[31 Days of Horror: Resurrection] Day 16 – The Dungeon of Harrow (1964)

Director: Pat Boyette
Cast: Russ Harvey, Helen Hogan, William McNulty, Michelle Buquor
Screenplay: Pat Boyette, Henry Garcia
86 mins. Not Rated.

The 1960s were such an interesting transitory period for horror films. It was the end of the more focused, quieter black-and-white films and a beginning of the Hammer and the copycat-Hammer color horror, which has this beautiful color palette that only existed for a few years beyond it. It’s a time period we won’t ever get back to, and it’s one that stands the test of decades. Much like its sibling decades, there are good ones, bad ones, and a whole in between. Today’s film leans a bit too much toward the bad.

It’s the 1870s, and a disaster at sea leaves only two survivors, one of them being Aaron Fallon (Russ Harvey, No Man’s Land). Washed ashore on an island beach, they eventually find their way to a desolate castle, the residence of Count Lorente de Sade (William McNulty, How You Look to Me). As Aaron and the ship’s captain search for an escape and return to society, it becomes clear their host is not quite mentally sound. The Count believes that Aaron and the captain are pirates intent on robbing and killing him, and he intends to stop them by any deadly force possible.

It’s hard to view any part of this film without the obvious ascertion that it’s just so damn boring. Looking into some of the behind-the-scenes of it all, it appears that the studio who picked up the film forced a 90-minute run time, leading to 20 minutes of “deleted scenes” being added back into the film, which slowed the whole down to a dreadful crawl. There’s an interesting enough film in there, but so much of the run time is sequences of discussions about nothing, dialogue that doesn’t move character or story, and a lot of fluff which has lost any luster.

As mentioned earlier, I do love the color palette of this time period in film, and if the pacing worked better, I think the Count could be a rather interesting villain. He’s been secluded on this island for who knows how long with his manservant, a nurse, and a young woman he tortures, all of them looking to him as leader. It’s obvious he’s created an unusual dynamic on the island, but we never really get to explore it with worthwhile exchanges. His fear-of-the-other works pretty well, but it’s lost.

Director/co-screenwriter Pat Boyette (The Weird Ones) was unable to complete the film as he desired, but if there’s a silver lining to his tale, it’s the awesome poster that he himself painted, which eventually led to a solid career as a comic book artist. Sometimes, we find our ways down interesting paths. As it stands, The Dungeon of Harrow (or Dungeons of Horror, in some markets) has promise but lacks a narrative drive, and the film crashes at sea, washing ashore a lesser version of itself.

-Kyle A. Goethe

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