Murder Mansion (1972)
Story by Luis G. De Blain
Screenplay by Luis G. De Blain & Antonio Troisio
DIRECTOR: Francisco Lara Polop
Evelin Stewart as Martha Clinton
Analia Gade as Elsa
Anna Lisa Nardi as Laura
Andres Resino as Fred
Franco Fantasia as Mr. Porter
Alberto Dalbes as Ernest
QUICK CUT: A whole bunch of people in a whole lot of plotlines all end up in the same mansion, and people start dying. Who's the madman behind the murders, and why are they dying? These questions and more will go unanswered in this murder mystery!
Dig the music that thinks these credits are like something out of Van Helsing. And it becomes totally jazz, daddy-o once we're in the movie proper.
After the fiery credits, we see a guy zooming along a road in the middle of nowhere, wearing a nice suit and sunglasses. What, did the mafia call out a hit on Old MacDonald? Was his farm not paying the protection money?
He comes up behind someone on a motorcycle and honks the silliest sounding horn I've heard in this side of La Cucaracha. It gets the bike to move out of the way though, and the car passes by. And the filming is making me nauseous and feeling nostalgic for Blood Freak, because I think the camera is being held by someone chasing the movie on a pogo stick, or in a car with no shocks.
The motorcyclist takes this as a challenge, as can be told because he pulls down his goggles to show this is serious business now. The pair race each other around the winding, empty roads until they come across a small VW bug just minding its own business.
Not unsurprisingly, they leave Herbie in the dust. I'd nitpick these guys having no care for which side of the road they're on or speed limits or ANY traffic laws, but the road is spectaculary unmarked on the pavement or with signage. Which isn't uncommon for these smaller roads in the middle of nowhere. Still, observing common courtesy and sense would be nice. Country back roads are a real shitty place to race.
The pair pass more cars until they see a woman along the side of the road. The biker stops first, and the guy in the car soon follows. Not any surprise, but the girl gets in the car. I'd take the fully enclosed vehicle myself, too. Although if she saw the way they were racing, she might wait for the next car.
Before stopping, the biker had leapfrogged back into the lead, but fell back behind to get the hitchhiker he ended up not picking up at all. I don't see why they both bothered to stop, as the car could have kept going when it saw the bike was stopped, but whatever. Oh wait, cute girl, that's why.
By the time they're going again, the VW bug has come back on the scene and pulled ahead, becoming the lead in the race they don't know they're in. So it's like the movie has completely circled around to the beginning with a few extra miles, and an extra person in the mix. Talk about a waste of time.
They all catch up with each other at a roadside diner, and while biker boy and the girl have a chat inside, the Hans Gruber looking guy gasses up his green machine outside. The biker finds out the driver can't keep his hands off the girl, so offers her a ride the rest of the way, which she readily accepts to get away from the creep. Can't say I blame her for wanting to get away from Hans.
When Hans sees who she is leaving with, he doesn't seem very pleased and insists she come with him. She gets on the bike, and he makes some veiled threat to the biker that something bad will happen to him. Oh good, Dan the empath should be able to tell us when that has happened.
The couple in the VW bug arrive wherever they're going, and outside is a group of people playing cards and gossiping while they head inside. The dialogue is confusing as hell, but I think they are there to see a woman named Elsa, and the man is a lawyer seeing to her affairs. Why is the woman there? Damned if I know. They may or may not be having the other type of affair, and there may or may not be widows involved. This is why naming your characters early and often helps. A lot.
Elsa calls her husband Ernest who has yet to arrive, and needs him to get there as soon as possible for some deal they have going. Hooray for being clear and concise, movie. My kingdom for a motive. When talking about the document, and the signature and the auction, it helps to know what they're talking about! This is not Lost. These are not The Others living in The Barracks on The Island who can only reach The Caves by swimming through The Pond near The Lighthouse.
Her husband just happens to be in the same pub as the biker and his tagalong, and those two continue on their way while the husband finds his mistress for a little bit of fun before doing whatever murky thing it is he's supposed to be doing.
Like any good mistress she's not happy that Ernest has yet to leave his wife, and his fortune has been pissed away on drink and women. Yeah, women like you, missy, so don't complain too much.
We at least learn that Elsa used to not be so cold before her father died, and it was only when she had to attend to the vast fortune and business she inherited that she changed. Hooray for character moments.
