Models, Murders and Mysterious Mansions – Rediscovering ‘The House That Vanished’ (UK 1974 – 96 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - January 07, 2015
Models, Murders and Mysterious Mansions –  Rediscovering ‘The House That Vanished’ (UK 1974 – 96 mins)

Also known as ‘Scream…and Die!’, José Ramón Larraz’s obscure British thriller ‘The House That Vanished’ is a pretty standard and predictable picture, but one that’s laced with plenty of atmosphere and erotic moments to keep most fans of 70’s exploitation entertained throughout.

After witnessing a brutal murder at an old country house, beautiful model Valerie Jennings (Andrea Allan) soon realises that she may be the killer’s next victim. Her no-good boyfriend Terry (Alex Leppard) has also disappeared, and a photo of her which was in her car near the murder scene, has also vanished. With nobody believing her story, Valerie now fears for her life as the killer soon tracks her down.

Although the title’s somewhat misleading and the movie lacks real suspense, ‘The House That Vanished’ does have a surreal feel and an eerie gothic ambience to it, even if the killer is fairly easy to guess.

After a few brief roles in the Sixties, and a recurring part in the Sci-fi series ‘UFO’ (’70-’71), beautiful 27 year old Andrea Allan had fun roles in the David Niven spoof ‘Vampira’ (’74) and the Leslie Phillips/Terry Thomas comedy ‘Spanish Fly’ (’76), before she changed her name and disappeared from the scene a few years later. Here, Andrea has her largest and best role and it’s a pity she was unable to get better work later on. Larraz regular Karl Lanchbury plays Paul, a psychotic young man who befriends Valerie and is having an incestuous relationship with his attractive aunt. This was his fourth and final collaboration with the director, and after a small role in the soft-core flick ‘Erotic Inferno’ (’76) Lanchbury retired from the screen altogether. Horror and sex comedy regular; Judy Matheson, plays Valerie’s best friend in what was her final movie before seeing out her career in television. Maggie Walker has the memorable role of Paul’s aunt Susannah, who engages in a quite explicit love-making scene with her oddball nephew.

This was Spanish director José Ramón Larraz’s third British horror picture of 1974 and, like most of his output, there’s plenty of nudity and salacious goings on to be had. There’s the usual black-gloved killer but also a creepy stalking scene in an isolated scrapyard which shows some panache. The movie is a step up from Larraz’s first two British features; ‘Whirlpool’ (’70) and ‘Deviation’ (’71), which also starred Karl Lanchbury, but not as good as his other two from 1974, ‘Symptoms’ and the masterful ‘Vampyres’. Writer Derek Ford went on to direct the sexploitation pictures ‘Keep It Up, Jack’ (’75) and ‘What’s Up Superdoc!’ (’78), and also wrote the Edmund Purdom holiday slasher ‘Don’t Open Till Christmas’ (’84).

Although the story is fairly predictable, I love the atmosphere that a lot of these early 70’s British chillers convey, and Larraz showed on numerous occasions that he was adept at creating a sense of impending dread. He makes excellent use of the English autumnal landscape, and mixes unnerving music to scenes of the killer lurking around the foggy countryside. Like most of his movies though, ‘The House That Vanished’ may be too slowly paced for some, but I still find it a rather enduring, if lesser work, from a sometimes misunderstood and talented film-maker.

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