House of the Long Shadows (1983)
Directed by: Pete Walker
Written by: Earl Derr Biggers, George M. Cohan, Michael Armstrong
Starring: Christopher Lee, Desi Arnaz Jr., John Carradine, Julie Peasgood, Peter Cushing, Richard Todd, Sheila Keith, Vincent Price
HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983)
Directed by Pete Walker
Kenneth Magee, an American author, visits the UK to promote his new book. When his publisher speaks of how modern authors lack the narrative depth, romance and passion of authors of the past, Magee bets $20,000 that he can write a book as good as Wuthering Heights in 24 hours. His publisher Sam Allyson agrees to the bet and locates an abandoned, atmospheric remote Welsh manor for Magee to write the novel in that should give him plenty of inspiration. However, upon his arrival at the manor, Magee discovers it’s not as empty as he was led to believe…
Written by Michael Amstrong, based on the novel Seven Keys To Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers and the play by George M. Cohan, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS is a mystery comedy horror from Cannon Films that brings four giants of the horror world together: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine. For fans of cinema, this film is worth watching purely for that! All four of the greats star as uninvited guests to the Welsh manor where Desi Arnaz Jr’s Kenneth Magee is attempting to write his book but unfortunately, something tells him he’s going to be too busy pre-occupied with all these arrivals.
The mystery of the uninvited guests is quickly unravelled when Vincent Price announces he is Lionel Grisbane and the house they are in actually belongs to his family and that his return coincides with some unfinished family business. This ‘business’ puts everyone at risk when each of the guests are hunted down one by one and dispatched in a variety of gruesome manners. Magee finds not only has he to finish the book to win the bet but he must fight to survive the night and the killer at large!
Being an ensemble piece, most of the characters are brought down a peg or two slightly so as not to outstage the other which is strange as we’re used to seeing these actors rather larger than life in their own respective movies. However, each character has their own unique personality and is given the chance to be seen and heard so that their personality shines through and their character is accepted by the viewer. Equal time is given to most of the cast here with Magee’s character given that little bit more due to his central role in the plot.
HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS is quite an entertaining watch particularly due to its mystery elements and the subsequent murders that indeed occur in the shadows. No-one is safe and it seems that no matter how hard they try, the killer is one step ahead of them all the time. The murders are quite fun and not really bloodythirsty at all but they don’t quite match the height of, say, Theatre of Blood. The older classic horror cast are given rather subtle old school deaths along with the type of dialogue you’d expect from their respective back catalogue of work. Fans of the genre will relish these aspects which contrast the dialogue and deaths of the younger cast in the movie which are more visually violent, a sign of the modern times. The difference between the two pretty much reflects how horror film has changed over the years and how the taste of the audience has become that much more intense.
Some intriguing twists in HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS will either please or infuriate the viewer and I can safely say I am in the former camp. HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS is by no means a fantastic film but it is an atmospheric and enjoyable one, especially for bringing together such a cast for one time only in a stereotypical gothic manor on a dark and stormy night. Classic horror fans will no doubt enjoy this entry even if it isn’t as strong as its contemporaries.