• House Of Seven Corpses, The

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: August 13, 2013.
    Director: Paul Harrison
    Cast: John Ireland, John Carradine, Faith Domergue, Carole Wells
    Year: 1974
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    The only feature film directed by Paul Harrison, a man who spent a lot more work in the TV industry than the film industry, 1974’s The House Of Seven Corpses follows a film director named Eric Hartman (John Ireland) who has secured an old house as the prime location for a low budget horror film he’s trying to finish. He and his cast and crew arrive and set up shop for a few days to get the shoot finished, much to the dismay of the cranky old caretaker, a creepy guy named Edgar Price (John Carradine). During the filming of a key scene Price tells them ‘that’s not how it happened’ and then proceeds to allude to the mysterious past of the residence. Eventually we learn that the house has been the site of some murders in the past, though what, if anything, Price had to do with it remains to be seen.

    Nevertheless, as Eric strives for authenticity he has his cast reenact some occult rituals on the premises. One of his leading ladies, Gayle Dorian (Faith Domergue), gets upset and wants to leave by Hartman insists and they follow through. What they don’t realize is that those rituals they thought were just harmless reenactments for the sake of a movie have actually got some serious real world consequences…

    This film doesn’t exactly move at light speed, with the first hour or so of the film serving as a slow burn, building towards a fairly nutty conclusion by offering us small samples of the horror to come – a dead cat, a caretaker entering an underground room by way of a grave stone marker, ominous readings from The Tibetan Book Of The Dead (puzzlingly enough, when passages from this book are read aloud in the movie, they’re clearly in Latin) and a house full of spooky atmosphere. It’s slow going, but Carradine and Ireland are fun to watch in their respective scenery chewing roles and they keep the movie entertaining. Once we approach the finale, however, the pace picks up considerably and the fairly plodding way in which the earlier events unfolded actually proves to set us up for some fun surprises.

    The cast all do fine, with Ireland and Carradine stealing the show but with Domergue (in her final film) creating a reasonably sympathetic character, particularly in the scene where she starts to break down and wants to leave. Carole Wells as the other female lead, a younger actress named Anne, is pretty and charming and she too starts to get spooked by the events that take place in the house. She’s fine in the role, her extensive experience working in television giving her the right sort of ‘soap opera’ star vibe to work in the context of the story being told. Charles Macauley is also a kick as a drunken Oliver Reed type actor, the kind who is always half in the bag but somehow able to get the job done.

    The movie isn’t particularly gory nor is it likely going to prove to be too terrifying to many viewers but it’s very nicely shot and makes great use of the aging Utah mansion that serves as its primary location. The house was obviously in excellent shape and you can’t fault Hartman for wanting to base a horror picture there – it gives off the same sort of ambience as various seventies occult themed horror pictures, the kind that our fictional director would likely be trying to knock off with his film. The film also makes good use of color, with the reds in the movie contrasting nicely with some of the darker and more shadowy interiors in interesting ways. It’s all kind of goofy and disjointed but somehow it works, the end result being a pretty entertaining mix of haunted house and slasher film conventions wrapped up with some amusing moments of black comedy.


    The House Of Seven Corpses arrives on Blu-ray from Severin Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. When you evaluate the video quality of this one, it’s important to keep some context in mind. To be blunt, previous home video releases of this title have looked terrible. They’ve been overly dark and in very poor condition. Severin’s transfer is taken from a 35mm source and it’s far from pristine, but if you compare it to past DVD releases, it’s a fairly massive improvement. Yes, there’s still a fair bit of print damage, emulsion spots and assorted bits of noticeable debris but you can see what’s going on in the darker scenes now and the colors actually look very good here. Heavy grain is present through but it’s only really distracting in a couple of the darker spots. Detail and texture are pretty good here, you’ll notice the fibers in the different costumes that the characters were and notice the dirt on the headstones in the cemetery. Skin tones are fine, never waxy, and there are no obvious issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. So in short, will this win transfer of the year? Probably not, but it’s a very obvious upgrade over what has come before.

    The same pros and cons more or less apply to the audio here as well. The only choice is an English language DTS-HD Mono mix, there are no alternate audio tracks, subtitles or closed captioning options available. While most of the movie sounds okay, there are spots where the levels jump from one scene to the next. Thankfully this doesn’t happen often and for the most part the levels are balanced properly, though you don’t have to strain too hard to notice some mild hiss here and there. Again, however, if you compare it to what came before it, once again we get a pretty solid improvement.

    Extras kick off with a commentary track featuring associate producer Gary Kent that’s moderated by Lars Nilsen of the Alamo Drafthouse. This is an interesting discussion of the ups and downs of the movie’s production not the least of which came from shooting on location in Utah with Ireland and Carradine around. Kent’s got a great memory and a lot of interesting stories to share involving the involvement of some Utah locals in providing some last minute additions to the movie’s roster of props and how they wound up locking down the location that winds up giving the film as much atmosphere as it has. Nilsen keeps Kent talking and on topic and this track turns out to be a really enjoyable listen – if you’ve seen the movie before, this is absolutely worth listening to and a great way to rewatch it.

    Additionally we get a vintage television interview with Carradine from 1983 in which he talks about his career in cinema and how he came to play Dracula for Universal which lead to him doing horror films. He does get a little testy early on in the interview noting that only twenty some odd of the few hundred films in his filmography were horror pictures but then goes on to defend them by talking up the quality of the actors he worked with in genre pictures over the years. He’s a little on the cranky side but fans ought to appreciate this as it’s basically just a few minute shy of a half an hour’s worth of John Carradine being John Carradine.

    Aside from that we get the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD copy of the movie as well.

    The Final Word:

    The House Of Seven Corpses may take a while to get going but once it does, it’s a pretty fun horror picture that makes great use of an interesting cast and offers up quite a bit of appreciably kooky atmosphere. Severin’s Blu-ray presentation is a little rough around the edges but offers serious improvement over what came before it and some great extra features as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Clive Smith's Avatar
      Clive Smith -
      That zomb's quite creepy. A purchase, I think.
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      I'm looking forward to digging into this one tonight. Have always had a lot of affection for this offbeat little film.