Chamber of Horrors – USA, 1966

‘A film with many scenes so terrifying, a built-in audio-visual warning system has been devised.’

Chamber of Horrors is a 1966 American horror feature film directed by Hy Averback (Bell, Book and Candle, 1976) from a screenplay by Stephen Kandel based on a story by Ray Russell … (Incubus; The Horror of It All; Mr. Sardonicus).

The movie stars Patrick O’Neal, Cesare Danova, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Laura Devon and Patrice Wymore. It was narrated by William Conrad (best known as Cannon), writer and director of Two on a Guillotine (1965).

Originally conceived as a pilot for a suspense TV show called “House of Wax,” Chamber of Horrors was revised into a theatrical release when it was deemed to be too graphic for TV.

The “Fear Flasher” and “Horror Horn” were William Castle-type gimmicks added to the movie to warn the audience to cover their eyes and ears before the “Four Supreme Fright Points.”

Plot:

In Baltimore, Anthony Draco (Cesare Danova) and Harold Blount (Wilfred Hyde-White) are the proprietors of a wax museum and are also amateur sleuths. They are drawn into the investigation of Jason Cravette (O’Neal), an insane murderer who kills a woman and then “marries” her. They help the police capture him, but he escapes and vows vengeance on all who “betrayed” him…

Reviews:

“What with the grisly storyline, you’d figure there’d be some gore on display. The violence and bloodletting is minimal, but does possess an air of grimness akin to the Hammer Films of the period. Those fans who can accept such a presentation with little in the way of onscreen brutality and viscera are the ones who will get the most out of this movie.” Brian Bankston, Cool Ass Cinema

“Though some of the camera work is stilted and several scenes drag on a bit, Chamber of Horrors does have a stylish look to it, with remarkable period sets and costumes (resembling an American Hammer clone), so I’m sure no one leaving the theater in 1966 felt cheated.” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

“The Fear Flasher (basically just a couple flickers of red) and the Horror Horn (sounding about like what you’d imagine) precede 4 murder scenes. By today’s standards, however, these foreshadowed scenes are tame and bloodless. It’s an unnecessary gimmick anyway, as the movie is entertaining enough on its own merits. Trashy yet engaging, Chamber of Horrors is certainly watchable drive-in fare.” Justin Felix, DVD Talk

” …was padded out to feature length, which is why the movie drags and contains scenes that seem redundant. It gives hints of having been more interesting in concept (proprietors of a wax museum solve real-life mysteries) than it turns out to be in practice; the only time it shows much energy is during a fight scene near the end. ” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

” …at least there’s a fun sort of “what will he use next?” angle to make up for the film’s lack of actual suspense or tension until the final showdown in the wax museum (which features a particularly wonderful denouement for the villain).” Brian W. Collins, Horror Movie a Day

” …a gaudy, lurid melodrama that plays itself for maximum sensationalism – but without ever amounting to anything.” Richard Scheib, Moria

“Hyde-Park and Danova are delightful as owners of a Baltimore wax museum that pays homage to bloody historical acts of the macabre, while pint-sized Rene Ruiz is great fun as their dwarf sidekick. Together, the three form a trio of very likable – and always bemused – amateur detectives. Terrifically entertaining…” The Terror Trap

“Tacky stuff, but it has its luridly bizarre moments and a nice performance from O’Neal as the seemingly indestructible homicidal maniac.” Time Out Film Guide

“Danova and Hyde-Whyte are fun to watch and have an easy chemistry together and Tony Curtis of all people has a head-scratching cameo as a poker playing brothel patron.  It’s O’Neal though who steals the movie as the homicidal Cravette.” Mitch Lovell, The Video Vacuum

Choice dialogue:

Inspector Matthew Strudwick: “You cannot predict the workings of an insane mind!”

Jason Cravette: “It takes time for a crawling caterpillar to become a true butterfly.”

Harold Blount: “Anyone who can carve a paperweight out of a dead body deserves to be taken quite seriously!”

Cast and characters:

  • Patrick O’Neal … Jason Cravette aka Jason Caroll – Silent Night, Bloody Night; The Mad Magician
  • Cesare Danova … Anthony Draco
  • Wilfrid Hyde-White … Harold Blount – The Cat and the Canary 1978; Fear No Evil 1969
  • Laura Devon … Marie Champlain
  • Patrice Wymore … Vivian, Delano’s hostess
  • Suzy Parker … Barbara Dixon
  • José René Ruiz [as Tun Tun] … Senor Pepe De Reyes – The Witch, 1954
  • Philip Bourneuf … Inspector Matthew Strudwick
  • Jeanette Nolan … Mrs. Ewing Perryman
  • Marie Windsor … Madame Corona
  • Wayne Rogers … Police Sgt. Jim Albertson
  • Vinton Hayworth … Judge Walter Randolph
  • Richard O’Brien … Dr. Romulus Cobb
  • Inger Stratton … Gloria, one of Corona’s girls
  • Berry Kroeger … Chun Sing
  • Charles Seel … Rev. Dr. Hopewell
  • Ayllene Gibbons … Victoria the Barmaid
  • Tony Curtis … Mr. Julian [uncredited] – Lobster Man from Mars; The Manitou; The Boston Strangler

Technical credits:

99 minutes | Technicolor

Release:

Chamber of Horrors was released on DVD by Warner Home Video on December 9, 2008 with The Brides of Fu Manchu.

Trivia:

The wax museum exhibits include Scottish murderers Burke and Hare.

Not to be confused with Chamber of Horrors (1940), the US retitle for The Door with Seven Locks.

Image credits: Cool Ass Cinema | Wrong Side of the Art!

Related:

Dwarfs in Horror Cinema – article

Nightmare in Wax (1969)

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