From the DVD case: A college student (Venetia Stevenson), with an interest in witchcraft, travels to a foggy, spooky town in Massachusetts and meets with the owner of the Raven’s Inn, Mrs. Newless (Patricia Jessel). Mrs. Newless is in fact a 268-year old witch, who sold her soul to the devil to regain her life after being burned at the stake. Christopher Lee plays Stevenson’s helpful history teacher who along with the town is controlled by the evil witch. When Stevenson’s brother and boyfriend arrive in town to find the missing woman, they discover evil and disgusting happenings going on. (1960, b&w)
Mark Says: Horror Hotel is a brilliant movie saddled with an unfortunate title. You may have heard this movie referred to as City of the Dead, which isn’t much better, but once you get past the campy title, you are in for a real treat.
This is a genuinely eerie film with an interesting plot and great black and white photography. I was surprised, after viewing the movie, that I had never heard of it before. This is certainly an underrated gem.
Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein) has a minor, but significant role. He is at his cool, sinister best as Alan Driscoll, a history professor teaching a course in witchcraft.
However, Christopher Lee does not steal the show; he is surrounded by an outstanding cast of actors. Notable is Patricia Jessel, playing the duel roles of Elizabeth Selwyn and Mrs. Newless, the witch and the witch incarnate, respectively. Valentine Dyall (The Haunting) is suitably creepy as Jethrow Keane, and Norman Macowan (X the Unknown) is unnerving as Reverend Russell.
Venetia Stevenson is the lovely, if slightly naive, Nan Barlow. She’s a likable young woman who really just needs to apply what she has learned. Her boyfriend, played by Tom Naylor, is the only actor that strikes me as a little stiff and not up to par.
Horror Hotel can boast some unusual twists, too, including a shift in protagonists, which is very artful for this time and genre.
I highly recommend this movie, though not everyone shares my enthusiasm (see “personal note,” below).
Horror Hotel is directed by John Llewellyn Moxey.
Scene to watch for: Miss Barlow is caught wearing some pretty unusual underwear for someone in town just to do research.
Line to listen for: “Let me warn you, young fella, they don’t like strangers in Whitewood.”
Fun fact: John Llewellyn Moxey, the director of this film, also directed one of my all-time favorite made-for-tv movies, The Night Stalker.
Personal Note: Of all the movies in my collection, my wife has three she hates so much that she refuses to even entertain the thought of watching them again. One of these movies is Horror Hotel. The other two are Carnival of Souls and Konga.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ! ½ out of 5.