Kenny Everett horror film found
The British comedian Kenny Everett made a film, and it wasn't a Captain Kremmen film, it was actually a horror comedy which poked fun at the staple Hammer Horror films of the time and carried Everett's usual style of comedy, which was hilarious.
Bloodbath at the House of Death was released to a lacklustre reception, despite receiving the Best Science-Fiction Film award at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film, and the film was lost in storage for ever more. Until now.
Bloodbath at the House of Death is to receive a DVD release, some twenty four years after being filmed and thirteen years after the comedian's death.
The film sees six scientists arrive at a creepy mansion called Headstone Manor to investigate a satanic cult massacre that took place there some six years prior.
It received an eighteen certificate and, according to The Guardian who have seen it, is apparently rather gory. Not only does it have a dig at the old Hammer Horror films but also such films as The Entity, Poltergeist and even Alien, most of which are under the remake hammer.
The film also marks the last on screen appearance of Vincent Price, that legend in the world of horror films, typically playing the creepy villain of the film. It also stars Pamela Stephenson, Gareth Hunt, as well as Kenny Everett himself and other recognisable names from television.
However it doesn't appear to be that good a film as Laurence Myers, one of the original producers recalls.
“It's a fairly terrible film...I recall showing it to [censor] James Ferman who thought it was fine and funny enough, but thought we were showing him the reels in the wrong order. We weren't - the film just doesn't make sense.”
I think that's damning enough, and rather sad considering it was Kenny Everett's first foray into film and marked the end of his television career. However, as Myers points out, it doesn't always matter if it's rubbish:
“It's not the film I want on my headstone or in my obituary when I die, but it's not without fans. It doesn't matter if a film is regarded as part of our national heritage or some rubbish like that, audiences couldn't care less about that stuff. They either like it or they don't.”
Bad or not, I think this does mark an important part of British television and film history. Everett was a superb comic who made a huge impact on television, and his only film outing was set to be lost in a vault accumulating a huge storage bill. It was a small company called Nucleus Films that saved it.
The head of Nucleus Films, Marc Norris, talks about the problem that these old and forgotten films face over in The Guardian article, and it makes interesting reading. If there is a master copy kept it's usually by the lab that made the final print, but these labs are like any other business and can close down and change hands, that still leaves the original print sitting in some vault somewhere.
Of course sometimes they are sold off to private investors as the companies close or push for free space, sometimes the films are kept and the new company takes over the vault, sometimes they just sit there rotting away in a room.
“Films may even be stowed away under their production title, one that may bear no relation to the one used when released into cinemas...
Every day I am faced in my office by a wall of old VHS tapes...I'm constantly asking myself: 'What here isn't available on DVD?' Bloodbath kept leaping out at me. There were no prints of Bloodbath to be found and it wasn't even sold to television so we had nothing to fall back on. The original negative had to be found.”
Tracking them down, and the owners who retain the rights to them, can be a tricky and costly business, but the real cost comes when someone wants to recover the film because that's when the lab want paid for their storage costs to date.
“The labs store and preserve these films for decades in controlled environments. They're not charities and these things cost money. Many movie owners simply abandon the negative rather than pay hefty costs. If this happens the film is usually thrown out, a fate that's far too common.”
It's incredible to think that such a small film as Bloodbath at the House of Death managed to accrue twenty five thousand pounds in charges and that these had to be paid before the labs would release the film. What that meant was that it just wasn't viable to retrieve and restore it so the film would just be left to rot and accrue more charges until it was thrown out.
However the lab involved did a deal with the DVD company. Realising that they wouldn't receive anything unless the film was restored and released, they brought down the costs. Now that means that Bloodbath at the House of Death is going to see a DVD release from an almost perfect negative, and the film will be saved from destruction.
It's great that this film is now available for Kenny Everett fans to see, but what is sad is that there are hundreds of thousands of films sitting rotting and facing a possibly bleak future, destruction, sale or just to be plain forgotten about.
Oh, and don't be thinking it's just obscure rubbish to be seen, you'll remember the full print of Fritz Lang's Metropolis was just recovered, just think what else is out there, and what else has died.
While Hollywood remakes everything, we could be losing the originals forever.