(director/writer: Paul Harrison; screenwriter: Thomas J. Kelly; cinematographer: Don Jones; editor: Peter Parasheles; music: Bob Emenegger; cast: John Ireland (Eric Hartman), Faith Domergue (Gayle Dorian), John Carradine (Edgar Price), Carole Wells (Anne), Charles Macaulay (Christopher Millan), Jerry Strickler (David Beal), Marty Hornstein (Danny, cameraman), Ron Foreman (Ron, makeup man), Larry Record (Tommy, gaffer), Charles Bail (Jonathon Anthony Beal/Theodore Beal), Lucy Doheny (Suzanne Beal), Jo Anne Mower (Allison Beal), Ron Garcia (Charles Beal), Jeff Alexander (Russell Beal), Wells Bond (The Ghoul); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Paul Lewis/Paul Harrison; Motion Picture Holdings; 1973)
“A decent low-budget nonsensical atmospheric horror pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The only feature directorial effort for Paul Harrison, a TV writer on such series as H.R. Pufnstuf and Doctor Dolittle, is a decent low-budget nonsensical atmospheric horror pic. It was atmospherically shot in Salt Lake City, Utah. Harrison co-writes with Thomas J. Kelly a film-within-a film horror story, that slowly builds tension in a haunted house and in the climax the real life scene turns into a poorly executed gory slasher pic.

Harried and demanding veteran horror film director Eric Hartman (John Ireland) films his horror pic on location in the magnificent stately 19th century Beal Mansion, the notorious mansion cursed with seven inexplicable gruesome deaths among the Beal ancestors. The sinister estate caretaker, Edgar Price (John Carradine), warns the cocky director, who moves into the house with the cast during filming, the spirits in the house must not be aroused without putting everyone in danger. The thanks Price gets for his warning is to be kicked off the set.

Things move along in a creepy brusque manner of filming, with the bossy Hartman pushing the actors, especially the aging vain star and his former girlfriend discovery Gayle (Faith Domergue), the playful drunk hammy Shakespearean thesp Christopher (Charles Macaulay) and the brow-beaten film crew (Marty Hornstein, Ron Foreman & Larry Record) to move along at a fast pace so he can bring his financially strapped low-budget pic in on schedule. When the supporting actor and crew member David (Jerry Strickler), living with the newcomer supporting actress Anne (Carole Wells), who scouted the mansion, suggests to make things more authentic they use the chants from one of the books in the house library, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, in the scenes needed to exhort the dead to arise from their graves, mysterious things start happening such as Gayle’s pet cat is found cut into two pieces and a homicidal ghoul arises from the backyard family cemetery graveyard before the picture wraps. The ghoul aims to re-stage the seven deaths of the Beal family member spirits trapped in the house by subbing the Beals with the film crew.

It’s the kind of cheesy flick that despite its shortcomings is still entertaining and was received well on the drive-in circuit as a reliable entry and was popular on late night cable back in the day. The film chooses to make a mockery of the Tibetan Book of the Dead by thinking it’s written in Latin and misstates its uses by distorting in a vulgar way its sacred religious aims of helping dead souls find peace in the other-world.