Horror, Thriller

House on Straw Hill (1976)

Comments Off on House on Straw Hill (1976) 05 January 2014

House blu

Studio: Severin

Theatrical Release: March 1976

Blu Ray Release: October 8, 2013

Director: James Kenelm Clarke

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

I have been anxiously anticipating the uncut version of House on Straw Hill for many years now and when I heard Severin was going to release a blu ray of it, I couldn’t wait. I remember seeing an edited version on VHS back in the early 90’s and feeling let down, knowing that I was missing something that my teenage eyes shouldn’t see. I was on a Udo Kier kick too, having just seen Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, Andy Warhol’s Dracula and Mark of the Devil. The version I saw seemed incoherent. Now, after seeing the blu ray with all of the nudity and violence inserted back in, it still doesn’t make much sense.

Udo Kier, in a ridiculously dubbed voice, plays author Paul Martin. After the success of his first book, Paul ventures into the English countryside to start work on his new book. While Paul stays at this summer house, he begins to have visions and nightmares of a man coming to see him and blood covering Paul’s body. He even gets these odd visions while making love to his beautiful lover Suzanne (Fiona Richmond) who doesn’t notice that Paul is kind of a whack job.

House on straw hill

Paul hires a secretary named Linda (Linda Hayden) to take dictation as he writes his new book. When Linda arrives, he notices how beautiful she is but also how mysterious she can be as well. Paul spies on her, looks thru her suitcase and even watches her sleep. Linda also seems to be much more intelligent than he anticipated and tries to help Paul in writing his new book which seems to get under his skin. Unbeknownst to Paul, Linda is raped one day while she is masturbating in the straw fields outside the house and is able to kill off her attackers. While this scene was one of the ones that was edited heavily when I saw it, it still remains out of place and just abruptly odd.

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It’s no mystery that Linda has more psychological issues than Paul and when Suzanne is seduced by Linda and soon attacked, its pretty clear that Linda is going to get or try to get Paul next. But why?

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House on Straw Hill was notorious for being the only British film that got thrown on the list of the Video Nasties back in the 80’s in the UK. For those that don’t know what the Video Nasties were, it was a list of films, mostly horror, that had strong amounts of violence which were banned in the country. Video stores who had copies of these films were fined with some owners even thrown in prison (for those interested, the limited pressings of House on Straw Hill contain an extra disc of the documentary Ban the Sadist Videos which is all about the Video Nasties and what was the cause of all the stir. I highly recommend checking that out). But House on Straw Hill really doesn’t have much graphic violence, if any. I really can’t see this film being listed with other “nasties” such as Driller Killer or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. However, there is a far amount of nudity and sex though that may cause some viewers to blush.

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And that may be where the problem lies in House on Straw Hill…nothing happens. The film goes rather dull pretty quickly with only a few scenes of sex and nudity to keep the viewer interested. The aloof ending doesn’t make matters any better either and one is left wondering what was the whole point of the movie. While the actors do their best (Linda Hayden is drop dead gorgeous to watch) and some of the scenery is quite pretty, the movie is a pointless drag. Maybe I am biased since I had anticipated something much better since I had waited all these years to see the original version.

Severin goes well and above in trying to get the most uncut print possible of this notorious thriller and due to some severe water damage to the negative, the picture doesn’t quite look so good. They do try their best but colors are still faded and there is noticeable damage to the film like splices and burn marks. The English language mono soundtrack can at times be hard to hear as well, causing one to grab the remote to turn the volume up from time to time. There is an interesting commentary track by director Clarke and producer Brian Smedley-Aston. There is also a strange trailer that’s under the alternate title Expose. And finally a really lengthy interview with actress Hayden who talks about her horror film career but ultimately doesn’t have any nice things to say about House on Straw Hill, the only film she regrets making.

Linda Hayden

Thankfully, House on Straw Hill only runs 84 minutes so the movie isn’t a complete waste of time. The actors do their best, the photography is nice to look at and there is plenty of nude scenes to help pass the time.

Movie Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Blu Ray Rating: ★★★☆☆

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