October 15, 2014
Mansion of the Doomed was released way back in 1976 and was clearly aimed at the exploitation and drive in market. It was directed by character actor Michael Pataki (Star Trek, Halloween 4, The Flying Nun). While it is notable for that, it is probably more notable as being one of the oldest productions of a one Charles Band, not to mention his first horror film. On top of that, this is one of the earliest film appearances of Lance Henriksen, and if you don't know who that is, stop reading and go check out some of the awesome movies he has appeared in. It was written by Frank Ray Perilli, who also wrote Laserblast and the story that became Alligator.
The movie stars Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, opening narration to Knight Rider) as Dr. Chaney, a surgeon with your typical god-complex. He lies with his daughter, who was blinded in a tragic car accident, in which our good doctor was behind the wheel. This has sent him down a path that pushes the boundaries of science and calls into question some serious moral and ethical quandaries. Basically, he will stop at nothing in his efforts to give his daughter back her sight.
Chaney embarks on a series of experiments involving the transplantation of eyes. This is the entire eye, mind you, not just the cornea, that part is just not enough. To go a step further, his experiments show that the subjects need to be alive at the time of the transplant, no cadaver eyeballs will do. After proving the viability on dogs, he has moved onto people. The only problem is that the donor will be losing their eyesight. Now, who wants that? Not I, that I can assure you.
With the help of a loyal nurse, Katherine (Gloria Grahame from It’s a Wonderful Life, Oklahoma!), Chaney brings in unwilling donors and uses them for his experiments. With each failed attempt he must acquire new donors. Now, these people are not released, or even killed, they are caged in the basement, left to wail into the darkness. This cycle continues until the suitably dark ending arrives to usher in the closing credits and spit us back out into the dark.
This is not a particularly good movie and the plot does not offer much of the get donor, perform surgery, fail, repeat formula, but it still manages to be quite effective. Our villain is not so much a villain as a misguided guy who goes to terrible lengths to try and achieve his goals. He isn't doing this to be cruel, to torture, or to punish, but out of responsibility to his daughter. It is still hard to really defend him, but it is more understandable. There is no doubt that he should not doubt he should not do it, but still. However, motives aside, he is a nasty guy.
Mansion of the Doomed is a grimy little movie that will hold your attention through to the end. I must admit, it was certainly better than I was expecting it to be. Don't expect this to be the next great cult movie, but it is definitely a good film and certainly worth spending some time with.
Posted by Christopher Beaumont at 10/15/2014 08:03:00 PM
Labels: 1970s, 1976, Charles Band, Horror, Horror-A-Day, Lance Henriksen, Michael Pataki, Movie Review, Richard Basehart, Surgical Horror
Chris has been an avid movie watcher for decades, getting into the writing game in 2004. Since that time he has contributed to a number online publications as well as running CriticalOutcast.com. In addition to movies, Chris is a big fan of music, particularly metal, and will never give up hope on his beloved Mets.