The lawyer and his wife are at Elsa's, and she comes in to see them finally, saying she has to go pick up her husband since his car broke down, if by car he means penis and by broke down he means entered another woman, I guess. They continue to make a deal to get this document presented by the next day, but I still have zero clue about it, so don't really care. I guess everyone piles into their cars and drive off to Soren.
Biker man and the girl stop to check the map but have no luck reading in the dark. A car pulls up to them and the biker tries to get it to stop by standing in the middle of the road. The car doesn't slow down at all until it has nearly run down the biker, and the video freezes on the car. I presume we're supposed to recognise who is inside it, but the movie is such a murky mush of blue, that's a hopeless proposition. If we're not supposed to recognise him, we might be being asked to remember them for later, but again we can't see shit, so...good move!
Mr. and Mrs. Tremont (The lawyer couple) follow Elsa from the home to try and get their document, but the fog has rolled in. Because what's a good murder movie without fog? They start to lose the woman ahead of them in the pea soup. Are they the ones who almost ran over the biker? What happened to Hans? What do any two people in this movie have to do with any other two people? I am so lost.
As if on cue, two plots literally run into each other as the Tremonts crash into Hans in his car. Hey, maybe this is going somewhere after all. Not that I'm holding my breath on that count. Hopefully that where is something more than a ten car pile up on the country roads near Soren.
Steve McBikesalot and Susie Ridesinback see a man carrying a scythe and ask him for directions. Personally that would be the last guy I'd stop and ask in the middle of nowhere, but any port in a storm, I guess.
As if the Tremonts crashing into Hans was bad enough, Ernest's wife has also crashed her car in a cemetary. Insert your own joke about a short trip to the grave here. She is staring at the engine with a flashlight like she's hoping that will help, when a pair of shadowy figures step out of the fog and creep through the cemetary towards her.
She runs away, but the people only gave chase for about twenty seconds before stopping, so that was rather pointless. Which seems to happen a lot. "Quick, chase her! Nah, let's get a burger."
The biker and his friend take a spill on the bike, and as they're making out, Elsa interupts and stumbles out of the forest begging for help. Did this movie hit blend on its character plotline generator every five minutes, just to see who got tossed together next? We had four plotlnines that merged into two, then Hans ran off somewhere, and the two plotlines branched off and collided in different ways. I need Fred's roadmap just to follow the story of this movie.
So the trio backtrack to the cemetary...wait wait, they can't navigate the fog well enough for any of them to keep their cars on the road, but they can get back to a cemetary following the memory of a woman who was running in blind panic to escape now non-existant pursuers? No way, I don't buy it. I've been lost in the woods at night, and fog isn't any better. If she was running blindly, no way could she lead them back there.
Anyways, she describes the people she saw in the fog, and the biker seems to recognise them, and then they come across the car that almost made him a speedbump. He flagged the car down because he couldn't read a map and had lights blinding him, how does he recognsie the driver. I was watching the movie, and I couldn't even do that!
The biker actually has half a brain, and surmises that since there's a cemetary, there must be some signs of life nearby, since someone has to bury the dead. They move along the wall until they find the gate, in hopes of finding the villaige nearby. At least someone is thinking.
It's noted that the cemetary is abandoned and untended, and the village doesn't fare much better. They do see a large house where a light is on in a lone window, so hurry towards it. And inside is the biggest coincidence of this movie of coincidental meetings as Hans Gruber is waiting inside. There he is! Out of all the houses in all the world, they run into his.
He lets them in and oh look, more people we recognise, its the lawyer and the woman he was with. I'm losing track of who is who in this movie. I swear both women have been called Elsa at this point, but I've been sticking with his client being Elsa.
Hans greets them all with a gun, because that's how I always answer the door. He proceeds to explain that when he and the lawyer showed up, there was someone trying to break into the house, someone who just so happens to match the description of the man plaguing our other characters. Well hey, things are coming together, it seems. It only required Dickensian levels of coincidence to get us here, but at least things are taking shape. Having almost everyone under the same roof might help things here.
The lawyer describes the man's boots, and in a hilarious musical sting, we see a shot of the boots. Just the boots, nothing else, and an ominous musical cue. Fear the boots! FEAR THEM!
