet life of leisure.Grayson is a lonely man, who although he never married, he is obsessed with a woman he knew in his youth, and spends a lot of time thinking about her.
One day while exploring the local town, he goes into a wax work museum, and is astonished to find that amongst the assorted poor quality exhibits, one of the wax figures resembles his lost love, seated in an alcove with the decapitated head of a man resting before her on a silver platter.
The proprietor of the establishment calls her "Salome", and explains that she has a strange effect on people who see her, causing them to see all sorts of strange things as they look at the figure. He goes on to explain that he modeled the waxwork on his dead wife, who was herself a murderess who was executed by the state for her crimes after she killed his best friend.Clearly shaken, Grayson leaves the museum, telling the owner he will not be wanting to return. Although he tries to stop himself from thinking about it, he secretly yearns to return there, just so he can stare at the image of his lost love, even in his dreams he ends up going there and finds that the figure instead has had its head replaced with a bare skull.
He is woken from his daydream by the sudden arrival of his friend Neville (Joss Ackland ) at the door.
It is revealed that in the past, Neville and Grayson had a falling out over the very same woman that Grayson spends so much time thinking about, but they forgive each other, realising that neither of them could have had her.
While Grayson shows Neville around the town, they end up in the wax museum at Neville's insistence, where he is shocked to see the wax image of the woman they both loved, and he quickly becomes enchanted by her. Neville leaves for home the next day, but both men find themselves drawn back to the wax museum, where Grayson finds Neville stood gazing at "Salome", but manages to tear himself away. Later, Neville once again turns up at Graysons house and apologises for his behaviour, and says that there is something evil about the place, Grayson agrees with him and offers Neville a room for the night, but Neville says he must leave.
The next day, Neville calls him and says that no matter how hard he tries, he cannot bring himself to leave, and that he needs to go back to the museum, Grayson tells him not to go and to wait for him at his hotel, but when he gets there, Nevilles room is deserted. Grayson rushes to the museum, and to his horror, he finds Nevilles severed head now resting on Salomes platter. The museums proprietor approaches Grayson with an axe, and tells him that it was he who killed his friend, and framed his wife for the murder so that he could embalm her body and keep her to himself forever, and that over the years he has had to deal with many would be suitors to her image. There is a brief struggle, but finally the axe wielding mad man corners Grayson...
A young man enters the museum, and once again the proprietor launches into his monologue about the figure of Salome being beautiful, except now it is Graysons head on her platter.....
Holloway is getting bored of hearing Martins fantastical tales, but once again Martin insists that there is something rotten about the house which does things to everyone who lives in it. Holloway asks if Henderson was the next person to live there, but Martin tells him there was one other before him, but he doesn't know the full details of what happened. Holloway decides to visit Mr. Stoker to find out what happened and to ask for the keys so he can look around the place himself.
Stoker insists that he did try and warn people about the house, and is surprised that the policeman hasn't figured it out yet, still, he tells him the story of Mr. Reid and his daughter....
Story #4 - "Sweets To The Sweet"
Mr. Stoker shows widower John Reid (Christopher Lee ) and his young daughter around the house, when Reid complains that it is cold, Stoker sets the log fire going, causing Reids daughter to flee in terror, he explains that his daughter is scared of fire. Reid asks his solicitor to hire a child minder who can look after and teach his daughter while he is away on business, which eventually results in him hiring Mrs. Norton, a widow and former teacher. Mrs. Norton notices that Reid is very cold and uncaring towards his child, and finds that he doesn't even allow her to play with toys, or behave as one would expect a child to behave, even denying her the opportunity to go to school or play with other children. The child, whose name is Jane, once again demonstrates that she is scared of the fire, but Mrs. Norton manages to talk her out of her irrational fear, after assuring herself that Reid is not abusing the girl by burning her.
Over the next few days, Jane proves to be a very bright little girl, and Mrs. Norton asks for permission to buy her some toys to play with, Reid agrees on the condition that the toys are educational.
Mrs. Norton arrives the next day bearing gifts, but Jane is most excited by the doll she is given. Reid enters and seizes the doll, throwing it on the fire in front of the child, he then lambasts Mrs. Norton for buying it her, saying she is forbidden from owning dolls. Mrs. Norton says that Reid blames Jane for his wife dying, but Reid counters by saying he was actually glad his wife is dead, and that Mrs. Norton would not understand his reasons for being cold to the child.
That night, Jane sneaks out of her bedroom and goes into her fathers study, where she takes a large old book from one of the shelves and begins reading it. The next day, Mrs. Norton catches Jane reading from the book again and finds that the book itself is a volume containing information about witch craft and black magic.
She once again raises her concerns over the childs welfare with Mr. Reid, and accuses him of being scared of something, but just as he is about to answer, a power cut knocks out all the lights. Mr.Reid goes to get some candles, but finds they have all gone from the drawer where he kept them hidden, he goes to search for another stash of candles he keeps hidden, and finds that several are missing from the box. He notices Jane standing at the top of the stairs and angrily demands she tell him what she has done with them, but ends up slapping her face when she remains silent.
A phone call the next day sees Mr. Reid called away on business, but while he is talking, Jane collects a hand full of hair clippings from her fathers electric razor. As Reid conducts his business meeting, he suddenly collapses with violent chest pains, meanwhile back at home, Jane laughs childishly as she appears to be stabbing something with a hatpin, but is disturbed by Mrs. Norton insisting that she come with her for a walk as it is such a nice day, as they leave, Reids pain stops just as suddenly as it started.
