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House of the Long Shadows

House of the Long Shadows is sort of an all star game of classic horror. The movie has Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, John Carradine, and Peter Cushing all playing decent sized roles. Desi Arnaz Jr. is a well known face, even if it's not for horror. He did do an episode of Night Gallery, and besides this isn't really a straight horror movie. It is listed as a horror comedy, although it's not funny in the way Young Frankenstein is funny. When it tries to lean into the comedy, which it thankfully doesn't do that often, it feels strained.  The main thing that is fun about this movie is its quirkiness and seeing the four titans of classic horror on screen together for the only time. Incidentally, there was supposed to be another legendary name in this movie, but Elsa Lanchester was too ill to make it and was replaced by Sheila Keith.


Desi Arnaz plays Ken, a writer whose soul just isn't in his work anymore. He makes a bet with his publisher Sam that he can write a novel like Wuthering Heights in 24 hours. If he succeeds he gets $20,000.00.  Sam arranges for Ken to use an old manor house that has been abandoned for decades. Ken has to stop for directions on his way out, and meets a couple traveling on holiday and a mysterious hooded old woman who breaks a window in the ladies room and leaves that way. Ken gets directions to the house, but on arrival he finds he is not alone. He meets the caretakers, who turn out to actually be the Grisbanes (father Carradine and daughter Keith), the original owners of the house. The hooded old woman also shows up, and turns out to be the young attractive secretary to his publisher, Mary. Mary was sent to distract him with stories of spy rings, but soon gets caught up in the real mystery of the Grisbanes.

The two Grisbane brothers also arrive, played by price and Cushing, and the current owner of the manor Lee. They are also joined by the couple from the train station where Ken stopped for directions. The Grisbanes invite everyone to have dinner with them for their "family reunion".  It comes out that the family has reconvened here to honor an obligation. Their brother Roderick was imprisoned in a room of the house for killing a girl that he had gotten pregnant. His sentence served, the family has come to let him out. But when they go to Roderick's room, he is not there. Lord Grisbane has a heart attack and soon dies.  They learn that they can't leave because the tires on their cars have been slashed. The couple from the station are both murdered, her from washing her face in acid and him from dinking poisoned wine.  Keith and Cushing are both killed by Roderick, and now there is only Ken, Lionel Grisbane (Price's character), Mary and Corrigan (Lee's character).

The last several minutes of this movie are filled with twists and fake endings. We discover that Corrigan is really Roderick, who was innocent of the crime for which he was imprisoned.  Lionel is the one who not only got the girl pregnant, but murdered her. Roderick kills Lionel then goes after Mary and Ken. Ken manages to knock Roderick down the stairs, resulting in him getting stabbed by his own axe. At this point everyone who we thought was dead start to walk into the room, and Roderick gets up and smiles. Sam walks in and we learn that he set this whole thing up as a prank on Ken. Everyone there was an actor hired by Sam to help him win his bet. But this movie isn't done yet! Because we the go to Ken typing in the bedroom, and learn that the entire thing was just his novel. He won the bet, but in the end tears up the check because the exercise has made him realize that his writing is about more than money.  In a bit of a Disney twist, he meets the real world version of Mary and sees that Vincent Price is a waiter at the restaurant. While it's not a great horror movie, it is fun. And while all the iconic actors in it have worked together in different groupings, this is the only time that all four of them appear in the same movie, so it's worth watching just for that.


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