As all the characters congregate in the living room where they have a fire going, to marvel at all of them winding up there, the PERSON WHO LIVES IN THE HOUSE comes down the stairs. She welcomes the half dozen or so people who have broken into her home and made themselves comfortable. Now that must be the famous European hospitality I've heard so much about.
Oh whew, Miss Clinton explains that she heard Hans blowing the horn of his car and let him in. This isn't quite so breaking and enterish then. Still massively coincidental with everyone, though.
No wait, even she's a victim of the fog, as she got lost on a bicycle and ended up there. Well, at least it's not her house, and she just stumbled upon strangers invading her home. Now she's also breaking and enterting. And that makes somewhat more sense than her living in a completely abandoned village, all alone.
And now the house is suddenly hers again, but she lives somewhere else! Gah! Her backstory has more 180s than Tony Hawk at a skateboarding tournament. Get your story straight!
People start pointing out how odd this all is, and some of them recognise the others in passing, and Hans even goes so far to point out that it feels like they've passed somewhere between real and unreal. Oh, believe me, this movie is unreal, all right. When the characters in your film are pointing out how absurd things are, that's usually them trying to tell the writer something. Maybe you should listen.
Miss Clinton tells the group that the town was abandoned when an epidemic blamed on vampires killed many people, and the superstituous villagers left the place once they buried their dead. Oh please let vampires turn up soon. Something in this movie needs to suck in a good way soon.
They all hear strange noises in the basement, and the biker goes to investigate, not realising what sort of movie he is in. Do not go in the basement! Miss Clinton stops him since she seems to be well aware this is a horror movie of sorts.
Hans says if its just a rat in the cellar, he'll kill it with his gun. He really is itching to use that gun. But Clinton pleads more to stay out of there, and they continue to be smart enough to not go poking around a dark cellar. That can't last, I'm sure.
There's a painting hanging near the fire that Biker O'Wheely has been staring at, and Clinton explains that's her ancestor Julia, whom people said was a witch, and maybe even blamed for the deaths in the town. Vampires or witches, make up your mind, Murder Mansion. She also had a servant that just so happens to match the description of the man they're all hiding from. But they both died when he crashed her Rolls Royce into a wall. Zombie witch millionaires! With undead chauffers!
Elsa freaks out during the description, since the wounds the chaueffer received also match what she saw, which just make things all the more ominous and creepy. Since steering columns to the chest aren't an everday thing you see. I'm dubious on her seeing that much detail in the fog, but my ability to complain is draining away.
We find out that Elsa is prone to panic attacks, ever since she had a nervous breakdown when she was younger and her father was found dead making love to a younger mistress. Yeah, that'll mess anyone up. She has mistress issues.
After checking in on Elsa, Hans looks in another room and starts yanking at paintings on the walls but they seem fast attached. Those are some nails. He eventually gives up and curls up in a chair to listen to the overly dramatic music in the background.
Lesson #1 movie, when building suspense, don't show lengthy scenes of everyone going to sleep, because you will do the same thing to your audience. Try to not get them thinking of sleep. Not even the loud musical sting on Miss Clinton's face will wake us up.
Meanwhile, it's back to Hans and his staring at the ugly paintings in his room. I couldn't sleep either with those monstrosities looking back. And I'm a fan of Hieronymus Bosch, and I don't want them staring at me while I sleep. He hears a noise in the wardrobe and investigates. He yanks open the doors to find...nothing!
In the words of Bart Simpson; you know what would have been better than nothing? ANYTHING!
Fred decides its time to investigate the cellar since he and Laura are all alone, which isn't a half bad idea. Laura questions his desire to do so, but hey, when someone says absolutely do not ever try and go someplace ever under any circumstances, well that's the place you go. There's either every answer to every question, or a swift death. Sometimes both. Eithet way, I'm game.
I know I said this is a horror movie and you should avoid the cellar, but once someone says never, ever go down there, well...
He disproves Clinton's rat story since there's no scratches at the bottom of the door, and instead finds some closer to human level. Satisfied for now, the pair leave the cellar unscathed. Darn. But hey, the biker gets a name, Fred! I think this is the first time its come up. And this is pretty late in the game. I started using it earlier just for my convenience.
