An architect and his wife go to a ramshackle castle to do a survey. They end up spending the night and they are soon menaced by the deformed circus performer squatters who are living in the basement.
House of the Damned is roughly in the same vein as House on Haunted Hill (it even features a similar scene where a crazy looking old biddy jumps out of a closet), but it’s nowhere near as good. Even though the film was produced as a second feature, it was still filmed in eye-popping Cinemascope, so at least it LOOKS great. Despite the scant running time (just over an hour), the film is rife with jokey stalling tactics (like receiving the “13 Keys” from the Groucho lookalike realtor) and is seriously lacking in the chills department. Director Maury (Mini-Skirt Mob) Dexter provides an atmospheric moment or two (like the legless guy shuffling along a darkened corridor at ), but Harry Spalding’s script is hopelessly thin.
The biggest letdown has to be the ending. I mean the story builds up the haunted house angle so much and then it “surprises” the audience by giving us the road company from Freaks hanging out in the basement in lieu of any real ghosts or monsters. Besides the legless guy, there’s also a living torso, a fat lady and a giant played by Richard Kiel. While it’s always fun to see a pre-Jaws Kiel in a supporting role in a cheesy horror movie, he isn’t really given a whole lot to do in this pseudo-shocker besides stand around and be tall.
Richard Crane (TV’s Rocky Jones) gets the best line of the movie when he says: “Lawyers don’t carry guns, their clients do!”
Spalding also wrote the much better The Day Mars Invaded Earth for Dexter the same year.