All Hallow’s Lee – HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS
HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS
Directed by Pete Walker
Released by Cannon Group
Pete Walker had been retired from filmmaking for three years when Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus approached him about doing a film with Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. A classic old horror yarn. Walker explained that they were all dead. Oops.
What came out of that meeting was a Hammer Horror family reunion. Peter Cushing, John Carradine, Vincent Price and Christopher Lee gathered together to put together a loving homage to their Hammer days.
The film is a strange hybrid. Its’ lovingly gentle with its stars and in some ways feels exactly like a Hammer film from their heyday. On the other hand, this is 1983. The age of all the stars feels more like a sad swan song. Especially Carradine, who seems like he could literally fall to pieces and die at any moment.
Desi Arnaz plays a dirtbag novelist who’s in it for the money. He makes a bet with his publisher that he can pump out something on the level of Charlotte Bronte in 24 hours. His publisher offers an abandoned old country estate in Wales as the perfect place to weave such a yarn.
Arnaz plays it straight, and mostly pulls it off. I can’t help thinking, though, that someone with a bit more charisma could have really kept the film rolling for the first half hour. It trudges a bit, as he makes his way to the Old Dark House (which is a better film).
When he arrives, an old man (Carradine) and his daughter (an amazing Sheila Keith) claim to be the caretakers. He moves on, ready to make his bet. At this point, the love interest arrives and attempts to distract him (on the orders of her boss, his publisher)… Alright, yes its a bit slow and tedious at this point. But, then, things change.
Peter Cushing’s arrival into the film changes everything. His voice alone takes the film up to a respectable level. He plays confused. Plays in charge. Plays the sap. And, controls every scene. His character is Sebastian Grisbane. The middle of three brothers, wracked with guilt over what they did to their brother.
Vincent Price comes onto the scene as the oldest brother, Lionel Grisbane, and pontificates his way into bringing the film back to a B grade picture of the ‘60s. He literally scolds Arnaz for interrupting his “soliloquizing.” Its a thing of beauty.
And, finally, Christopher Lee enters onto the scene as Corrigan, the real estate advisor. Outraged at the presence of all these people in the home he is responsible for, he scolds them and then enjoys their presence. These three men playing against one another as they eat dinner is a joy. They slowly unfold the plot through hammy exposition, each in their own manner. You can feel the mutual love and admiration for one another. But, it’s Lee who steals every scene. His cool manner elevates everyone around him.
Turns out the Grisbanes locked their 14 year old brother up in a room upstairs and have had him locked their for 40 years. Lousy bastards. Tonight is the 40 year anniversary and they plan to let the evil creature loose. Some fun scares and over-the-top lines commence. And, REVENGE! Twists, etc.
Its a neat film and I really enjoyed myself. There are plenty of twists along the way that you can see from a mile away, but really shouldn’t an homage feel a bit like that? I don’t know, maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe it sucks. What do I know, I HAVEN’T SLEPT IN A YEAR.
In the end, I suppose all the inane garbage with Arnaz is balanced out by the three masters and leaves a pleasant enough experience. Plus, Lee. Damn, that guy is awesome.