** Out of 5
Tagline- Room for Every Nightmare. A Nightmare in Every Room
Release Date- June 17th, 1983
Running Time- 102-Minutes
Screenplay- Michael Armstrong
Director- Pete Walker
Starring- Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Desi Arnaz, John Carradine, Sheila Keith
Released in 1983 House of Long Shadows is a semi-forgotten film, but has retained some notoriety due to the cast, which includes iconic horror actors Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine. The cast also includes the wonderful Sheila Keith who sadly seems sort of forgotten. Lastly, House of Long Shadows was also the last film directed by Pete Walker best known for his genre classics House of Whipcord and Frightmare, which are my two favorite Pete Walker films. With such a great cast, perhaps the best casting for any horror picture and a great filmmaker in Pete Walker, House of Long Shadows should have been epic and the film was also produced by Yoram Globus & Menahem Golan, but instead the end result was simply an average film that was a nice attempt, but ultimately extremely lackluster.
House of Long Shadows is in many ways a throwback to the Universal horror films of the 30s and is often compared to the James Whale classic the Old Dark House, which was later remade by William Castle in the 60s and Castle was a filmmaker Vincent Price had plenty of success with. Unlike many of Pete Walker’s films of the 70s, which could be graphic at times and of course 80s horror were often quite gory, House of Long Shadows relies more on atmosphere just like the horror films of the 30s. As much as I love 80s horror I also adore horror films from the 30s as it was a much simpler time. I have zero problems with nudity and gore, but when it becomes a cheap gimmick to cover up subpar filmmaking I do have as issue so I appreciate what Pete Walker was attempting it just again was lackluster. Getting a copy of House of Long Shadows is quite difficult and pricy. I saw the film on Amazon Instant Video and it had to be from a VHS since at times its far too dark to make anything out and maybe in someways it also hindered my enjoyment. As I read reviews I see a lot of perfect scores or nearly perfect and while I understand we’re all gonna have a different opinion, but would you really rate this as highly as something as Dawn of the Dead? When a film is long OOP or a seldom seen film it seems to me as if reviews are often overly kind and I can’t help except think people rate films like this higher since they’re tough to come by and aren’t well known.
Kenneth Magee (Arnaz) a successful author makes a 20-grand bet with his publisher he can write a classic novel in only 24-hours. He heads off to a remote manor to get started, but upon arriving he finds the manor inhabited by a strange family harboring a dark secret.
House of Long Shadows is based off a novel from 1913 titled Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers and is also based off a play by George M. Cohan of the same name as the novel. Since I never read the novel or saw the play I have no idea how true to the script sticks to the original material. The Old Dark House was also based off a novel from 1928 titled Benighted by J.B. Priestly. So I really couldn’t tell you if any of the novels are a like or if House of Long Shadows has more in common with one than the other. I love the idea behind the film, but the script by Michael Armstrong just isn’t as interesting as the plot. Characters are fairly decent, but also not interesting enough to carry the film despite having a truly terrific group of actors. I think many of the problems of the film boil down to the script. While not poorly written per se its just again never as interesting as the plot.
Director Pete Walker gained a cult following with his films in the 70s such as Schizo, House of Whipcord, Frightmare, the Confessional and the Comeback. House of Long Shadows was quite a departure from those films for two reasons. The first being all those films have a decent amount of violence however they aren’t body count films and Pete Walker really knows how to stage a great death scene and along with Dario Argento are my two favorites in that regard. Walker is also no stranger to controversy as such films as House of Whipcord, the Confessional and Home Before Midnight caused a bit of a stir and if released in modern times they would still be controversial in particular the last two films mentioned. House of Long Shadows however features very little violence and there’s no controversy either. Most of the deaths aren’t seen and the most graphic is a woman who has her face burnt, but we don’t actually see it happen we just see her face afterwards, but its nothing graphic and the PG rating is warranted unlike films such as Jaws and Grizzly, which are quite violent for PG rated films (of course those two as well as this came before PG-13 it wasn’t until 1984 with Red Dawn though Red Dawn was the 2nd film rated PG-13, but first to be released). As much as I like Pete Walker his films can at times have some pacing issues and I found the pace to House of Long Shadows quite slow and while there is some decent suspense at times this would easily rate at my least favorite film he’s made with this being the 6th film I’ve seen by him.
The cast as I mentioned was terrific and Price, Cushing, Lee and Carradine like always are wonderful too bad they didn’t have better material. Sheila Keith at least to me is just as iconic in the horror genre as the other actors in the film and she deserves far more attention than she gets. Her performances in Pete Walker’s other films such as House of Whipcord, Frightmare and the Comeback are amazing. Desi Arnaz, Jr is of course the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and he’s gotten some negative reviews here, but I think they’re off base as he was actually quite good and it really isn’t fair to compare him to the other actors as they’re icons for a reason.
Overall I really wanted to like House of Long Shadows as a fan of the cast and director, but after a decent start I found the middle sections a little too slow before getting better in the final act, but by this time the film lost me. Perhaps on another viewing I’ll warm up to it, but I just wasn’t feeling it. As I mentioned this was the final film made by Pete Walker.