Wednesday, 27 February 2013

House of 1,000 Dolls (1967)

House of 1,000 Dolls (La casa de las mil muñecas) is not, despite the presence of Vincent Price in the cast, a horror movie. This 1967 German-Spanish co-production is a thriller, and it’s unfortunately not quite as outlandish as a bare outline of the plot would suggest.
Vincent Price is the Great Manderville, a celebrated illusionist. But he and his wife Rebecca (Martha Hyer) have a sideline. They use their act as a cover for a more lucrative business - kidnapping girls for the white slavery trade.

The girls end up in a brothel in Tangier, a brothel known as the House of 1,000 Dolls. To gain admission a customer must produce a token - a small doll.

One of the girls, Diane (Maria Rohm), has managed to get word to her fiancé Fernando. Fernando is now on Diane’s trail and has arrived in Tangier where he has met up with his friends Dr Stephen Armstrong (George Nader), an American criminal pathologist, and his Danish wife Marie (Ann Smyrner). But the criminal syndicate that runs the House of 1,000 Dolls does not take kindly to Fernando’s efforts to trace his missing girlfriend.


Stephen Armstrong and his wife are drawn into the case, much against the wishes of the policeman in charge of the investigation, Inspector Emil (Wolfgang Kieling).

Manderville has been tiring of his life of crime. He is convinced that sooner or later the police will catch up to them, and he wants out. But will the leader of the syndicate, known only as the King of Hearts, permit him to leave the organisation?


The movie was shot in Spain and makes use of some reasonably impressive locations. Director Jeremy Summers, an Englishman, has spent most of his career in television, this being one of his few feature films. He manages to pull off a few fairly impressive action set-pieces, such as the pursuit of Fernando in the junkyard and the fight among the abandoned railway carriages. All in all he does a competent job although the pacing might have been benefited from being accelerated just a little.

Vincent Price is good, as always, but really should have been given more to do. In particular more should have been made of his character’s skills as an illusionist although they are used effectively in one brief scene. George Nader gets more screen time and while he’s an adequate hero he doesn’t have the presence of a Vincent Price.


Martha Hyer is quite good as Rebecca, Wolfgang Kieling makes the most of his role as Inspector Emil while Yelena Samarina is excellent as the sadistic madam of the brothel, Madam Viera. European cult favourite Maria Rohm pops up in a small role.

There’s no sex or nudity and while there’s plenty of violence none of it is in any way graphic. There is the hint of perversity that you expect from a 1960s European exploitation movie, most of this perversity being provided by the villainous Madam Viera.

MGM have provided a good 16x9 enhanced transfer preserving the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. It’s a barebones release, as you tend to expect from MGM, and it’s quite expensive.

House of 1,000 Dolls has some of the feel of the eurospy movies that were so popular at the time bit it needed to be a bit more over-the-top. As it stands it’s reasonably entertaining in an undemanding way. Worth a rental.

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