Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Family (and) History

Film: House of the Long Shadows
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

So, I’m back. Last year for Christmas, my siblings and I decided to get our mom a trip that she’s always wanted. Three of us, including me, went with her to the coast of Maine, where it was very cold and a bit more expensive than I was prepared for. But, it was a nice trip and she enjoyed herself, which is really what was most important. That has meant that I haven’t been around—haven’t even looked at this blog—for almost two weeks, and also haven’t watched a movie in almost two weeks. That changed last night when I caught up with House of the Long Shadows.

This is one of those movies that attempts to pack in as many stars of the genre as it can. The classing House of Dracula did this with monsters; we got Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman, etc. House of the Long Shadows does this instead with classic actors of the Gothic horror genre and Hammer films. We’re going to get Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, John Carradine, and Christopher Lee stomping across the screen, and that in and of itself is enough to recommend the film. It’s a little sad, though, that they are doing this in service to Desi Arnaz Jr.

A writer named Kenneth Magee (Arnaz) makes a bet with his publisher (Richard Todd) that he can write an entire novel in 24 hours and that the novel will be of the caliber of Wuthering Heights. To assist in the bet, the publisher offers Magee access to an ancient Welsh castle called Bllyddpaetwr Manor, which is supposed to be abandoned and provide the right atmosphere.

Naturally, the manor is not abandoned. Inside, Magee finds a man called Lord Grisbane (Carradine) and his daughter Victoria (Sheila Keith), who have been maintaining the mansion as caretakers. As the night continues, storming, naturally, more people connected to the Grisbane clan show up. Soon arriving are Lionel (Price) and Sebastian (Cushing). Also thrown into the mix is the publisher’s secretary Mary (Julie Peasgood), a feuding couple caught in the storm (Louise English and Richard Hunter), as well as a potential buyer for the estate (Lee).

Magee soon figures out that Mary’s presence is meant to be a distraction for him, preventing him from winning the bet and making $20,000. The rest of the people, though, appear to be involved in something much more sinister and tragic. We learn that the Grisbanes, whose traditional house this is, had a dark, dark secret. Many years ago, another of their clan, a 14-year-old boy named Roderick, committed a terrible crime. Not willing to have the scandal break, the Grisbanes claimed he was dead, but then imprisoned him in his room for forty years. On this night, of course, Roderick’s sentence has been completed and the family has convened to release him.

You can naturally see where this is going, right? Everyone goes to Roderick’s room and enters it, and naturally Roderick is no longer there. He has escaped, and the shock of this (and the hanged dummy) causes Lord Grisbane to have a fatal heart attack. With Roderick now on the loose, most of the rest of the film is going to be what you expect—a game of cat and mouse as Roderick starts hunting down the rest of the family and everyone else who has gotten in his way or simply has the misfortune to be in the house. True to form with many horror movies of this ilk, House of the Long Shadows spends the first two acts setting up all of the dominoes and then spends the bulk of the third act knocking them down.

The reality of House of the Long Shadows is fun, but mostly because of the cast. When Heat came out, the thing that everyone was excited about was seeing Pacino and DeNiro on screen together at the same time. For the world of horror films, particularly that classic 1950s-1970s era, there’s no more star power than what you are going to have here. Seeing Cushing and Lee together is normal, but having them both interact with Price and John Carradine? This is bliss for the right kind of horror fan.

Ultimately, House of the Long Shadows doesn’t really go anywhere, but that doesn’t really matter. This one is not about the destination or about the journey. It’s about being in the vehicle with the true giants who strode across decades of genre film like no one else before them or since.

Why to watch House of the Long Shadows: There’s a lot of horror star power here.
Why not to watch: Ultimately, it’s a bit silly.


  1. Bluntly, it all ends up feeling a bit like a cheat, but it's a lot of fun getting there.

  2. I just watched the original trailer, narrated by Vincent Price. When he's listing the cast, he says, "Vincent Price. Christopher Lee. Peter Cushing. John Carradine. Joined by Desi Arnaz?" with a distinct question mark. Even the moviemakers couldn't believe Desi was in this movie. LOL.

    1. Yeah, I couldn't either. He's not terrible, but he seems completely out of place.

  3. I'm glad you had a good trip! This does have quite the cast. I'm going to put this on my watch list.

    1. It's entertaining, if for no other reason than the scenery-chewing cast.