Mystery writer Desi Arnaz Jr makes a bet with publisher Richard Todd that he can churn out a classic horror novel in 48 hours, agreeing to stay at Baldpate (or Bllddpaetwrr) mansion in Wales. His desired peaceful seclusion is constantly interrupted by a series of wacky guests including caretakers John Carradine and Sheila Keith, and members of the family Grisbane, who have owned the estate for generations. Cue the spooky goings on and some PG-grisly murders. Not so much a pleasurable teaming of the stars of chillers both Hammer and Corman horror, but a tired and badly made retread of the “Old Dark House” ghost-comedy nonsense. There are more laughs and mystery in a “Scooby Doo” episode, than this garbage. This 1983 Pete Walker comic chiller for Golan-Globus (Founders of Cannon, the makers of every bad Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson movie you've likely seen. Or not, if you have any sense) is a pitiful waste of some of horror cinema's finest stars.
Chief among the flaws is the casting of the completely obnoxious talent deprived Arnaz as our leading man (all smarm and flippant attitude, and insufferably rude. He's Chevy Chase without the talent or charisma). He, and the bland Julie Peasgood (even worse!) make for a completely uninteresting on-screen couple who unfortunately eat up far too much screen time, despite an underdeveloped romance. These guys couldn't even get a gig on General Hospital, they're that bad.
As cheap a comedic act as Arnaz is, what really signals that this is a Cannon Film is how cheap the whole damn production is, what with crappy-looking lightning FX, and the terrible lighting. I'm all for darkness in a horror film, but this is just bad cinematography by Norman Langley. As for the lightning, I reckon there's more lightning in the opening twenty minutes of this film than in any other horror movie I've seen. Compensating much, Mr. Walker?
The real ‘stars' do well under the circumstances and each is well-suited to their roles. Carradine and (Walker regular) Keith are both good but scarcely seen. Peter Cushing is having a riotous, speech-impeded time in the film's funniest performance, that at least comes closer to the jovial, comedic vibe of Roger Corman's “The Raven” and “Comedy of Terrors” than anything else in this awful film. You simply haven't lived until you've heard Cushing, with speech impediment say ‘suffering'. Hilarious. Vincent Price, meanwhile, is as defiantly hammy as always, having a great line at one point; ‘Please don't interrupt me while I'm soliloquising!'. Christopher Lee, for his part, gives perhaps the most accomplished performance of the lot, in the least flashy role- he's seemingly the voice of reason for a change (as a prospective buyer). Massive waste of Richard Todd, by the way.
This is a hideous-looking, cheap and boring film, that several horror stars and a few chuckles cannot save. It's definitely not scary, and the mystery is pretty transparent too, despite some poor attempts at misdirection and a terrible ending.