Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dance of Death (1968)

...aka: House of Evil
...aka: Macabre serenada
...aka: Serenata macabra

Directed by:
Jack Hill
Juan Ibáñez

A frail-looking Boris Karloff is Matthias Morteval, a dying, lonely old nut who lives in Morhenge Mansion with some servants and tells his doctor friend, "Don't try to doctor me, doctor! I'm disgustingly healthy!" He invites his nieces and nephews to his home and warns them they may have inherited a genetic disease that causes madness by "shrinking the brain" (?) Morteval/Karloff ends up dying, and murderous "toys" (designed by his dead brother) start killing off the relatives. A mini cannon fires real bullets into a guys face, a life-sized knight in armor attacks with an axe and a dancing Sheik stabs people with a knife. One guy getting strangled makes some hilarious faces. At the end, Julissa and her boyfriend find Karloff is still alive and hiding out in the dungeon where steel gates seal off the room. He plays the recurring organ theme music (sort of a death rattle used for the killings), the brother's spirit starts talking ("The whole house will go with me!") and the mansion goes up in flames. This senseless mess (which was originally called MACABRE SERENADE and was also released in the U.S. as HOUSE OF EVIL) is too dark, boring and the stupid dialogue never matches the lips. With Andrés García, José Ángel Espinoza, Beatriz Baz, Quintín Bulnes, Manuel Alvarado and Arturo Fernández.

It was one of four Mexican/American films co-directed by Ibáñez (who did the bulk of the movies in Mexico) and Hill (who shot the U.S. scenes, including all the Karloff footage) in 1968. All feature Karloff and none of them are good, but now stand as curio items for fans of the actor. The other three films are ALIEN TERROR (aka THE INCREDIBLE INVASION), THE FEAR CHAMBER (aka TORTURE ZONE) and LA MUERTE VIVIENTE (aka THE SNAKE PEOPLE).


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