And we're back to Hans who wakes up shouting from a nightmare, runs around his room, and then clutches his chest before his vision goes dark. Did...did we just have our first death? And a heart attack, at that? The most unceremonious death ever. Movie, you don't make people die in a murder mystery just by keeling over!
Sadly, he survived, and is seen watching Fred and the girl cuddling post coitally. Stupid false alarm. It may have been lame, but at least something happened.
Elsa's busy having a flashback to a dance in her younger days, but that random aside is interupted when Hans visits her. To tell her he had a heart attack? She tries to get rid of her unwelcome guest and get back to the far more interesting movie in her head.
And she does just that, dreaming of her father going off to have trysts with her college friends, and we even get to see a younger Ernest, who even then showed an interest in her. Aww, college sweethearts. That later have a loveless marriage.
The two of them head out back to her place, and they drive by another car, and the shot goes to Elsa's point of view looking at something in the car. It raced by so fast and is so poorly shot that I have no idea what she saw, and what we should have seen. I presume its her father. This movie loves showing significant things in cars that we can't see.
It amuses me that Elsa somehow manages to look OLDER in the flashback to her college days than she does now. It's amazing what losing a bad, grey wig will do for a girl's looks.
Hans, or Porter as he likes to be called here to protect his identity, goes to see Miss Clinton. It looks like they're going to follow in the footsteps of Fred and friend, but when Clinton asks him to turn around, he sees the shadowy chauffeur of doom who advances on him.
The music gives way to rapid drumbeats as Porter clutches at his chest once more, until they stop and he passes out. THIS time his heart attack is real, and still pretty unceremonious, even if the sinister Miss Clinton just sits there and watches him die. It's still a heart attack, and our first death almost two thirds of the way through the movie.
Fred's girl has gotten dressed and pokes into the cellar to try and find him, since it looks like he's gone missing when we weren't looking. I'd think she would notice if the guy inside her wandered off, or at least asked where he was going.
She finds a bunch of rats (So much for there not being one!) and screams. She then sees a painting next to them and screams again. I guess she's not a fan of art. Granted, it wasn't a great painting, but it was hardly scream worthy.
Her running puts out the candle she was using for light, and they actually get a pretty cool moment as they slowly iris down the light they have until its just on her face before going completely to black. Now, in reality the candle goes out and she's in the dark, but I can appreciate the artistic license of having the darkness creeping in on her. That's a very well done, effective, arty shot.
Fred was actually down there and grabs her from behind, so he can show her the tunnel he found that leads to a crypt. Because that's the best way to meet someone screaming in catacombs. He waits until after he finds her to turn on the flashlight. Oh, that merry prankster.
There's more flashbacks with Elsa as she remembers the men who have disappointed her in life, namely her father and Ernest, but she comes to the realisation that she was putting unrealistic expecatations of perfection on them. She also sees now that she was punishing her husband for her father's infidelities. That's rather deep for a fluffy little movie like this, and not something I was expecting. I can certainly appreciate good character development, and a peek into someone's psyche. For all its flaws, the movie does have its moments.
Martha Clinton heard Elsa's restless sleep and comes to investigate, to see if she needs anything, or just someone to talk to. She stays there as Elsa falls asleep, probably to have a better shot at killing her. She's not the most reaching killer. Hans just dies on her, she waits for others to fall asleep. Show some initiative!
Fred and whats'ername find the Clinton family crypt, and the casket containing the infamous witch Julie is empty. They begin to speculate on just how much truth there is to the stories they were told about vampies and Santa Claus. I do believe in spooks!
Elsa rolls over in her sleep, right into Martha's face, and is surprised to see laying next to her an old woman, and certainly not the young beauty that was laying there mere moments ago. She naturally goes running off at the frightening visage. She runs away at the drop of a hat, though.
She races for the door to the mansion, but on the other side is Lurch the chauffeur. Elsa quickly shuts the door again and turns around, seeing the old woman coming down the stairs. How come Lurch just doesn't open the door. It's not like the tiny older woman would be able to stop him. Heck, he could probably punch through the door if he wanted. Door bad!
Elsa continues to run away, and heads for the cellar, and just keeps right on running. Eventually she bumps into someone, but when she looks, it's Tremont's wife, dangling from one of the hooks in the ceilling. Which makes me question why there are hooks in the ceiling, but I'll presume its for something I don't know from lack of knowledge, not just for hanging bodies.
