Dark Places – UK, 1973

‘The scariest spookiest movie this year… You’ll be terrified in…’

Dark Places is a 1973 British horror feature film directed by Don Sharp (Psychomania; The Creeping FleshWitchcraft;The Kiss of the Vampire; et al) from a screenplay by Ed Brennan and Joseph Van Winkle. The movie stars Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Herbert Lom, Jane Birkin  and Robert Hardy.

Dr. Mandeville (Christopher Lee) and his wife Sarah (Joan Collins) try to locate two suitcases of money hidden on a large estate of one of his former patients by posing as a potential heir. Also at the estate is mentally unstable Andrew (Robert Hardy), who begins to have flashbacks to the murders committed by the previous owner Edward (Hardy as well)…

Reviews:

“Although marketed as a horror film, it is more a psychological thriller, the appearance of Christopher Lee, probably added to it’s horror moniker. Joan played another of her icy villianess roles as Christopher’s scheming sister, who seduces Hardy’s character, in order to find out where the hidden money is! Joan looks lovely as ever, apart from a misfortunate wig…” The Joan Collins Archive

“The pace is quite sluggish throughout, and it tends to repeat some of its ideas more often than is strictly necessary. It’s worst problems arrive towards the end of the movie; the revelations about the past events in the house have a somewhat silly edge to them, and the movie loses a lot of steam in its final moments and ends with a whimper rather than a bang.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“[Don] Sharp does his best with the rather indifferent script, but he’s not the kind of stylistically dominant director who can turn Dark Places into anything more than a solid, watchable movie. Of course, there are worse things than that.” The Horror!?

“Sharp also manages to keep his head when all about are losing theirs (literally in the case of the two children) during a grisly denouement. His timing and discretion keep the carnage just the right side of crude excess.” David McGillivray, BFI Monthly Film Bulletin, June, 1975

“Although director Don Sharp has done some exemplary work elsewhere in the Anglo-horror cycle […] his pace here seems sedate and uninvolving. Though he is making a work that could variously be slapped with labels like horror film, thriller or a semi-ghost story, there is nothing that creates atmosphere or generates tension apart from a couple of jolt killings at the end.” Richard Scheib, Moria

“This neglected film has the advantage of a good cast and Don Sharp’s usual perceptive direction.” Gary A. Smith, Uneasy Dreams

Buy Uneasy DreamsAmazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

“Sharp resists the temptation to go over the top and manages a few shocks very well (Hardy hacking a whole in a wall and releasing fluttering bats, for example), but it remains a somewhat mechanical effort.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“Don Sharp is unable to inject much life into a derivative sub-Hammer script and the frissons are few and far between in a leaden movie.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook, Batsford, 1982

” …a bloody mess for all concerned.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“Typical of a large segment of what the British cinema turns out today – inert, flavourless, uninventive, unimaginable.” The Times, 1973

Choice dialogue:

Ian Mandeville [Christopher Lee] to Sarah Mandeville [Joan Collins]: “You dirty, filthy little slut!”

Cast and characters:

  • Christopher Lee … Doctor Ian Mandeville
  • Joan Collins … Sarah Mandeville – Empire of the AntsTales from the CryptTales That Witness Madness; Revenge; Fear in the Night; et al
  • Herbert Lom … Prescott – Asylum; Count DraculaMark of the DevilThe Phantom of the Opera; et al
  • Jane Birkin … Alta – Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye
  • Robert Hardy … Edward Foster / Andrew Marr – 10 Rillington Place; Demons of the MindPsychomania
  • Jean Marsh … Victoria
  • Carleton Hobbs … Old Marr
  • Roy Evans … Baxter
  • Martin Boddey … Sgt. Riley
  • John Glyn-Jones … Bank Manager
  • John Levene … Doctor
  • Jennifer Thanisch … Jessica
  • Michael McVey … Francis
  • Barry Linehan … Asylum Gatekeeper

Image credits: Technicolour Yawn | The Joan Collins Archive

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Categories: 1970s, British, psychological horror

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