Written by / 11/02/2016 / No comments / , , ,

MERRY ANDERS CINEMA PRESENTS 'HOUSE OF THE DAMNED'

Merry Anders at work for Maury Dexter two of three times YEAR: 1963
Before becoming a second unit director on two famous television shows produced by Michael Landon in the seventies and eighties, Maury Dexter, during the wild and swinging sixties, was a b-movie filmmaker who tackled eclectic genres ranging from Crime to Western to Horror to Beach to Biker, and in HOUSE OF THE DAMNED he gets his genre wires crossed: For example, in one scene, the main couple are sleeping in two single guest room beds — an architect and his wife, played by Ron Foster and, wedged between two Dexter flicks, AIR PATROL the year before and RAIDERS FROM BENEATH THE SEA after, the beautiful and underracted ingenue, Merry Anders, who wakes up right before seeing what the audience catches a few glimpses of: a bizarre, ghaustly silhouette of a legless man walking with his hands through the partial darkness of a Gothic mansion, which should be scary in its own right...

Merry Anders facing a headless woman
But the camera simply shows what happens, as its happening, without music to evoke anything beyond the visual itself — as if a mundane butler entered the room to clean an ashtray. And what Dexter obviously felt was important happens a minute later: an insert shot of the intruder's hand carefully snatching a key chain holding thirteen keys — which, as we learn later, fits every door of the manor's thirteen rooms... So then, the second scariest moment was in vain... Imagine if Maury Dexter replaced Alfred Hitchcock for PSYCHO: Norman Bates would have pocketed Marion Crane's stolen loot — while she showered...

Which leads to the first scariest moment, occurring about twenty minutes later when Anders opens one of the backroom doors, turns on the light and sees — a headless woman sitting on a chair. There is music this time but that's not the problem. Anders, an otherwise talented actress with strength and determination to match her classic beauty, has no expression at all. That's until the decapitated ghoul reaches out both hands — at which point our movie's queen finally gets to scream...

Another shot of Anders, still not scared audibly
So the fact that an armless man walking with his hands inside a shadowy corridor is but a mere theft, and a headless woman evokes no emotion until moving her arms, sums up Maury Dexter's hour-long horror flick that's really just a basic Suspense yarn — 'cause that's exactly how it's treated...

Richard Kiel DAMNEDScore: ***
Yet one scene does merit a nice jolt when a crazy old woman, who the couple suspect of having broken out of an asylum to haunt the mansion she once owned, rushes noisily into her hostpital room to scare off an inspecting nurse, and to finally give audiences what they paid for: But a minute later, while making a phone call, the nurse laughs it off, obviously not appreciating what a motion picture titled HOUSE OF THE DAMNED is supposed to be about... Yet who it's about is what matters, to us: Despite the made-for-TV style performances and direction, Merry Anders has natural chemistry with laidback husband, Foster, who looks a cross between Robert Vaughan, Mike Conners and Murray Hamilton, and does a semi-decent job as leading man...

Though he's highly forgettable, unlike the 11th hour bonus for Cult Movie fans — the seven-foot-two future James Bond villain, Richard Kiel, gets an extremely loud scream from another starlet, unhappily married to the house's soon-to-be resident, who had hired the couple to do whatever it is they're doing to ignite the familiar plot of vulnerable people being screwed with and haunted, when they simply wanted to enjoy a proverbial second honeymoon in the form of a busman's holiday: and that's kind of what they get, as do we: For a failed horror flick, this HOUSE is, despite the bagful of flaws, mellow and entertaining, filling the time just right — critics and genre aficionados be DAMNED!
Photogallery of Merry Anders in Maury Dexter's HOUSE OF THE DAMNED
Ron Foster with fictional wife played by Merry Anders
Merry Anders & Ron Foster seeking clues while getting help
Merry Anders had pretty eyes, here doing a bedroom-alluring thing: for no reason
Ron Foster points something out to Merry Anders with the city spread behind
Foster and Anders joined by Richard Crane and another pretty lady, Erika Peters
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