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“Murderers aren’t born with horns. They look just like you and me.”
on 26 June 2015
Long forgotten quota quickie The House in the Woods was clearly aiming for a slice of the Edgar Wallace Presents market, with its three-hander limited largely to one location and a plot that’s a slow boiler even at just an hour long. Mr. Sex himself, Michael Gough (who comes perilously close to have a nude scene despite it being 1957) is a writer frustrated by the constant clamour of people in general and his constantly partying neighbours in particular, so when he and upbeat wife Patricia Roc hear of a cottage renting cheap it seems like a dream come true. It looks even more inviting when its owner, Ronald Howard’s Larry Adler-obsessed artist still mooning over his long dead wife, takes a shine to them and asks them to stay as his non-paying guests until the paperwork comes through. He even offers to paint her portrait into the bargain. But Gough becomes increasingly suspicious about why he doesn’t want them to go into the woods or when his wife really died…
The kind of film audiences saw more by accident than design, when it finally gets round to revealing its hand, the idea is a neat enough one if a little tortuously contrived, but the resolution is rather clumsy and revolves around one of the characters behaving very stupidly. Gough and Roc are reliable if unexciting leads but the real surprise is former TV Sherlock Holmes Howard, moving somewhat outside his usual typecast comfort zone as decent but dull Victorians and Edwardians and clearly relishing the opportunity to underplay their new landlord, who’s either a bit on the Bohemian side or a murderer. It’s not much of a guessing game which in this kind of film, but if tension or thrills are lacking it ticks over inoffensively enough in its supporting feature way.
Unfortunately the master material available for the Network’s DVD release has heard better days – aside from a couple of breaks the picture quality is acceptable if unexceptional, but the soundtrack is often muddy, presumably due to poor storage (it’s hard to imagine this one being taken off the shelf much in the past 57 years. No extras.