Color, 1970, 91 mins. 4 secs.
Directed by Donald Wolfe
Starring Miriam Hopkins, John David Garfield, Gale Sondergaard, Virginia Wing, Florence Lake
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), 88 Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK RB/R2 HD/PAL), Elite Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

The Hollywood Horror Housetrend of using Hollywood Horror Houselegendary actresses from Hollywood's golden age to anchor grisly horror films was already waning when Miriam Hopkins, star of multiple Ernst Lubitsch films and the 1931 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, took her turn with a Tinseltown shocker very much in the mode of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Oversaturation was definitely a problem by the time Hollywood Horror House (also known to VHS fiends as Savage Intruder) was finished in 1970, with most viewers encountering it several years later via Joseph Brenner Associates. By then it looked even more outdated thanks to its barrage of colorful psychedelic effects, not to mention that Hopkins had been deceased for three years by that point and AIP had put a period at the end of the "horror hag" craze with What's the Matter with Helen? Of course, now that the film can be seen outside of those issues it's a nicely pulpy and bizarre snapshot of Hollywood in transition with a few juicy psycho thrills in store, especially its truly perverse final minutes.

After injuring her hip in a drunken fall and winding up confined to a wheelchair, former leading lady Katherine Packard (Hopkins) needs someone to tend to her needs in her desolate Hollywood mansion. Her secretary, Leslie (Sondergaard, The Spider Woman herself) can only do so much; therefore, Katherine decides to bring in young drifter Vic Valance Hollywood Horror House(Garfield, son of star John Garfield), who isn't above taking advantage of the luxuries this new lifestyle has to offer. Unfortunately Vic is also quite nuts and has Hollywood Horror Housetrippy flashbacks to a rampage involving his promiscuous mother and multiple hands getting bloodily lopped off with a hatchet.

As you can already guess, this one-shot film by Donald Wolfe (a Hollywood historian known for his expertise on Marilyn Monroe) throws in plenty of nods to other films apart from Baby Jane like Sunset Blvd., Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The Big Cube, and Eye of the Cat, any of which would pair well with this one. It isn't hard to figure out why Garfield's career didn't exactly take off, but that's easy to overlook given the chance to see Hopkins and Sondergaard (neither shot very flatteringly) strutting their stuff in the twilight of their careers. The theme of a decaying Hollywood is obvious from the outset with some great shots of the legendary sign in a state of extreme disrepair, a solid metaphor for a time when the entire studio system was imploding and entire lots were about to be diced up and sold off. Of course that whole aspect was mostly lost by the time most audiences saw this in the wake of the New Hollywood resurgence, but in its correct context, this is pretty fascinating stuff. Adding to the fun is a dramatic score by Stu Phillips, who had just come off of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and The Name of the Game Is Kill!, which should give you a pretty solid idea of what to Hollywood Horror Houseexpect.

Hollywood Horror HouseOut of circulation in any kind of official capacity since its Unicorn Video days on VHS, Hollywood Horror House received a major makeover from Vinegar Syndrome in 2020 as a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD edition sporting a very vibrant and impressive transfer cited as a new 4K scan from the 35mm camera negative. It's a real beauty and up there with some of the label's finest work, especially if you're a fan of druggy visuals with loads of blazing primary colors. You also get to really savor the buckets of gloppy stage blood that mark this one as a bit of a proto slasher at times. The DTS-HD MA English mono track is also in perfect condition and comes with optional English SDH subtitles. The main extra here is a new audio commentary by David DeCoteau and David Del Valle, who dive enthusiastically into all things Miriam Hopkins (including her fiery temper and appreciation for literature), '60s diva horror, Hollywood history, and other figures from the era like Curtis Harrington and Geraldine Page. It's a fun, dishy track in the same vein as their one for The Killing Kind, so check it out. A promotional image gallery (1m38s) is included with stills from the 1977 Manson theatrical run as Savage Intruder.

Reviewed on February 24, 2020.