HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS
CANNON FILMS, 1983
KENNETH MAGEE: DEZI ARNAZ JR
You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Blaspheming American writer who makes a $20 000 bet with his British literary agent that he can write a novel in 24 hours. Interrupts the age old rites of a weird family in a weird mansion, all of whom just happened to turn up once he started tapping his keyboard about them. Scoffs at the very idea that one day someone will invent a paperless typewriter with a screen. SAM ALLYSON: RICHARD TODD
The aforementioned literary agent with a rowr-worthy secretary who doesn’t mind handing out $20 000 checks but pays peanuts for saiygne letttterrresrs. Has an irritatingly chilling laugh which he puts to good use as he finds most things amusing - a condition which can easily be cured via a good kick to the nuts. Calls everyone ‘dear boy’ irrespective of said person’s gender.
LIONEL GRISBANE: VINCENT PRICE
Campy, theatrical, dictionary swallowing and soliloquizing member of the weird Grisbane family who raves and rants about his heritage and history in a decaying mansion with an equally decaying family. Throws a great shadow on the wall too. Chopped to death: a fate that he really did not deserve, nor did he axe for it. CORRIGAN: SIR CHRISTOPHER LEE
AKA Roderick – the at first seemingly urbane traveler who has traveled to the manor to buy it, tear it down and kill anyone from the weird family that gets in his way. His family, that is: they don’t realize that they’re related until they say hello to his little double-headed axe.SEBASTIAN GRISBANE: PETER CUSHING
Another weird traveler known as The Big Drip with a speech impediment and a lifetime of living in fear: hangs around until the end of the movie and then slaps himself for being in the thing in the first place.LORD ELIJAH GRISBANE: JOHN CARRADINE
The head of the family and brother to the South African Minister of Posts and Telecommunications who banned television in South Africa until 1975. Hates telephone usage. Likes to fall asleep at the head of the dinner table during boring family speeches. Gets a fright and goes dead, just like the phone. MARY NORTON: JULIE PEASGOOD
Sam Allyson’s rowr-worthy secretary designed to aid and abet Kenneth in his quest to write a novel in 24 hours: fails at both but wins the writer’s heart at least. And mine, for the last thirty years anyway.VICTORIA GRISBANE: SHEILA KEITH
The daughter of Lord Elijah Grisbane who is, in the words of the immortal gumball machine Tom Servo, a non-musical mook. Strangled due to bad singing and shows The Mark of the Devil
when her tongue is also torn out due to the latter. ANDREW and DIANA CAULDER: RICHARD HUNTER and LOUISE ENGLISH:
Bickering, whiny couple (who should have actually been named Charles and Diana) who find themselves stranded at the train station and also interfere in the weird goings on at the manor. Andrew chokes on and overdoses on a glass of Chuck Norris’ p**s and Diana washes her face in a bowl of acid, proving herself to be a smoking hot lady.
STATION MASTER: NORMAN ROSSINGTON
Terribly ragged wage slave who lost the BEAT in his LESs than important life years ago when he, just a nowhere man
and four hopeless musicians he managed decided that while all you need is love
, it was just better not to worry about his Rubber Soul
and to take The Long and Winding Road
to Strawberry Fields
and Let It Be
Kenneth: “I’m looking for Bald Pate Manor.”
Lionel: “You’re wrong, Roderick. It’s not justice you seek, its blood.”
Station Master: “Nobody lives in Bllyddpaetwr Manor. No one would want to live in Bllyddpaetwr Manor. It’s a cursed place. Cursed.”
Trevor: “Nobody knows how to spell Bllyddpaetwr Manor. No one would want to know or learn how to spell Bllyddpaetwr Manor.”
Kenneth: “OK, OK. Let’s cut out all the bulls**t.”
Kenneth: “He is only one man, even if he hasn’t cut his fingernails for forty years.”
Elijah: “The hour’s late, I feel.”
Victoria: “Oh yes, I see what you mean.”
Lionel: “Right? Three hundred years is our right!”
Sebastian: “Hasn’t there been enough lying?”
Kenneth: “Sam, you bastard!”
