Blu-ray Review: Hollywood Horror House



Hollywood is a land of dreams and nightmares. The dreams are created inside the movie studios that are like small kingdoms. The nightmares belong to all those who don’t have a private spot next to the soundstages. Well actually there are even deeper nightmares that lurk in the area. Kenneth Anger didn’t write Hollywood Babylon about movies put in turnaround. There’s a lot of bodies in the Hollywood Hills. This is a town where people have made their fortunes playing killers on the big screen and a sometimes a real killer arrives on the bus thinking they can become a superstar by acting naturally. Hollywood Horror House (aka Savage Intruder) explores this world with a tale that comes off like Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard made during the start of rise of Raging Bulls and Easy Riders era. What if Joe Gillis was hiding in Norma Desmond’s mansion for a reason other than hiding from creditors?

Below the decaying Hollywood sign, an unknown killer strikes an old woman. It’s a bloody attack using a electric knife to dispose of the body. A tour bus cruises around the area giving tours of the mansions of the stars. The driver (Joe Besser from The Three Stooges) is eager to talk about classic Hollywood. A young hippie (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad‘s John David Garfield) hops off the back of the bus when they arrive at a mansion owned by retired actress Katharine Packard (The Story of Temple Drake‘s Miriam Hopkins). Packard has become drunk and delusional in her retirement. She imagines she’s still throwing massive parties at her estate and this leads to her taking a tumble. The young guy straightens up his clothes and passes himself off as the nurse that Packard needs. The elderly actress feels a connection with her young caretaker even though the rest of the mansion’s staff isn’t sure. Her head of staff Leslie (The Invisible Man’s Revenge‘s Gale Sondergaard) is not enjoying how the caretaker is getting too close to the boss. And the caretaker is a also hooking up with the must younger Greta (Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again‘s Virginia Wing). They’re not sure what his game is and viewers are fearing he’s going to break out the electric knife soon.

What’s remarkable is how nice Hollywood Horror House looks. Cinematographer John Morrill (A Boy and His Dog) makes this look so much better than you’d imagine from the title. This is not a roughie. Although previous editions were taken off rough elements and standard definition video transfers so that Morrill’s work could never be fully appreciated. He brings out the old Hollywood dust with the psychedelic late ’60s that was overtaking the Hollywood Hills. Miriam Hopkins plays up her movie diva angle as the injured star. John David Garfield didn’t have a major career in front of the camera, but he found himself an editor including cutting All the Right Moves and Karate Kid Part II. His father was Film Noir star John Garfield (The Postman Always Rings Twice). The movie never had a large theatrical release so there’s quite a few people that will get to truly discover this tale of a Serial Killer on Sunset Blvd. Hollywood Horror House will remind people to make sure your nurse doesn’t arrive with an electric knife.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer is a 4K taken from the original negative. The movie has never been given a great transfer until now. The audio is DTS-HD MA mono with the levels just right when the electric knife is brought out. The movie is subtitled.

Historical Commentary Track features David Decouteau of Rapidheart.tv and David Del Valle of Sinisterimage.com giving background on the film. They discuss how the film fits with other horror hag productions. This is full of stories of Miriam Hopkins including dinner parties.

Promotional Image Gallery (1:38) are the publicity photos.

Limited Edition Slipcover designed by Earl Kessler Jr. comes with the first 2,000 sets.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Hollywood Horror House. Directed by: Donald Wolfe. Screenplay by: Donald Wolfe. Starring: Miriam Hopkins, John David Garfield, Gale Sondergaard, Virginia Wing, Florence Lake and Joe Besser. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 91 minutes. Released: March 31, 2020.

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