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HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (director: Pete Walker; screenwriters: Earl Derr Biggers novel “ Seven Keys to Baldpate/from the play by George M. Cohan/Michael Armstrong; cinematographer: Norman Langley; editor: Robert Dearberg; music: Richard Harvey; cast: Desi Arnaz Jr. (Kenneth Magee), Vincent Price (Lionel Grisbane), Peter Cushing (Sebastian Grisbane), Christopher Lee (Corrigan) John Carradine (Lord Grisbane), Sheila Keith (Victoria Grisbane), Julie Peasgood (Mary Norton), Sam Allyson (Richard Todd); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Menahem & Yoram Golan; Kino Lorber; 1983-UK)
Too bad the update doesn’t come off as good as it should have been, though it comes through as a campy romp and has a few wonderful moments.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

There was a creaky stage version and there have been as many as five other versions on film of the Earl Derr Biggers’s 1913 novel Seven Keys to Baldpate. Biggers created the Charlie Chan novels. This film was first filmed in 1917. The latest version was in 1947, entitled Seven Keys to Baldpate. It’s an old-fashioned dark house mystery story. Director Pete Walker(“The Comeback”/”Home Before Midnight”/”Cover Up”) and writer Michael Armstrong work with the four legends of the horror film genre: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine. The legends team up for the first and last time. Too bad the update doesn’t come off as good as it should have been, though it comes through as a campy romp and has a few wonderful moments. But the direction was weak, and the cast was wooden except for Cushing.

Kenneth Magee (Desi Arnaz Jr., Lucy’s kid) is a young American author who bets his publisher Sam Allyson (Richard Todd) $20,000 that he can write a Gothic novel in 24 hours while holed up in a run-down manor house in Wales. Already residing in Baldpate Manor are the 2 main Grisbane caretakers (John Carradine and Sheila Keith). They are soon joined by the publisher’s secretary (Julie Peasgood). She’s there to supervise the bet. Then more of the eccentric Grisbane family show up for a family reunion (Vincent Price & Peter Cushing. The final visitor is Corrigan (Christopher Lee), who intends to buy the manor and tear it down for his industrialization plans.

The family tell Magee a grizzly tale of how an insane Grisbane son, Roderick, raped and murdered. Thereby the family has kept him locked up in the attic for the last 40 years. The problem is the homicidal maniac has escaped and he starts knocking off those staying overnight at Baldpate.

Magee’s writing is disturbed, as it becomes too noisy to write.

The horror pic is filled with almost every haunted house cliche possible, as the diverting film moves along fine with its tongue in cheek story line. But it kills you with too many absurd twists. It bombed at the box-office.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”