Elijah: “Shadows, sir. Shadows of the past.”
Kenneth: “Why? What happens at midnight?”
Lionel: “Decay. Now there’s nothing but the stench of decay.”
Sebastian: “Suffering? Sometimes I wonder if you know the meaning of the word!”
Diana: “That’s the trouble with Andrew; he’s a typical suffering artist. He spends all his time being artistic while everyone else suffers for it.”
Kenneth: “All I need is somewhere I can have total isolation and, above all, atmosphere.”
Lionel: “Piano wire. He must have heard her singing.”
Sebastian: “It’s all I’ve ever known….. Fear…”
Lord Elijah: “Contraption of the devil.”
Kenneth: “I’ll remember that. I’ll wear a leek or something to show I’m a friend.”
Lionel: “Where is the music now, the sound of laughter? There was never music.”
Lionel: “But you must remember that this is my ancestral home. My heritage. What I am lies within these walls.”
Sebastian: “Look! The panel!”
Corrigan: “It would seem, Mr Magee that we are imprisoned here.”
Corrigan:“Do you understand, Mr Magee? Do you understand your experience?”
Lionel: “But you can’t release him now; think what he could be like after all this time! Barely human, a raving thing!”
Station Master: “Turn left at the station, two miles. Turn right at the crossroads and just go straight on. Bllyddpaetwr Manor will find YOU in its’ own good time.”
Lionel: “Please don’t interrupt me whilst I’m soliloquizing.”
Kenneth: “Full of things better not spoken of, ah yes, I’ve seen the movie.”
Corrigan: “And the property on which you are trespassing!”
Lord Elijah: “All things pass. Death is our only true destiny.”
Kenneth: “What’s going on here? Who are you?”
Lionel: “I HAVE RETURNED………”
Corrigan: “Who are you and what the devil are you doing here?”
Lionel: “A doomed family to whom destiny has denied a future.”STUFF TO WATCH OUT FOR:
0:54: Um…. Anyone have a neuralyzer handy?
1:32: Any bets on whose wig will blow off first here?
1:42: That book is about the lies Cannon Films told the cast about this film, as well as all the ones they told their South African investors. Errmmm...those bare boobies: no idea.
4:07: You want atmosphere? Come to my flat: the atmosphere is, shall we say, interesting.
5:40: Lovely music: thank you, Richard Harvey.
5:50: Ahh: Ye olde England with ye very verily crappie weather.
5:52: Is he closing the roof or winding up the engine there?
5:53: Did Golan and Globus have that airplane flown in for that scene (no pun intended?)
6:22: Looks like I’m going to have to eliminate the letters B, L, Y, D, P, A, E, T, W and R from my keyboard.
8:46: Why worry about her? This is Wales: maybe she just went for a leek?
9:03: Hmm, Norman Rossington. Reduced to the job of a stationmaster after The Beatles sacked him as their manager.
10:37: Those directions need the immortal Credence Clearwater Revival
lyrics there’s a bathroom on the right
added to them.
19:16: That candle must be scorching John Carradine’s chin there.
28:26: Ahh, back to work. “All work and no play makes Ken a dull boy.”
39:43: This Grisbane guy must be psychic too: I don’t think Kenneth introduced himself but yet Grisbane knows his name.
46:53: How about letting me in on what’s happening too?
58:14: Welcome to my grandma’s bedroom!
1:10:04: Now that is one heck of a height difference.
1:11:58: That comment hurt more than the piano wire, I think.1:12:36: RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A HILL’S ANGEL!
1:13:50: Wow: I always thought Louise English was a smokin’ hot lady: now I see she is.
1:14:33: “It’ll help you.” Sure, it’ll help kill you.
1:15:49: That can’t be Jack Daniels alcohol: more likely Jack Kevorkian alcohol.
1:17:06: Hee hee.
1:21:20: It’s amazing how chilling the word ‘brother’ can be when a supposed total stranger uses it to describe you.
1:27:08: Yeah: because Saruman would have handed your medieval ass to you on a plate, that’s why.
1:27:10: …..I understand this: you can’t act worth a damn either.
