The Dungeon of Harrow & Death by Invitation

Production Year: 1962 / 1971
Release Date: 05/07/2013
Studio: Vinegar Syndrome
Collection Number: 1261

Here we have yet another double feature from Vinegar Syndrome who have stepped away from sexploitation to offer us a more "horrified" double bill this time around.

The first film is 1962's The Dungeon of Harrow.  Harrow is about a shipwrecked man, Aaron Fallon (Russ Harvey) who finds himself on an island ruled by an insane Count (William McNutly.)  Sure enough he ends up getting himself held captive in the old Count's dilapidated castle.  Eventually he meets a nubile young gal who is also being held against her will and together they plan to escape the Count's wrath.

There is a bit I am leaving out, along the way you meet the Count's leper wife, there's a handful of torture scenes, plenty of cob webs and eerie shadows, along with a nice twisted ending to finish the film.  A very different selection from the company than I've been used to and it's certainly a welcome change.  Harrow is most definitely inspired by those horror films of yore and it wears it's influences on it's sleeve.

It's also important to note that this film is entirely a Texas production, and while it used local actors and locations you would never guess that it was film so close to (my) home.  Pat Boyette handled directing and writing duties.  Prior to the film Boyette was mostly known for his work in the comic industry which probably wouldn't surprise viewers as it certainly has that pre-code 'comicy' feel to it.  I dug the film.  It was as shlocky as fun and enjoyable.  Much like Vinegar's past Drive-In Collection releases this film suffers from bit of the elements.  While it is a remastered print, it certainly has signs of damage throughout the film.  Nothing that's going to make you want to turn off your set though.  With some films out there you yearn for perfection, however I've found with older movies like this the occasional rough spots are almost endearing.

Alright, onto 1971's Death By Invitation.  For those of you who follow the company you might recall this was originally packed with Savage Water before the disc was recalled.  There ended up being an issue with Savage Water so the company decided to stick this with Dungeon as to give fans a chance to sang the film.  While I wouldn't mind tracking down the past release one day I'm happy to have this current one sitting in front of me.  Death by Invitation is a tale of revenge wrapped up in a witch story.  The first shots of the film you see happen to be an impromptu witch trial which ends in the death of a woman.  Wrongfully accused or not there is a curse put on the accuser which will go on to haunt his family for generations.

Fast forward to present day (er, present when this was released.) and Lise (Shelby Leverington, decedent of the witch) believes she has found the family guilty of condemning her.  The Vroots; a bit of a disfunctional family unit end up being infiltrated by Lise and it doesn't take too long for very bad things to start happening. Of course the family doesn't seem to be able to put two and two together so you can be sure that more people will mysteriously die.

Leveringston easily carries this movie as the vengeful witch making it very hard to believe this was her first role.  She does marvelous in the film and it's very easy to side with her cause especially during her various monologues throughout the film.  While I love occult based films, this movie had a few issue here and there, mainly with the pacing.  A lot of the scenes with the Vroots tend to drag a little (though both films could be considering "slow,") especially one scene in particular set in Pete Vroot's (Aaron Phillips playing the head of the family) office where the bad music seems to drown out the dialogue and turned the scene into a near shouting match.

I'm still not sure as to the intentions with said shot, but it's a good way to transition into the technical side of things.  This film also suffers from a bit of damage, what you see is derived from a new transfer however sometimes prints are beat up and there's not a lot you can do to fix things without making other aspects of the natural film suffer.  It's good when companies take a step back and present things "as is" without tampering too much.  The audio also has a few age related issues though much like the last film it's nothing that would cause me to knock points off the release.  This film also has the good fortune of getting a commentary.

As mentioned this release is more straight forward horror, while there certainly are some exploitation elements mixed in there's not enough to deem this a s/exploitation billing.  It certainly is a nice change of pace though and I hope the company branches out into other genres in the future.

This DVD will be released next week and can be pre-ordered here.


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