Mad House (1974) – Amicus Films – movie review
Directed by Jim Clark
(Amicus in association with AIP)
Vincent Price plays Paul Toombes, a veteran actor celebrating his career in the horror film genre and his most popular character, Dr. Death. At the party, they run a reel of horror films as an homage, and it plays like a tribute to Vincent Price himself, showing scenes from The Haunted Palace, Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror and The House of Usher. Toombes graciously accepts the accolades with his new (very young) wife to be for both him and the co-creator of the Dr. Death character, Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing). But before the night is over his fiancé is murdered. Toombes falls apart and enters an asylum even though the police remain suspicious of him.
Upon being released from rehabilitation, Toombes is called upon to resurrect his Dr. Death character in a TV series. He is hesitant but is convinced by his friend Herbert to play the part. When they begin filming, mysterious murders of the crew are carried out by a man in a black cloak with a skull face. Toombes is unsure of his innocence as his mental instabilities revive and lead him into trippy visual scenes and strange encounters with his neighbor, the spider lady.
Mad House is an amusing who-dun-it tale for its time. It’s not terribly suspenseful or scary, but it’s a well-told story of murder, mayhem and mystery. I love the make-up on the Dr. Death character which I had first seen on the cover of Famous Monsters magazine, several years before I saw the film. In the music over the last scene and closing credits, its actually Vincent Price singing the song.
Price and Cushing give the film a certain charm to the movie and that’s enough to make it worth watching for horror fans of the older films genre. It is the last film for Vincent Price that would be released through AIP (American International Pictures) making the homage to his character’s (and his own) career even more poignant. It’s a fitting epitaph to an era of gothic horror films as new, higher budgeted, more aggressive and special effects heavy films like, The Exorcist, Halloween, Jaws, and Alien would take over the horror market.
Check out more Amicus film reviews at my master page: Amicus Overview