Ghosts, Horror, Supernatural

The Dungeon of Harrow / Death By Invitation (1962 / 1971)

Comments Off on The Dungeon of Harrow / Death By Invitation (1962 / 1971) 20 August 2013

Dungeon-of-Harrow-Death-by-Invitation

Studio: Vinegar Syndrome

Theatrical Release: 1962 / 1971

DVD Release: May 7, 2013

Director(s): Pat Boyette / Ken Friedman

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

Vinegar Syndrome’s double feature DVD puts the adult film genre on the back burner this time and decides to focus its attention on some obscure horror films that have rarely been seen. Neither films I have ever heard of but after doing some research it looks like The Dungeon of Harrow has a small cult following as it used to be played quite frequently on late night TV.

The Dungeon of Harrow, to put it bluntly, is just an awful film. It’s so cheap that it makes some of Roger Corman’s lowest budgeted films look like a Michael Bay Hollywood blockbuster. Set in 1870, The Dungeon of Harrow starts off during a rain storm where a boat is ready to sink and tip over (the sets shake back and forth and stock sound effects of loud, over the top “swishing” noises are played loudly in the back ground). The ship eventually sinks and just the captain and one crew member who happens to be the son of the man who built the boat, Harrow, both survive and take refuge on an island.

dungeon of harrow

Little do they know, an evil count with a wide range of strange people / family members live with him in this castle. The count is visited by a ghost who convinces him that he is a reincarnation of his inner evil and that pirates are on the island looking for the Count and his money. Harrow meets up with Cassandra, the count’s private nurse and the two join forces to escape off the island and away from this bizarre group of individuals.

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Shot in San Antonio, TX, The Dungeon of Harrow has plastic bats and rubber spiders, characters accidentally missing their marks or lines, inept acting, amateurish directing and the greatest cardinal sin of any movie: it’s boring. I can enjoy bad movies or low budget films but when the movie gets boring and stops trying, I lose all interest. My interest was lost within 15 minutes of The Dungeon of Harrow. It doesn’t help that the picture and sound are really bad. The picture is so dark and murky at times, I couldn’t tell what was going on. Maybe that was for the best.

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Death by Invitation was more enjoyable but the film suffers from being dull with a slow and difficult to understand plot. Death by Invitation starts off with a woman being dragged through an old New England-type town where the townsfolk declare her a witch. Before she is sentenced, the film jumps to modern day (well, 1971) as a dysfunctional family sit down for dinner but are interrupted by a friend of the family named Lise (the same woman who was a witch). The woman’s flamboyant lifestyle interests the children at the table but upsets the strict father and after much yelling, dinner is over. As Lise goes home, she seduces one of the older boys in her home and kills him. The rest of the film is treated like a made for TV drama as the family searches for this boy, even though we all know that he’s dead, thus losing any suspense this film might have earned.

death by invitation

With very little action or anything remotely interesting, Death by Invitation is a poorly executed mess of a movie. The strange revenge plot makes little sense and the climax of the film is both confusing and laughable. It’s a shame too since I rather enjoyed some of the atmosphere like the opening witch trial and some of the 70’s clothing and hair styles. I also thought that Shelby Leverington who plays Lise is quite good (it’s hard for me however to think of her in anything else but in 1984’s Cloak and Dagger) as the spooky and mysterious woman bent for revenge.

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The picture quality and sound are much more clearer and look surprisingly well, despite its obscure status. This is also accompanied by a rather strange audio commentary by a group of guys who do a podcast called The Hysteria Continues that mostly center on slasher films which this is not. Right away, they admit to not even liking this film and soon turns into a MS3K commentary which I lost interest in quickly.

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While I love what Vinegar Syndrome has been doing for these lost films and the fact they have been keeping alive the spirit of the old grindhouse double feature, I am still not blown away by the quality of these movies. Both films are just downright bad and really hard to sit through.

Both films Rating: ★½☆☆☆

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