Now, we saw these hooks before, and after we saw Martha acting evilly while watching Hans die. How come Fred and his girl didn't see Mrs. Tremont dangling there? Was she further down and they missed her? Had Julie/Martha not moved the body to the basement yet? I need explanations!
Speaking of, those two have left the crypt and are hanging out in the cemetary when they see Hans through the fog, and he starts firing at them. The girl thinks he's gone mad, but maybe he just doesn't like you! You did leave his car to ride with Fred, after all.
Fred investigates the body and determines Porter is dead, and has been dead for awhile. He even speculates it was a heart attack, and then says he was murdered. Heart attacks tend to be natural causes. You can't have both! Well, poisoning I guess, but that's technically not strictly a heart attack, per se. But still. And we even saw him just keel over and wasn't murdered. What did Fred see that makes him declare murder? You don't see a guy just fall over, suspect it's a heart attack and say murder! How? Was he shot? Hit? Either way, they can't explain how he shot a gun at them.
Their musings are interrupted by Julie and her chauffeur. Fred goes to grab the gun but when he points it at them, they've pulled a Batman and disappeared. Why not just ask Laura where they went? She was standing there staring.
I love that they carry Porter back to the house, and then knock on the door of the place they all just felt fine about barging into earlier. The door is probably locked, but it's still so funny that they had no problems earlier, but now feel the need to knock.
The lawyer arrives and announces his wife has gone missing, and asks what happened to Porter. Fred goes back to it being a heart attack. Make up your mind, man!
Laura smells burning from the cellar causes by Elsa knocking over a candle and everyone rushes to investigate, and the lawyer is reunited with his wife. Probably not how he expected to find her.
They scoop up Elsa and escape, as Laura tries to smack out the fire. At least someone thought to take care of that little issue, what with a house of burnable stuff being above them.
Fred leaves Elsa and Laura in the upstairs bedrooms with a gun for protection, and heads downstairs to look in on a few things. Dead bodies, the lawyer, a way out, take your pick. There's enough going on here to be concerned about. He should be awhile.
And hey, I called it. Fred's actually going to try and get to town, fog be damned. I'd be more concerned about Lurch, but at least he's trying to do something.
Again the movie zooms in on Martha's face with a loud musical sting, then pans up to the painting of Julie right behind her. They might as well just flash in big neon letters, "SHE IS THE SAME PERSON! GET IT?"
Yes, if you hadn't figured it out yet, Martha and Julie are the same person. Any guesses on which one is real?
Once he goes outside, Fred doubles back to investigate the garage. Hey, those bikers are crafty bastards. That's actually not a bad plan, make everyone think you're leaving then do some snooping.
Elsa insists on getting dressed, and when Laura opens up the wardrobe, she's met with the floating head of...someone. I hate poorly developed characters who rarely get named. I can't keep track of people. I have no idea who it is. I think it's Mrs. Tremont? And for the record, I'm not sure that couple is named the Tremonts!
The pair rush out of the room and are blocked by Julie. Laura tries shooting at the supposedly dead witch, but it does no good. I'll get back to that.
They rush into the next room and block the door, but find someone on the bed. The form wakes up and it's...Miss Tremont? Ok, I am completely freaking lost now. If I was lost before, I am now super lost. At least I had some familiar landmarks, but now I'm in a dark room with no windows, with my eyes gouged out and no idea where the walls are.
Fred finds an old tape recorder with spooky voices on it, and we see Martha peeling her face off to reveal an alien underneath!! No wait, just Martha. My idea was better.
While poking around, Fred gets assaulted by the chauffeur, and its a decent enough action sequence for the 70s. It's not the best, but it certainly livens the movie up a bit. It doesn't last very long though as Fred gets stuck in a sleeper hold. The chauffeur peels off a mask of his own revealing...well, fucked if I know. Stupid movie. It might be Elsa's husband?
Tremont, I think comes out. He reveals he was actually in on it the whole time as he comes out with the severed head. He and Martha reveal this was all a plan to drive Elsa mad and get her money, and no one will believe the stories told by the other two of vampires and witches. A cloaked figure arrives, supposedly the mastermind behind it all, and starts shooting up Martha and Tremont? Too many reveals of people I can barely recognise, help! Who are these people? Why do I care if they're betraying us? Ernest hasn't even been in this movie since the first few minutes!
