House of Mystery (1934) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

House of Mystery (1934) Review

Horrorific content by TE Simmons on October 19th, 2021 | Movie Review | Comedy, Cursed, Classic Horror

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It’s about a Hindu temple curse, tom-toms, a séance, some mysterious incense, a killer ape, a mostly mute plumber, and plenty of laughs! 

House of Mystery was directed by William Night (who also directed Where Are Your Children? and Are These Your Parents?) with a screenplay by Albert DeMond (The Crimson Ghost) adapting the play “The Ape” – which was adapted in another film, aping this one (The Ape). It stars Clay Clement as archeologist John Prendergast.

Who – or what – is killing off the assembled house guests one by one? 

House of Mystery Review

John Prendergast is no Indiana Jones. He’s arrived in India to sack some treasure. But he drinks too much, double-crosses his backers, and seduces a temple dancer. After drunkenly killing a temple monkey, a priest curses him – the Curse of Kali – by means of a reanimated stuffed gorilla.  

Fast forward ten years. Prendergast now lives a shadowy existence under the alias Pren, wheelchair-bound in a dark American mansion along with the temple dancer, Chanda. Seemingly wracked with guilt, he re-assembles the surviving shareholders who financed his Indian expedition with the aim of returning their share of the temple loot with one caveat – that’s right, the Curse of Kali. 

You see, Prendergast suspects that the Curse of Kali will attach to anyone to whom he distributes some of the treasure. So, to ensure that each of the shareholders can provide informed consent to the risks involved, he insists that they stay in his ape-haunted mansion and see for themselves the mystical danger they might be putting themselves in. They agree. And then the murders start. 

B movies peaked in the 1950’s with directors like Ed Wood and William Castle. But there are cheesy flicks from every era, including the 1930’s. House of Mystery is horribly acted and horrendously scripted. The jokes are so bad they’re hilarious. Still, the directing is tight and efficient.

Two of the actors are English. Neither really needs to be for the plot to work, but they’re straight from the British Isles, according to their back stories. And neither of them even attempts to fake a British accent. They just deliver straight American inflection. 

When a clairvoyant companion of one of the house guests offers up a séance to figure out who’s behind the killings – whether he be ape or man – she calls on Pocohontas (the Powhatan woman associated with the Jamestown settlement) for help. (Perhaps you’ve seen the Disney film.) 

Why? Well, for no reason whatsoever. 

The jokes are poor the first time they’re delivered and downright painful as they’re repeated. How many times can the eager insurance salesman offer a policy for sale? How frequently will the absent-minded professor misplace something? You’ll be surprised. 

Worth Watching?

Yes. Heck, yes. If you can’t enjoy a film like House of Mystery, you’ve been working too hard.

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