What do you get if you mix a bevy of beautiful babes, a handful of murders, some female mud wrestling and Vincent Price as an eccentric stage magician?

Jeremy Summer’s 1967 exploitation thriller House Of 1,000 Dolls is the answer, about to be released in the UK for the first time thanks to Medium Rare Entertainment.

To be fair, that opening salvo makes the whole thing sound a lot more lurid (and entertaining) than it actually is, but the flick still more than holds the attention.

A lot of that is naturally down to Price, an actor who I have loved ever since being sucked into the Poe/Corman films when I was still at school.

In fact, one of my prized possessions is a signed cheque of Price’s, neatly framed in my film room at home.

As was often the way, the American star plays the villain here, the outlandish Felix Manderville, a magician whose speciality is making women disappear on stage.House of 1,000 Dolls

There is a sinister side to his activities though, as these women are then captured to be part of a sex-trafficking trade, based at the titular house.

To try and evade suspicion, Manderville and his assistant/partner Rebecca (Martha Hyer), move swiftly from country to country.

But when in Tangiers the situation becomes more dicey for them with the arrival of Fernando (Sancho Gracia), who has tracked the terrible twosome to Morocco after his missus was swiped in Vienna.

Fernando meets a grisly end, but that only alerts the attention of pal Stephen Armstrong (George Nader) – especially as Fernando had divulged his fears and intentions.

Stephen decides to try and become the hero by digging around in the murky situation (and naturally paying a visit to the house himself of course), offering plenty of opportunity for director Summer to parade a while host of scantily-clad women from across the globe.

It never goes that far though and at times I did hope the project had been handed to the likes of Mario Bava, who undoubtedly would have taken what is pretty dark material in a more fulfilling direction.

As it stands, director Summer – a veteran of TV hits such as The Saint and Jason King, keeps things very much in that vein – fast-paced and very colourful.

The locations (actually filmed in Spain) add a nice edge to proceedings and it makes a pleasant change to see a film of this ilk shot (and set) in a different part of the world, even if it does mean we get some of that awful dubbing we all know and love in Euro flicks.

Price is as good as always, adding enough layers to his portrayal to ensure that Manderville never becomes an over-the-top villain he could easily have become, and there is a good flow to the scenes involving him and Nader.

There is also solid support from the likes of Maria Rohm, who also popped up in another Medium Rare release, The Bloody Judge.

House of 1,000 dolls is an oddball curiosity no doubt, but it is also an entertaining one.

 

Extras: Slideshow

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.