Director – Kevin Connor, Screenplay – Robert A. Sukosky, Based on the Novel by John Hardimann, Producer – Martin B. Cohen, Photography – Jacques Haitkin, Music – Ken Thorne, Special Effects – William Cruse, Production Design – Toshikaze Kano. Production Company – Cohen Features.
Edward Albert (Ted Fletcher), Susan George (Laura Fletcher), Doug McClure (Alex Curtis), Amy Barrett (Amy Fletcher)
Writer Ted Fletcher travels to Japan to write a book, taking with him his wife Laura and their daughter Amy. Ted’s good friend Alex Curtis, who works for the American consulate, finds them a cottage in Kyoto. 140 years earlier in the cottage, a samurai killed his wife after finding her in bed with one of his students. The ghosts of the samurai, the wife and the lover now emerge to haunt them, the woman possessing Laura so that she can re-enact her doomed love affair over again.
This ghost story did little business when it came out. The House Where Evil Dwells was made by director Kevin Connor, the British director best known for his trilogy of Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations The Land That Time Forgot (1974), At the Earth’s Core (1976) and The People That Time Forgot (1977), along with the Burroughs-modelled Warlords of Atlantis (1978), all starring Doug McClure. Connor has subsequently been making US tv movies.
The novelty that the film offers to the standard ghost story is its Japanese setting. Here we get some nicely lyrical pictures of Japanese culture from a gaijin perspective. Alas, there is never anything particularly spooky or suspenseful about the film – the shocks that Kevin Connor generates are traditional and unexceptional. And when it comes to the manifestation of ghostly crabs chasing Amy Barrett through the garden, The House Where Evil Dwells slips into an irredeemable silliness. It is however boosted by the grim and fatalistic twist ending where we see the whole cycle has repeated itself over again.
As traditional Japanese kaidan eiga goes, The House Where Evil Dwells never holds a candle up to the real product itself does. For far better, more full-fledged outings into the Japanese ghost story see the likes of Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), Ghost Story of Yotsuya (1959), Kwaidan (1964), Illusion of Blood (1965), Empire of Passion (1978), Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (1990) or any of the modern efforts from Ring (1998) onwards.
Kevin Connor’s other genre films, aside from the aforementioned lost world adventures, include the fine horror anthology From Beyond the Grave (1974); Amicus’s trilogy of lost world Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations, The Land That Time Forgot (1974), At the Earth’s Core (1976) and The People That Time Forgot (1977), and one original lost world film Warlords of Atlantis (1978), all starring Doug McClure; the Arabian Nights fantasy Arabian Adventure (1979); and the cannibalism black comedy Motel Hell (1980). These days Connor directs for tv, making such unexceptional soap opera fare as Mistral’s Daughter (1984), Diana: Her True Story (1993), Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story (1995), Mother Teresa: In the Name of God’s Poor (1997) and Mary, Mother of Jesus (1999). Among Connor’s genre tv fare is:- Goliath Awaits (1981), an interesting tv mini-series about a society that has survived in a sunken ship; The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1987), which brought the famous sleuth into the present-day; the Indian adventure The Mysteries of the Dark Jungle (1991); the stalker thriller Shadow of Obsession (1994); the Egyptian archaeology adventure The Seventh Scroll (1999); the Christmas fantasies Santa, Jr. (2002), A Boyfriend for Christmas (2004), Farewell Mr Kringle (2010) and Annie Claus is Coming to Town (2011); the Hallmark adaptation of Frankenstein (2004); and Chasing Leprechauns (2012).