Mysterious houses have not been kind to the fragile male ego in horror films. James Brolin and Ryan Reynolds both succumbed to the madness of the Amityville house in different versions of The Amityville Horrorwhile Jack Nicholson and Steven Webber spiraled into insanity, decades apart, while attending to The Shining’s Overlook Hotel. Similarly, novelist Joel Gregory in 1976’s Death at Love Housefinds himself transported to the brink of erotic hysteria by the lingering essence of a former movie queen in her long shuttered abode.
Efficiently helmed by veteran television director EW Swackhamer, this telefilm is perhaps most notable for its use of such Golden Era greats as Joan Blondell, John Carradine, Dorothy Lamour and Sylvia Sidney. That they all play former rivals of or associates to the glamorous Lorna Love, a kind of Jean Harlow-Marilyn Monroe-Jayne Mansfield hybrid, makes this quick primetime horror a truly fun experience for those lovers of ‘30s and ‘40s cinema. Sidney, as Ciara Joseph, the mansion in question’s caretaker, definitely has the most interesting role, but one has to wonder how this frequently cantankerous presence felt about playing the film’s silly twist in the project’s final reels.
Of course an argument could be made that DALH, piloted around the disintegration of Gregory’s marriage to his wife/collaborator Donna (Kate Jackson) as they work on a project about Love, truly comes alive when LaMour, as coffee commercial queen Denise Christian, reminisces about Love’s evil deeds. Blondell devotees are also sure to admire her hysterical break from reality during the heat of the film’s fiery climax. Whatever your preference, DALH is ultimately high on mysterious mood and thoroughbred nostalgia.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!
One of the prime forces behind the event film, Cecil B. DeMille claimed his 1952 opus was The Greatest Show on Earthbecause he, grandly, showed audiences the glorious (and sometimes gritty) behind the scenes mechanics of the working circus.
Horror freaks, meanwhile, may call it the greatest show, because it matches up two spectacular presences. Here, Gloria Grahame and Dorothy Lamour play Angel and Phyllis, two sassy performers who antagonize each other with their wordplay, but actually share a true bond due to their deep love of the life of the traveling show.
As many actresses before (and after) them, Grahame and Lamour appeared in a number of terror flicks as their careers waned. Grahame enlivened 1971’s Blood and Lace, 1976’s Mansion of the Doomedand 1981’s The Nesting with her Academy Award winning presence. Lamour, meanwhile, added star power to such offerings as 1976’s Death at Love House and 1987’s Creepshow 2.
As fun as those latter day gothic projects are, it may bring true fans more pure joy to beam back in time and see them here, wrapped in DeMille’s loving gaze, being treated like the extraordinary and otherworldly talents that they truly were.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan.
The glorious Dorothy Lamour was probably best known for the multiple Road pictures that she did with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope (and for the vibrant wraparound dresses that she wore in them) in Hollywood’s golden age. There, and in other brightly filmed projects, she often burst into inventive song. Anthology buffs, though, probably know her best as the doomed Martha Spruce in the Old Chief Wooden’head episode of Creepshow 2. Thankfully, she had a much more colorful (and happier) role in Cecil DeMille’s grandiose The Greatest Show on Earth.
Lamour, who also appeared in the fun 1975 television terror Death at Love House also showed some new generation teens how to sell a production number in 1964’s Pajama Party.
Saying sarong…and until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!