HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS
Golan and Globus have hired director Pete Walker, one of the leading lights of Englands Sadean cinema of the 1970s. There Walker made efforts like Die Screaming, Marianne (1971), The Flesh and Blood Show (1972), Frightmare (1974), House of Mortal Sin/The Confessional (1976), Schizo (1976), The Comeback (1978) and most famously House of Whipcord (1974). (Walker has stated that he had always financed his films independently and that this was the only film where he ever acted as a director for hire. It is also somewhat of an irony that Pete Walker ends up directing a film that demarks the end of the Anglo-horror cycle given that he was always regarded and disdained as a black sheep by those who praised the Hammer film). House of the Long Shadows was also scripted by Michael Armstrong who directed one similar Old Dark House thriller with The Haunted House of Horror (1969), the notorious witch persecution Mark of the Devil (1970) and the anthology Screamtime (1985), as well as scripted various British sex films.
The story itself is an oddly anachronistic throwback to the creaky old fake haunted house thrillers of 1920s and 30s. The same story Seven Keys to Baldpate (1913) from Charlie Chan creator Earl Derr Biggers had been turned into a popular play and was filmed five times previously in 1917, 1925, 1929, 1935 and 1947, all under the storys original title Seven Keys to Baldpate. The crucial difference between the play and House of the Long Shadows is that the play and other films are old dark house thrillers and involve plot elements like stolen jewels, gangsters, corrupt politicians, femme fatales, sliding panels and disappearing dead bodies but they are not horror tales. The film here has rewritten the material, keeping fairly much only the writer hero and Baldpate Inn/Manor (here relocated to England from the US), and given everything a much stronger horror emphasis.
In House of the Long Shadows, the story of Seven Keys to Baldpate receives a cursory 1980s updating but is so reliant on Gothic atmosphere and cliche that one hardly notices. For a film that was mounted to unite its four genre names, House of the Long Shadows regrettably emerges as flat and mediocre. Hero and heroine Desi Arnaz and Julie Peasgood never come to life. Pete Walker goes through all the old dark house cliches and occasionally delivers some effective stylistic pastiches like the moment when the lights come back on and Julie Peasgood finds that she is holding a dead mans hand, or the axe decapitation of Vincent Price shown in shadow silhouette.
What finally does House of the Long Shadows in is its escalating series of multiple twist endings that reduce it to absurdity. It seems ridiculous to suggest that something hinging on such heavy coincidence and the likes of people being hacked up by axes could be conducted as an elaborate charade. If one plots back, you realise that both the killer and his alter ego had to both be in separate rooms at the same time. As to the final twist ending that this cheap penny dreadful plot could sit up with the 19th Century literary greats please, dont make me laugh.