1:28:09: Hmm…. That’s Peter Cushing slapping himself for being in such a movie….
1:28:36: Now that smile would make me melt right into my shoes.
1:28:15: Whoa: all a hoax? And just who is laughing like that? Ah yes: him. Golan and Globus have just delivered the star’s paycheck.
1:28:35: Is his real name Vernon or Bernard?
1:28:40: Ouch……..or as we say in South Africa, eina……..
1:30:28: Now Barabbas was a publisher……
1:34:22: Not everything was in your head: that check was real!LESSONS LEARNED
Never rent a BMW with a wind-up roof and engine.
You are bound to lose your way to any place with a name spelt Bllyddpaetwr.
Falling asleep during a scene at the dinner table is SOP for John Carradine.
Alcohol does wonders for a troubled conscience.
The names ‘Vernon’ and ‘Bernard’ are way too similar for me.
The weight of too many letters on a sign can cause it to creak alarmingly.
A face washing after a lover’s tiff can sometime be dangerous.
The word ‘brother’ used by a supposed stranger can chill the blood.
Bad singing and equally terrible piano playing can get you killed.
Telephones are the work of the devil.
Vincent Price will not scream and scream again if you don’t tip him as your waiter.THE PLOT
The story of this horredy (horror – comedy) by Michael Armstrong – the writer/director of the stomach churning Mark of the Devil
– is based on the play Seven Keys to Baldpate
by Earl Derr Biggers and the many film versions thereof. A successful political writer makes a bet with his English editor that he can deliver a novel in another genre to the one he’s used to in 24 hours (the bet is worth $20 000) provided that he has enough atmosphere in which to clack away at his typewronger keyboard. The agent provides him with the atmosphere: a very weird manor house with an even weirder name.
No, I am not going to type that weird (and most likely fake) Welsh name out again: let’s just call it ‘Bald Pate” Manor.
The writer hires a BMW with a wind up roof and engine and makes his way in a blinding rainstorm a la Marion Crane in Psycho
to Wales, where he meets a bickering couple at a railway station and the former Beatles manager, now reduced to a stationmaster who looks as though he is having a hard day’s night in all this rain. *COUGH*
On being warned that the manor IS A CURSED PLACE. CURSED, by the stationmaster, the writer arrives at the Manor only to be greeted by shoddy special FX lightning, castle thunder and a huge bear that scares the crap out of him when he sees it in a lightning flash. Anyhow, this place is supposedly uninhabited for years until the writer arrives, starts typing and then all kinds of weird sh*t starts happening as a bunch of Trevor’s relatives pitch up at the house to meet their respective destinies and fates after forgetting to pay the laundry bill all those years ago.
The destiny that all are about to meet is the family secret: the black sheep of the family had had a bit of the old boinga-boinga with a simple village girl whom he later killed and was locked up in a secret room for forty years, with only occasional escapes and breaks for food and clean undies breaking the monotony.
All of the above to preserve the family’s sense of honor which is decaying as fast as the manor is. The writer finds himself part of this weird gathering as more and more people arrive in a place that was supposed to be uninhabited: first the caretakers of a place which doesn’t have any, then three elderly men whose entrances are made in pools of light and shadow as well as purple prose like “I have returned!” and “Who are you and what the devil are you doing here?” adding to the weirdness.
Again I say: these people only turn up at the place once Magee starts writing about them.
Secrets are revealed especially that all of them (excluding the writer, his agent’s pretty secretary and someone named Corrigan) are there to release the imprisoned person but then……. they discover……. that…….. He…… has ……..
Oh well, gone somewhere, anyway, leaving behind rat corpses, scattered bones and a mummified corpse which drops from the ceiling, giving one of the family a fatal heart attack. One by one, the weird people ~ including two interlopers named Andrew and Diana who bicker constantly, like two similarly named members of British Royalty ~ are offed in ingenious ways, accompanied by eerie lighting, good music and wishy-washy acting. Throughout the film, someone is heard to be laughing off screen: possibly the producers who ensured that all the checks would bounce.
