Chamber of Horrors (1966)


Borrowing a page from the playbook of producers like William Castle, Al Adamson, Nicholson and Arkoff at AIP and the like, this was a lot of fun for me as a kid with the hokey gimmicks of the “Fear Flasher” and the “Horror Horn” added to prevent the more squeamish members of the audience from dying of sheer fright, (the goosebump-inducing voice of the Narrator in the “Instructional” sequence was none other than CANNON himself, William Conrad, who actually directed one of these horror potboilers for Warner’s, the Dean Jones/Connie Stevens starrer TWO ON A GUILLOTINE.)

This rehash of the definitely superior HOUSE OF WAX with Vincent Price, gives us the grisly tale of serial strangler Jason Cravette (Patrick O’Neal in a bravura performance), who is finally caught literally red-handed as he ritualistically weds and beds his latest victim, ex mortis.

His subsequent escape and its gory consequences, (he goes from being caught red-handed to losing one of them), becomes the fodder for a sensational museum of mass murderers run by suave local entrepreneur Anthony Draco (Cesare Danova, one of Warner’s second-tier matinee idols.) Once worried about operating in the red, soon Draco and his associates, the marvelous Wilfrid Hyde-White and diminuitive sidekick Tun-Tun (the ‘Mini-Me’ of his day) are back in business, as the slippery Cravette gives our heroes and the local authorities more red than they know what to do with, cutting a vengeful swath through the ranks of all those responsible for his near-incarceration.

Hy Averback keeps all the right balls in the air with a speedy and sure sense of direction, and there’s much delightful interplay between the lead characters, especially Danova and Hyde-White. Look closely and not only will you see Tony Curtis in an uncredited cameo, but a baby-faced Wayne Rogers as well, as a very unlucky constable (whom Averback would direct years later in episodes of TV’s M*A*S*H…talk about six-degree associations!)

With the lush photography provided by master d.p. Richard Kline, and a score by William Lava that reminds us that he wasn’t just at Warner’s to provide soundtracks for Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner, this was about as classy as genre-B pics could get for the mid-’60’s, not discounting the efforts of A.I.P. with the Price/Poe films. Not available in any medium that I’m aware of, you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled on AMC or TNT late night to catch this worthy rarity.