No, not the movie with P!nk, and not even the 1988 Italian shocker. We are going back in time to 1965 for this little gem, the film debut of director Gordon Hessler, just reissued by our friends at Network as part of their the British Film series.
On the outside, even if she has to walk with a stick and is a bit of a prize bitch, Ellen Garth (Georgina Cookson) has success, wealth and a devoted husband. However, husband Ray (Gary Merrill) is secretly in love with her niece Alice (Jane Merrow). When Ellen demands Ray’s help to wash soap from her eye he drowns her in the sink and buries her corpse in the garden shed. Alice is quick to move in, but soon a deathly tapping is heard at night, lights switch on and off, and then Ray finds Ellen’s broken walking stick on the bed. Was Ellen really dead or has she gone a’haunting? Whatever happens, it won’t end well for Ray.
This is a great low budget shocker from Hessler, who cut his directorial teeth working on the US TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents. While there are elements of Hitch in the way Hessler works the audience up to a crescendo of suspense with a succession of beautifully shot visual clues supported by a dramatic musical score, a bigger influence here is Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955), but to say anymore would give everything away.
Dark and creepy with a sting in the tail, I give Catacombs a 555/666.
Catacombs is available on DVD from Network price £9.99.
- Image Gallery
Hessler went on to direct Vincent Price in The Oblong Box (1969), Scream and Scream Again (1970) and Cry of the Banshee (1970). Other Hessler films of Hothouse interest are Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) with Karl Malden and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) featuring a gonzo Tom Baker as Koura the magician. Moving to the USA he worked extensively in TV directing episodes of Kung Fu, Hawaii Five O, Kolchak the Night Stalker and Wonder Woman along with the TV movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978). He died in January 2014.
Review by Simon Ball
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