The owner of the manor Elijah dies of fright, his daughter Victoria is strangled with piano wire because of bad singing and equally terrible piano playing, Diana washes her face in a bowl of acid and proves to be a real smoking hot lady, Andrew chokes on a glass of punch and is punched out for more than a ten count, Sebastian hangs himself, Lionel is chopped to death (a fate he did not axe for) and Corrigan, actually the once imprisoned black sheep, falls down the stairs singing Baa Baa Black Sheep
and Mary Had A Little Tiny Double Bladed Axe
all the way down.
And then, like Cannon Films’ promises of wealth to hapless South African film investors, crews and actors in the 1980s, it is all revealed as a hoax started by the writer’s agent as all present are actors, hired to provide atmosphere for the writer and the agent’s sexy secretary, designed to provide heat to the writer’s nether regions.
Elijah appears in a ridiculous bathrobe, Sebastian turns up and slaps himself for being in such a film, Andrew winks at the writer, Lionel throws him a salute, Diana pulls the horrible burn makeup off her face, Victoria walks by and smiles at the writer, Corrigan seems OK with the axe in his chest and Mary smiles at him and joins the others.
But. Who. Is. Laughing. Like. That? The agent, of course, who seems to find everything terribly amusing which a sharp kick in the nuts will instantly cure. Once all has been revealed and the writer has sort of taken a chill pill after being suckered, he finishes his manuscript only for us to find that we have also been pranked: the writer actually created it all and that nothing ever happened except in his head. In the words of a certain Desi Arnaz Senior, he gotta lotta ‘splainin’ to do.
Sir Christopher Lee wrote in his autobiography Lord of Misrule
that “The direction [of HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS] was a blank……we agreed with the critics who shredded the film.”
Despite what Sir Christopher had to say about this film, I have good memories of it and was prepared to pay almost 250 SA Rand for it (approximately $25), just so long as what I received wasn’t the horrible MGM MOD copy which used a Betamax for its’ execrable quality.
Instead, what I received was a DVD with a wonderful transfer (most likely from the original film masters) as well as a feature length making of documentary by Derek Pykett: showing us the real House of The Long Shadows
, really Rotherfield Park with the director, cinematographer and Julie Peasgood along for the visit) and an audio commentary. The owner of the manor, not Lord Elijah Grisbane but Sir John Scott, also tags along and our visit there shows how little the place has changed since filming took place in 1982.
This is a rare film for me as I only ever saw it once at boarding school in 1985 but it made an indelible impression on me with its’ eerie, haunting cinematography and wonderful music, courtesy Norman Langley and Richard Harvey respectively. The other attractions for me and most of us on these boards are the presence of Sir Christopher, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and John Carradine: four masters of horror never seen before in the one film and never seen since.
Desi Arnaz Jr, Sheila Keith, Richard Todd, the [still] very rowr-worthy Julie Peasgood, Louise English and Richard Hunter round out the cast. In fact the only sour note in this film is sounded by the late great Norman Rossington whose shabby appearance as the station master shows the depths he fell to after The Beatles kicked him out as their manager. House of the Long Shadows
was an undeserved failure in its’ woeful, critically lambasted first release as Cannon Films didn’t quite know how to market it, any less than they remembered to pay their actors and crew in South Africa during the so-called Hollyveld film boom: a policy that was continued by many of the same suspects under the moniker of NuWorld Services in the 1990s. The cinematography by Norman Langley and the music by Richard Harvey are stand outs here both of which make the film seem creepier than it actually is and despite Sir Christopher’s views on the direction by Peter Walker, the film is effective both as a horror and as a comedy.
It is great to see this film finally getting its’ due with a proper release on DVD (the horrible MGM MOD is shocking) but it is also sad that this first film with the then four masters of horror was also the last time they would be on screen together and that this was Peter Walker and Michael Armstrong’s last film as a director and screenwriter respectively. I saw this film for the first time in 1985 while desperately trying (and failing in the attempt) to fail my high school diploma – I also tried valiantly to fail my college degree a few years later and failed at failing it – and it took me away from these efforts for a while.
Nice to go back to those relatively untroubled days.