The Legend of Doom House (1971)

Article #783 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-7-2003
Posting Date: 10-4-2003
Directed by Harry Kumel
Featuring Orson Welles, Susan Hampshire, Michel Bouquet

A dying man wills his fortune to several heirs, provided they all agree never to leave the house of Malpertuis; the survivors will be allowed to keep the money.

Now that you’ve read the above plot description (which makes it sound for all the world like a latter-day variation of the Old Dark House type of movie), throw it out of your mind; this movie is something else entirely, and the above description is merely a representation of the most familiar plot element in the story. Despite some very definite horror elements (some grotesque murders, and a strong atmosphere of dread and decay), this is really an art movie with a fantasy premise masquerading as a horror movie, one that will leave you scratching your head for a good deal of the running time. Still, it is fun to see Orson Welles as the bed-ridden uncle, and the movie has a unique visual sense about it. Still, it is an art movie, and if you don’t like art movies, you might want to pass this one by; if you do, you might want to take a peek at this disorienting, slightly disturbing and sometimes infuriating movie. You may want to avoid reading too much about it beforehand; most of the descriptions I’ve seen give away one of the final revelations of the movie, and it’s more fascinating if you aren’t prepared for it; then again, whether you like the revelation may be a different matter entirely.

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