It has to be said that comedian Kenny Everett was quite an influential figure in early 80s British pop culture. The former radio show star who went on to host his own comedy/ music series- The Kenny Everett Television show- which featured off the wall characters such as Sid Snot, Cupid Stunt, and ‘Angry of Mayfair- was a staple of British household viewing for the era. Being one not afraid to break boundaries with his risqué humour Everett often found himself up against TV bosses as a result. But as a free spirit this was one star that could not be contained, and so it is that it appears everything he put his hand to carried the undeniable spirit that came with his charismatic and irresistible persona. His horror/comedy film Bloodbath at the House of Death, is no different. Kenny had his own particular brand of comedy, – heavily influenced by other manic comedians such as the late, great, Spike Milligan- and although this is an ensemble piece his influence and energy runs riot throughout. The result is a feature that is undeniably a Kenny Everett vehicle with most of the other stars, to some extent, unable to compete with the star’s enormous screen presence . This is a film I admit to having a huge personal affection for. Growing up I was a big fan of Everett- who sadly lost his fight for life to an AIDs related illness in 1995. His own comic style shining out amongst the rest of the rather limited and boring British television during this period. It is not surprising that Bloodbath at the House of Death should follow the same rules as Everett’s show in being pretty far out as far as the laughs are played- but then given that Ray Cameron, the writer of The Kenny Everett Show, not only directed this, but had a hand in penning this little number, it should come as no surprise. The plot is literally loaded with plenty of silliness, which a respectable amount of groan inducing double entendres thrown in for good measure.
The story follows a group of scientists who visit Headstone Manor following a series of strange deaths. We have Kenny Everett playing Dr Lucas Mandeville. The doctor in a former career (then named Ludwig Manheim) was a respected surgeon but we learn lost his reputation in a bizarre monocle episode during surgery ( the flashback for this is probably one of the most stand out and fantastically blood strewn scenes of the whole piece). Therefore since the episode poor old Mandeville is reduced to investigating the paranormal. He also has a fake leg providing extra comedy value and excuse for him to walk around in a fantastically stupid way. Pamela Stephenson (Superman III, Saturday Night Live and another staple of the early 80s comedy circuit) plays his nerdy, speech impeded, sidekick Dr. Barbara Coyle who is a bit of a nympho on the side. In one fairly hilarious scene and obvious ode to The Entity, we see Ms Stephenson’s fervent appetite satiated by an unseen ghostly entity. This provides the basis of one of the more hilarious scenes where Pamela indulges in a post coital smoke with her invisible suitor as she chats away commending him on his sexual prowess while his cigarette apparently floats in mid-air. We also have Cleo Rocos, close personal friend of Everett, who was featured in most of his tv work. Rocos was well-known for her, shall we say, fairly prominent physical ‘assets’ (her acting certainly was not an asset). While Don Warrington from successful Brit sitcom Rising Damp, and Gareth Hunt (The Avengers) can be found among those playing fellow medical experts staying at the Manor to help in the investigation. To top it off there is a rather fabulous, but small, role for the ever wonderful Vincent Price, who plays the leader of a satanic cult, and takes the role on in particularly campy glory. The film is worth watching for the scene in which Price speaks the line ‘piss off?’ ,while clad in dark priest ritual robes, if nothing more!
The plot is pretty whacked out, as far as plots go, but then for those familar with Everett’s TV work there is nothing new there. In trying to establish the cause of the series of rather grizzly deaths the cast are preyed upon by an unknown killer. We also have a sub plot in that the villagers are all involved in some sort of cult, and strange satanic symbols keep showing up. To try and follow with any logic is a hopeless task, but it matters not one bit as it plays out in splendid manic-depressive style. This gives scope for all manner of crazy deaths and bonkers flashbacks, and there are plenty of nods to other films popular at the time such as The Entity, Carrie, Alien, The Shining, Amityville Horror and even Star Wars. Never before have I ever witnessed death by tin-opener in such graphic style! surprisingly for a early 80’s British comedy- there is no scrimping on the grue. The deaths involved are pretty impressive for the time and place, making for a particular highlight and quite a grisly undertone that contrasts perfectly with the buoyant tone in some of the lighter moments. Twinned with the laugh out loud comedy it makes for a decent serving of Brit flavoured bad taste humour that will appeal to all of those who revel in laughing at the inappropriate.