Reid is woken in the middle of the night, once again struck down by chest pains, Mrs. Norton calls for a doctor in spite of Reid protests, but the doctor can find nothing wrong with him, putting it down to a simple case of indigestion.
Reid finally tells Mrs. Norton the truth, Jane, like her mother before her, is a witch, and she has made a wax doll in the image of her father, which she uses to torture him. Mrs. Norton doesn't believe him, but changes her mind as Reid begins screaming in agony again, and she turns round to see Jane clutching a crude wax image of her father. She tells Jane to hand over the doll, but Jane instead throws it on the fire, as the figure melts, Reid screams in agony, while Jane just grins.
Stoker tells Holloway that once again, it wasn't the mans fault, it was the house, but Holloway tells him he only deals in fact, not fiction, and demands to know the details of Paul Hendersons arrangement with him. Stoker says he tried to dissuade Henderson from renting the property, but as he insisted on having it, he let him rent it....
Story #4 "The Cloak"
Paul Henderson (Pertwee) is an actor who has a reputation for being somewhat temperamental and rude, seeing himself as being a great actor despite the fact that he has only really ever starred in a series of low budget, low quality films. His latest gig is playing a vampire in a low budget vampire film, which although he believes is beneath him, he accepts the role anyway.
Arriving in grandiose style at Mr. Stokers house, later than he arranged to meet him originally, he and his co star Carla (Ingrid Pitt ) find the house adequate for his needs. Stoker tries to warn him about the houses peculiarities, but Henderson laughs it off, citing himself as being an "expert on the occult".
On set, Henderson lambasts the low budget nature of the film, right down to poor quality sets and costumes, even physically damaging the props while extolling the virtues of "classic" horror films. Henderson rejects his vampire costume, and says he will supply his own, and luckily while he is in his dressing room, he finds a card advertising a costume shop nearby, which he visits.
In the shop, he asks the owner, a sinister looking man named Von Hartmann, if he has a "real vampires cloak", and attempts to impress the man with his name and supposed knowledge of the occult, which fails miserably. Von Hartmann produces a lead casket containing a very old and authentic looking cloak, lined with blood red silk and sporting a fine silver bat shaped clasp, which he says he can buy there and then for the tiny sum of 13 shillings. Henderson pays up immediately, and Von Hartmann says it is lucky he came, as he is closing down the shop, Henderson bids him farewell and leaves, to which Von Hartmann says that he can now "rest in peace".
On set again, Henderson begins to notice a few odd things happening whenever he puts the cloak on, for example he always feels a sudden chill when he wears it, and notices that he no longer has a reflection in the mirror, but, ever the professional, he wears the cloak while doing his scenes.
While filming a scene with Carla, it ends with the vampire biting his female victim, and, much to Carlas alarm, Henderson actually bites her, and he is given a warning from the director not to get too carried away with the role.
That night, he tries an experiment while standing in front of a mirror, he once again puts on the cloak, and notices his reflection has vanished, then, as the clock strikes midnight, he undergoes a horrifying transformation, he grows a pair of fangs, , his skin goes an ashen grey, and suddenly he finds himself floating above the ground, he quickly crashes back to the ground and takes off the cloak, hiding it in the cupboard under the stairs.
On the next shooting day, he apologises to Carla for his indiscretion, and is relieved to learn that none of the scenes they are doing that day involve him having to wear the cursed cloak.
Carla comes round for dinner, and while pouring drinks for them both, he notices that there is a newspaper story about Von Hartmann, whose body was found in his burnt out shop, apparently having been dead for years.
Henderson explains to Carla that Von Hartmann must have been a vampire, and the cloak caused him to become a vampire himself, so he says he is going to burn it, Carla tells him he is being stupid, and convinces him to wear the cloak to prove it has no power over him. He puts the cloak on just as the clock strikes midnight, and is relieved that nothing happens to him, but then notices that the cloak he is wearing isn't his, and Carla reveals she has the original one, and puts it on. Henderson tries to stop her, but she carries on regardless.
She reveals that the vampires loved his films so much, that they wanted him to become one of them forever, and she suddenly sports a pair of fangs and flies menacingly towards him, transforming into a bat as she draws nearer, Henderson screams in terror......
Holloway dismisses the tale as crazy nonsense, and demands Stoker hand over the keys to the house so he can have a poke around himself, but Stoker strongly advises against him going there alone, but Holloway insists, so Stoker hands them over.
By the time he gets to the house and lets himself in, it is dark, and because the house has no electricity connected to it due to it being vacant, he has to light a candle to see with while he walks around. Inside, the house is the same as it was while Henderson was living there. Finding nothing of interest upstairs, he descends to the cellar, where he finds a door chained and padlocked. He breaks open the lock and enters the chamber beyond, becoming startled when the door slams shut behind him, but he notices a new coffin in there with him. As the clock strikes midnight, the coffin opens, and Henderson, now a full fledged vampire, leaps out and attacks him. Holloway manages to stab Henderson through the heart with a broken piece of wood, which causes the vampire to fade away, leaving only the cloak behind, but then Holloway is attacked by Carla in bat form. With no way to escape the crypt, Holloway screams....
The next morning, Stoker stands outside the house. He turns to the audience and asks if we now understand that the house reflects the personality of the person or persons in it, and treats them accordingly. He says he hopes it finds a good tenant soon, and perhaps one of us would like it, because there is nothing to be afraid of, if you're the right kind of person......