Monday, 8 June 2015

The City of the Dead [US: Horror Hotel] (1960, John Llewellyn Moxey)

Lee's Lovecraftian loveliness.

"The City of the Dead", known in the US by the somewhat more rubbish title of "Horror Hotel" - which both says nothing about the plot and makes the film sound like a downmarket B-flick, which it most decidedly is not - is something of a neglected classic among horror films.

College student Nan Barlow (played by the lovely Venetia Stevenson) attends the classes of Professor Alan Driscoll (master of the macabre Christopher Lee). The syllabus of this particular educational establishment is somewhat odd, carrying as it does seminars on witchcraft and the occult: Prof Driscoll's speciality. Nan's interest is piqued by his tales of the witch trials of old New England, and the potty prof directs her to take a trip to the Raven Inn in the town of Whitewood, scene of an infamous witch burning. Of course, this being a horror flick, Nan's holiday does not go according to plan: picking up a mysterious hitchhiker played by the Man in Black himself, Valentine Dyall, being her first mistake.

Director John Llewellyn Moxey, who went on to make a name for himself in TV movies, proves himself in this - his debut feature - with a knack for roaming cameras, spooky angles, and a wonderful fogbound (and studio-bound) village set. The cast are uniformly good, particularly Sir Chris of Dracula, the aforementioned Mr Dyall, and Patricia Jessell as the reincarnated witch with a sideline as a small town hotelier.

The film has a great eerie atmosphere, and gives the feeling of an HP Lovecraft tale without being based on any of his stories. Highly recommended to any audience willing to enjoy a spooky thrill in the wee hours of the morn.


  1. Horror Hotel is a terrible alternate title I agree. This actually looks pretty awesome, I'm always up for a flim that can channel the spirit of my favourite horror writer.

  2. I highly recommend. It's great little underappreciated slice of darkness.

  3. I've stuck on my ever lenghtening list of films to get a hold of. Sometimes being poor is annoying.

  4. 'The' is all caps; 'City' is spelled like a proper noun; 'of the' is all caps; and 'dead' is all lower case. I'm confused.

  5. I'm not sure if poster fonts are canonical, so i'm not too worried. I know that Peter Cushing complained once about the poster for Hammer's 'The Mummy', showing a torch beam passing straight through the mummy's chest. He protested that it made no sense, as the mummy isn't a ghost, and made them put a scene in the film where he runs it through with a harpoon. The Cush: keeper of canon & continuity.

  6. That level of pedantry is something I can only applaud.