The Haunted House of Horror, also titled Horror House and The Dark is a 1969 British film, an early type of teen "slasher film". It starred Frankie Avalon and Jill Haworth as young adults looking for a thrill by spending the night in an old mansion in the English countryside. Avalon was nearly 30 years old at the time of filming. It was directed by Michael Armstrong who would go on to direct Mark of the Devil.


In swinging London, a group of twenty-something friends are attending a rather dull party, and they decide to gather for kicks at an old supposedly haunted mansion where one of their number used to play as a child. Among the group is American ringleader Chris, his bored partygirl girlfriend Sheila, promiscuous Sylvia who has her eye on handsome two-timing Gary, and his "good girl" date Dorothy. Also tagging along are nervous, heavy-set Madge and her sarcastic, hot-tempered boyfriend Peter, sweet faced Richard, and his friend Henry. They are all followed by Paul Kellet, Sylvia's older jealous married ex-boyfriend.

They have fun exploring the mansion, even holding a seance before separating one by one by candlelight on the moonlit night. Sylvia, frightened by the mansion, leaves and hitchhikes toward home, but Kellet hangs behind at the mansion. While all the partiers are alone, Gary is brutally knifed; his body is discovered by the panic-stricken Dorothy and the others. Since some of them have a criminal record, Chris convinces the group to leave Gary's body far from the home and to pretend that Gary left and no one knows where he went. They are all shaken by Chris' assertion that one of them must be the murderer.

During the next few weeks, the survivors are possessed by tension and guilt, and after Gary is reported missing, they are further shaken by questioning from the police. Kellet confronts Sylvia, learning that she may have lost a lighter that could link them at the mansion. He returns there where he is also killed.

Dorothy calls the survivors together to ask to confess. However, Chris convinces them to return to the house to discover who among them is the killer before they all succumb to a gruesome death. Meanwhile, Sylvia is visited by the police again, and she discloses the location of the house after learning of Kellet's disappearance. At the mansion, Dorothy becomes hysterical, prompting several of the group to depart, leaving just Chris, Sheila, and Richard. While Sheila is out of the room, Richard recounts a tale of how he was locked in a basement for three days as a child and how he has a paralyzing fear of the dark or anyone he suspects will lock him away. Despite Chris' efforts, he is also knifed and Sheila is frantically chased around the mansion. Just as Richard is about to strike, the moon goes behind a cloud, bringing about his reversion to childhood and fear of the dark, thus saving Sheila as the police arrive.


Film Locations

Gates used in the film at Bank Hall.

Film Notes

  • The screenplay by Michael Armstrong was originally entitled The Dark and had been written in 1960 when Armstrong was fifteen.[2]
  • Armstrong rewrote the script in 1967 "further developing its darker psycho-sexual themes and sharpening characters and dialogue to reflect the current cynical underbelly beneath the superficial Sixties culture." He also added a character of Richard to be played by David Bowie.[3] He showed it to John Trevelyan who recommended it to Tony Tenser of Tigon Films.
  • Tenser set up the film with American International Pictures, who wanted it made in England, where it was cheaper to film than the US.
  • AIP insisted a role be written for Boris Karloff who was very ill at the time. Accordingly, Armstrong created the role of a wheelchair-bound detective. However Karloff was too ill to play it and Dennis Price took the role instead. AIP also insisted the two lead characters be Americanised to be played by American actors and for more sex scenes to be added.[3]
  • Michael Armstrong wanted the lead role of Chris played by Ian Ogilvy. However AIP insisted that either Fabian or Frankie Avalon, both of whom were under contract to AIP, play the part. He wanted Jane Merrow to play the female lead but Louis Hewyard of AIP wanted Sue Lyon or Carol Lynley. Jill Haworth was eventually cast.[1][4]
  • Armstrong originally wrote the part of Richard for Peter McEnery but later rewrote it for David Bowie; he was so keen on Bowie he wrote a number of cabaret scenes in early drafts specifically for him. However once Avalon was cast it was considered that Bowie would clash with Frankie Avalon. He was replaced by Noel Janus but objections by Equity led to him being replaced with Julian Barnes (who had originally been cast as Henry).[4][5]
  • Heyward wrote additional scenes for the film, to the dismay of Armstrong. Tenser tried to arrange it so that two versions would be made, Armstrong's and Heyward, but there was not enough money so a fourth draft was written which cobbled together all the drafts.[3]
  • The film's tagline was "Behind its forbidden doors an evil secret hides!"


Additional Footage

  • Sam Arkoff and Jack Nicholson of AIP hated the original cut (which Armstrong says includes Heyward's scenes) and requested new scenes. Armstrong wrote these and handed them to line producer Gerry Levy. Levy ignored Armstrong's scenes and wrote his own additional material, including a romance between Gina Warwick and a new character played by George Sewell. Levy also added two additional killings, a musical number in the opening scene and a revised closing exposition.[1][7]
  • Armstrong says among the scenes missing in the final cut of the movie were a low story between Gary and Sylvia, "twisted sexual meanderings of the characters", satire of the youth scene and a homosexual subplot.[1][4]


The film's box office performance was reasonable.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e John Hamilton, Beasts in the Cellar: The Exploitation Film Career of Tony Tenser, Fab Press, 2005 p 130-134, 186-188
  2. ^ "Haunted House of Horror script" at Michael Armstrong online accessed 13 April 2014
  3. ^ a b c "Haunted House of Horror screenplay" at Michael Armstrong online accessed 13 April 2014
  4. ^ a b c "Haunted House of Horror Casting" at Michael Armstrong Online accessed 13 April 2014
  5. ^ The Haunted House of Horror (1969) at imdb.com
  6. ^ "Haunted House of Horror Shoot" at Michael Armstrong online accessed 13 April 2014
  7. ^ "Haunted House of Horror post production" at Michael Armstrong online accessed 13 April 2014

External links