Miriam Hopkins is the last of the silver screen's "horror hags" in the 1970es obscurity HOLLYWOOD HORROR HOUSE, on DVD from Full Moon Studios.
A psychotic killer is dismembering middle-aged women and leaving their body parts under the Hollywood sign. When reclusive, alcoholic faded star Katherine Packard (Hopkins) falls down the stairs of her Hollywood Hills mansion (actually the Santa Monica residence of late actress Norma Talmadge) and breaks her tibia, in steps handsome aspiring actor Vic Valance (John David Garfield, THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK) as her in-home caregiver. Upsetting the balance of the household by antagonizing Katherine's secretary Leslie (Gale Sondergaard, THE SPIDER WOMAN), mocking housekeeper Mildred (Florence Lake, THE DAY OF THE LOCUS) – to whom he first introduces himself as "Laurel N. Hardy" – and seducing maid Greta (Virginia Wing, CHARLEY VARRICK). Katherine warms up quickly to the younger man who she takes under her wing and into her bed, despite the reservations of Leslie and pining former director Ira Jaffee (Lester Matthews, WEREWOLF OF LONDON). When Leslie learns of Greta's relationship with Vic, she conspires to get rid of him; but Vic's carnal attachment to Katherine is as strong as it was to his promiscuous mother whose axe murder he either witnessed or committed, and he is capable of anything to prevent her from abandoning him again.
HOLLYWOOD HORROR HOUSE, or THE SAVAGE INTRUDER adds some surprisingly grisly gore and some frank (for the time) sexuality to the "horror hag" subset of movies that started with WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, resulting in a variation on SUNSET BOULEVARD with a side of ANGEL, ANGEL, DOWN WE GO and HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (with more psychedelic childhood trauma flashbacks). Hopkins throws herself into the role of an ersatz Norma Desmond who is only truly delusional when drunk or stoned, as in a sequence where Vic takes Katherine to a wild party ("Hey, look! I'm Katherine Packard's pusher," says a midget drug dealer who takes charge of her wheelchair). Sondergaard, on the other hand, does appear to be slumming. Garfield – son of John Garfield (BODY & SOUL) – also puts on a show in one of his few prominent film roles but seems to suffer from poor direction. The film was the only directorial effort of editor Donald Wolfe (THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS), and one wonders if the discovery of dismembered body under the opening credits and the first murder – along with the possible beefing up of one later killing into a twitching decapitation – may have been added in post-production (editor Hartwig Deeb is also credited with second unit photography). The score is credited to Stu Phillips but recycles tracks from THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL (also heard in VENUS IN FURS, SISTERS OF DEATH, and THE WEREWOLF VS THE VAMPIRE WOMAN). Joe Besser (the most annoying of the replacement Stooges) cameos as a tour bus driver.
Released theatrically by Joseph Brenner Associates in 1975 as THE SAVAGE INTRUDER and on VHS in the early 1980s by Unicorn Video, Full Moon's single-layer, fullscreen, interlaced DVD under the HOLLYWOOD HORROR HOUSE title looks scarcely better. Sourced from a VHS tape with overscan noise on the bottom of the screen throughout. Colors are pale and some of the yellow opening and closing credits lettering is unreadable. The photography of John Morrill (THE WITCHMAKER) might have been attractive, but it is hard to gage here and in the Unicorn transfer. The best that can be said for the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is that it gets the job done. The sole extra is an episode of the "Haunted Hollywood" series by David Del Valle (4:45) in which touches upom Hopkins, Sondergaard (who he had met through Curtis Harrington who cast her in THE CAT CREATURE), the "Horror Hag" subgenre, and the film itself. The DVD artwork is garish but the original poster art was hardly a model of restraint. (Eric Cotenas)
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