Several years ago, I watched the 1981 film Ghost Story and discovered a subgenre I now love: Old Guy Horror. I’m not sure if anyone else uses that term, but to me, it’s any horror flick that features three or more horror greats all performing in the same story (ie: anthologies don’t count, sorry Monster Club, you’re still great for other reasons). A few years later, I came upon my favorite example: House Of The Long Shadows from 1983! This picture features…wait for it…John Carradine, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and our old buddy Vincent Price! I’m not even going to mess around, you should definitely watch this movie just as I did for It’s All Connected!
Here’s the set-up for this Peter Walker picture: hot young horror writer Kenneth Magee (Desi Arnaz Jr.!) is in England chatting with his publisher Sam (Richard Todd) and makes a bet that he could write a Wuthering Heights-esque book in 24 hours! To prove his point, Magee asks to be holed up in an old mansion out in the middle of nowhere that’s supposed to be abandoned. He eventually makes his way to the manse only to find that it’s far less empty than he thought.
While trying to write his novel in a cool old room on a typewriter by candlelight, he not only finds himself interrupted by the aforementioned horror icons, but also Sheila Keith’s Victoria, Julie Peasgood’s Mary and a bickering married couple who just show up. Deep-seated family drama bubbles to the surface as do a variety of delicious secrets that threaten to throw Magee off the scent of his percolating novel.
I’ll get into spoilers in a minute, but I just have to say that this movie is pure delight. Arnaz brings the young guy energy, which is great, but he’s also got a cool vibe that’s more curious than peeved. Like, he knows that even if he doesn’t win this bet, he might be able to to turn the experience into a book anyway. Plus, the rest of the cast is incredible and they’re all interacting with one another! This isn’t like Scream & Scream Again where Lee and Price are in a scene for 20 seconds (which might also be the case with Oblong Box, if memory serves), these legends are all in scenes together as well as with the other actors who all ply their craft well. I hope the experience of working on this film was awesome for everyone involved, because it felt like that while watching.
Okay, SPOILER time. For the record, this is actually the kind of movie I generally hate. You see, there are two surprise endings. The first is the Arnaz learns that all of the murders and whatnot were performed by actors paid by Sam to throw him off his writing game! Crazy, right? But that’s not it. You see, THAT turns out to be the end of Magee’s novel, which he wrote in peace and quiet at the big old house undisturbed. Normally, I abhor anything that ends with “it was all a dream/in your head/a lie,” and I definitely felt that way on my first watch of Long Shadows, but not this time around. There’s just way to much joy to be found in these stellar actors all playing off of one another.
I adore this movie, but there’s one problem: it doesn’t appear to be streaming anywhere! After catching it on Netflix or Amazon several years back, I grabbed myself a copy of the Kino Lorber Blu-ray. I just looked and it’s about $10 right now! So, if you like big dark houses, seeing legends work with each other, or, well, movies, then buy yourself a copy of House Of The Long Shadows.
Up next we have a film I’d never heard of starring one of the above gentlemen that actually ties into last year’s mostly un-blogged about attempt at It’s All Connected!