Fred finally wakes up and returns to the aftermath of the shootout at the Moors Corral, while the mastermind continues to clean things up. After seeing the dead Martha's head in the fireplace, he rushes upstairs to check on the women he gives a crap about.
Laura hears him calling and opens the door. They both agree they need to leave, but Laura doesn't want to leave the other two women behind. Fred says screw that, he just wants to save his own ass and piece of tail.
Ernest (?! I think? I seriously am lost.) is cleaning up the body in the cellar, and he's taken it apart, so it looks like the multiple Mrs. Tremonts were just mannequins or something with believable heads. I...I just don't know. It is just as likely that he found a twin and has hacked her up.
Elsa's husband comes back up from hacking up the fake lawyer's wife, and finds Elsa sitting amidst the dead bodies of everyone he shot. She picks up the gun he planted and uses it to shoot him. A lot. There's scenes of her husband getting shot cut in with scenes of her father, so she's venting all her rage at all the men in her life, and finally having her crazy-soaked revenge.
Good for her?
So the movie ends, with Elsa surrounded by dead bodies and haunted memories, Mrs. Tremont dozing off from too many sleeping pills upstairs, and Fred and Laura riding past the sunset, as the cheeriest music of the period plays them off. That...isn't really a moment of victory. They ran away! Everyone else is dead, almost! That's a pyrrhic victory, at best. Which I'm ok with, I like those, but the music just doesn't fit. They're cowards, and they get happy cheery heroic music! CUT!
Video: The video is just awful. Flat out bad. I blame the DVD authoring because I've heard there's some good cuts of this movie out there, but this can't be it. I hope. It's a shame, because it has some nice colour and is shot really well for a pulp film like this. But instead, the image is grainy, compressed, and just hard to look at.
Audio: Not much better than the video. At least I can almost make out what everyone is saying. I doubt this audio is all that spectacular though. Aside from a few bits the music is nice and effective, although it can also be over the top and sting happy too. This movie has a lot going for it, it just seemed to use it all poorly. If a little more bitrate had been spared for the movie, it might have been a little more bearable, audio and video. And I'm not sure where the fault there is; the original movie, or the DVD?
Best Line: "It's Mr. Porter! He must have gone raving mad!" Said about a dead body. And in this movie, who can tell? The bluntness of "She denies you your conjugal rights!" is also pretty classic. Ahh, weirdness of translations.
First Kill: Porter is all over these, as his death kicks things off, finally, at the 52 minute mark. That's a languid pace, but the movie picks up the murderball and runs with it after that.
Best Kill: Sure ain't Porter, that's for sure. The best has to be the out of nowhere double murder of Clinton and Mr. Tremont. Nothing makes an impact like rapidly falling bodies.
Blood Type: O-, there's not much here to speak of. The most gruesome thing is a burning head, and maybe the hanging not-corpse. But nothing is really shown.
Sex Appeal: Lots of women in slinky underthings prancing around, so while no outright nudity, there's still plenty of titilation. Not bad.
Movie Rating: Hmm. The plot is a mess, the transfer is bad, but for all its flaws, I can't be too hard on it. The audio and video quality probably aren't the movie's fault. It is pretty arty, and well directed and photographed, all things considered. Ignoring the story (Please ignore the story) it's well made for the early 70s. And the plot could be hashed by translators, so I again can't be that mean. The movie does have a plot in there that makes some sense, of a woman being made to think she's insane to cheat her out of her fortunes. That's a classic, and if I could keep track of who's who, the twists and mystery would be pretty fun. But still, this only ranks a three out of five heads of Mrs. Tremont. Thoroughly average.
Entertainment Rating: This is definitely an interesting film to watch. The plot is twisty as I said, and it is entertaining if you can cut through the confusion. Or just roll with it and marvel at the WTFery of it all. I genuinely WANT to watch this turkey again, for no other reason than to try and make heads or tails of it. I had to rewatch a handful of scenes just to get the clarity I did, and the movie has grown on me, especially since it is rather good looking if you can get past the bad transfer. Since this is a rare movie I want to see more of, it gets a four out of five cars in the fog. There's worse ways to spend a Saturday night, and this could be a fun murder mystery to enjoy with like minded friends.
This is my first experience with the giallo genre, and I can only hope my next venture in is better.