HORROR HOTEL (1960)
The legendary Christopher Lee stars in this classic 1960 horror that is still as spooky and effective today as it was then and is one of my favorite films to watch during the Halloween time of year. This chilling horror… also known as City Of The Dead …begins with the burning of witch Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel) in 1692 in the town of Whitewood, Massachusetts. We then cut to the occult studies class of professor Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee) where eager student Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) intends on writing her class paper by going to New England to investigate it’s occult history first hand. Driscoll suggests she go to Whitewood itself to do her studies and gives her the directions to find the small infamous town. Upon arrival in the spooky village, Nan stays in The Raven’s Inn run by the mysterious Mrs. Newless (also Patricia Jessel) and soon finds that the 300 year old legends of Whitewood may be all too real. When Nan doesn’t return from her research trip, her brother Richard (Dennis Lotis), followed by friend Bill (Tom Naylor), travels to Whitewood looking for her. Richard teams up with the granddaughter of the local reverend, Patricia (Betta St. John), who had met Nan and lent her a book on the occult. What they find is something very ancient, very evil and very deadly…something they may not escape alive.
John Llewellyn Moxey (The Night Stalker) brings loads of atmosphere and a great visual style to this B&W chiller about college students running afoul of Devil worshipping witches in an old New England town. He gives the film an almost non-stop tension and creates some frightening horror sequences and it’s all supported by a sometimes very haunting score by Douglas Gamely. With an almost 300 year old witch, fiendish occult ceremonies and ritual sacrifice, you’ve got a really old fashioned Halloween horror film treat. The graveyard climax is both bone chilling and contains some truly stunning horror film visuals that have stayed with me since I first saw this on TV as a little boy…and when I was a kid, this flick scared the heck out of me!
As for the cast…Christopher Lee is at his sinister best as the professor in occult studies who is far more involved in his subject than his students realize and just may be leading his eager-to-learn lambs to the slaughter. Patricia Jessel brings the evil witch Elizabeth Selwyn to vibrant life and Venetia Stevenson stands out as the inquisitive and ill-fated Nan. The rest of our young antagonists do well in portraying the horror of what they encounter and the film is peppered with some very unnerving supporting characters.
I highly recommend this to any horror fan who appreciates how it was done…old school and in glorious black and white! A wonderfully spooky and delightfully charming horror classic. Also stars Norman Macowan as Reverend Russell and Valentine Dyall as the mysterious Jethrow Keane.
4 (out of 4) classic Christopher Lees!
Some examples of the powerful horror imagery from John Llewellyn Moxey.
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