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THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES (1974)
[aka House Of The Seven Corpses]

"The old evil eye. I’m using it in the film."
"That’s supposed to be bad luck."
"Oh, come on. You don’t believe that stuff."

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Director: Paul Harrison

Starring: John Ireland, Faith Domergue, John Carradine, Charles Macauley, Jerry Strickler, Carol Wells

Screenplay: Paul Harrison, Thomas J. Kelly

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Synopsis: A film crew is making a low-budget horror film about the mysterious Beal family, all of whom met violent deaths. Filming in the Beal house is interrupted when the caretaker, Price (John Carradine), breaks into a scene protesting that the way it is being filmed isn’t the way it happened. The director, Eric Hartman (John Ireland), threatens Price and tells him not to interfere again. Price shows the cast and crew around the house, telling them who died where and how. Actresses Gayle (Faith Domergue) and Anne (Carol Wells) are disturbed by the stories, but David (Jerry Strickler), who initiated the project, argues that the house is ideal, and becomes even more excited when he discovers some occult books that belonged to one of the Beals. Filming is disrupted again when Gayle discovers that her cat has been killed and mutilated; horrified, she threatens to quit. Eric accuses Price of the act. Gayle is talked into staying. During the shooting of the final scenes, David gives Gayle one of the occult books to read from, in order to add authenticity to the scene. She does so, and the filming is completed successfully. But in the graveyard, something is beginning to stir....

Comments: What horror there is in this horror film comes during the opening credits, which play over the violent deaths of the last of the Beals, and during the final fifteen minutes, when those deaths are reinacted upon the members of the film-crew.

The real interest in The House Of Seven Corpses, however, lies between those two sequences, in a subject that I for one always find fascinating, the actual process of film-making. Many horror films have centred around the making of a horror film, and there’s nothing new story-wise here. That the events in the house have been orchestrated is fairly obvious, and so is the identity of the person doing the orchestration, but that’s not really important. The air of reality in the film production scenes make them fascinating. The multiple tasks of the crew, the actors helping out around the set (interestingly echoed in the production team: several of the crew have bit parts as the Beals) and the painfully honest performances of Faith Domergue and Charles Macauley, two past-their-prime actors playing two past-their-prime actors, combine to give real credibility to the scenes. (There is more than just credibility in the scene when Gayle, threatening to quit, is reminded how hard it is for actresses her age to get work; this was Faith Domergue’s last film.)

John Ireland is convincing as Eric, the director, whose rudeness, bad temper and arrogance manage to convey both his frustration at where his career has ended up and his genuine love of his job. Realising that there is a killer on the loose, Eric’s first thoughts are not for his actors, but for his crew. However, those feelings fall into second place when he discovers that his film has been wrecked, at which point he abandons his employees’ bodies to howl, "My film! My film!" until he is put out of his misery by having a camera dropped on his head.

There is a good, though minor, role for John Carradine as the red-herring caretaker, Price ("Vincent?" wisecracks Gayle), who ends up being the first victim, and a nice performance by Ron Foreman as the multi-talented crew-member (makeup man, lighting technician, clapper boy) who makes no bones about his lack of respect for the cast. (You can only speculate about how close to the truth this was: Ron Foreman was the film’s real makeup artist.) The first part of the film is padded out by a few too many wandering around in the dark scenes, but once the action starts things move so swiftly that it’s almost impossible to follow what’s going on (I suspect that the print I saw had been trimmed for television, which would account for the disjointedness). The final scene is both bizarre and unexpected. The house in which the film was shot was the Governor’s mansion in Utah, and contributes genuine atmosphere to the proceedings.

Check out all the details of this movie on the IMDB