An American writer goes to a remote Welsh manor on a twenty thousand dollar bet: can he write a classic novel like "Wuthering Heights" in twenty-four hours? Upon his arrival, however, the ...
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An American writer goes to a remote Welsh manor on a twenty thousand dollar bet: can he write a classic novel like "Wuthering Heights" in twenty-four hours? Upon his arrival, however, the writer discovers that the manor, thought empty, actually has several, rather odd, inhabitants.Written by
Jack Witzig <firstname.lastname@example.org>
HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (Pete Walker, 1983) **1/2
This proved to be the last film of British horror director Walker (in the accompanying DVD interview for his THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW , which followed this in short order, he states that this was his only 'assignment' all his other work he personally financed) as well as the final teaming of that prolific and (for fans, hugely rewarding) iconic duo of Peter Cushing (complete with endearing speech impediment) and Christopher Lee (a complex characterization, albeit characteristically boorish).
Having mentioned the two Hammer stars, some reviewers mistakenly believed the film intended to recapture that studio's Gothic tradition but it actually hearkens back to the comedy-thrillers of the Silent and early Talkie era. In fact, it was the sixth filmization scripted by Michael Armstrong, whose own directorial career was curtailed following the notoriety of his MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) of "Seven Keys To Baldpate", a novel by Earl Derr Biggers (creator of Charlie Chan) that was adapted for the stage by George M. Cohan (yes, the songwriter played by James Cagney in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY !).
Besides, its plot about a dysfunctional Welsh family that includes a locked-up maniac and whose mansion is 'intruded' upon by innocent strangers is a virtual retread of James Whale's sublime THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932; one of my absolute favorites) though with little of that film's style or wit. Another direct link to it is the fact that there is a Roderick involved and let's not forget that Vincent Price (who co-stars here) had played a character by that name in Roger Corman's seminal Poe adaptation HOUSE OF USHER (1960)! The final revelation (which wasn't at all surprising nor, come to think of it, was the identity of the mysterious killer), then, is straight out of SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO Satan (1929)
The cast also highlights two other lesser horror stars John Carradine (who's supposed to be the patriarch of the family when the difference in age from, at least, Price and Cushing is minimal!) and Walker regular Sheila Keith (replacing the ailing Elsa Lanchester). The young cast isn't in any way comparable obviously however, both Desi Arnaz Jr. (from childhood sci-fi TV show AUTOMAN !) and Julie Peasgood prove reasonably engaging nonetheless. By the way, Richard Todd appears as novelist Arnaz's genial publisher who makes a bet with his client that he won't stay the full-length of 24 hours in an ostensibly haunted house (which is the exact same premise of the Abel Gance/Max Linder short AU SECOURS!  I've just watched and, I see, Michael Elliott did too!).
At the end of the day, the film is clearly old fashioned (despite the occasional gore) but undeniably fun which makes the Leonard Maltin guide's *1/2 rating a genuine head-scratcher!
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