House of 1,000 dolls stars Vincent Price and Martha Hyer as a pair of traveling magicians named Felix Manderville and Rebecca. They used to have a normal act, but then they got recruited to acquire young, beautiful girls for a white slavery ring in Tangiers, and as such they travel the world getting girls to volunteer as a subject for their act, and then making them disappear, never to be seen again.
When a man’s girlfriend is taken, he meets up with his American friend and his wife in Tangiers and tells them that he’s trying to track her down and the people that took her as well, but when he ends up dead, his friend Stephen (George Nader) starts a rather combative relationship with the police in an effort to find the killers and to locate the girl they’d taken from his friend. Little did they know it would lead them into a dark world of white slavery and prostitution.
Unlike Madhouse, I didn’t own this film previously, nor had I ever seen it, which was why I was intrigued to get a copy of it to review. Unfortunately, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the film, and here’s why.
First of all, the premise is rather ridiculous. They’re kidnapping girls and making them work in a high end brothel, and yet when they show the girls, none of them look all that upset about it. They’re brushing their hair and generally trying to make themselves look pretty. They’re all well fed and wearing sexy lingerie, and none of them look all that upset about being there.
Then there’s the method of the kidnappings. You’d think that even if the girls had been at the shows alone, someone would have missed them and gotten the police on the case long before those who’d done the kidnapping could have escaped with them. The girls were from a variety of different countries, so someone must have noticed at some point that at least one or two of them had disappeared before the criminals could get away.
Stephen is portrayed in a way that Europeans probably see most Americans, and that’s as a combative, arrogant and stubborn man who would rather butt heads with the police than to help them find those responsible for his friend’s death. It was a very stereotypical portrayal and was actually quite annoying to watch.
I just didn’t connect with this film unfortunately. There are other aspects of it that I don’t want to get into because it would involve too many spoilers, but I can tell you that it wasn’t Vincent Price’s fault that this wasn’t all that great of a film. He performance was wonderful, as usual. It was more just a case where they had a good story idea with poor execution. I wanted to like it, but I just didn’t find it all that engaging. The thing I enjoyed the most in the film was when one of the girls started beating up all the thugs that were holding them. She was one hell of a fighter and put up a rather exciting struggle that really made you pull for her to get away, which was what I wish this film had more of. There was no reason all those girls together in a room couldn’t overpower the people that came in there, or to kill them even if they had to. They simply didn’t, and that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
The quality of the picture and sound on this release are both quite good, and for special features it includes audio commentary with film historian David Del Valle and Filmmaker David DeCoteau, and trailers for Madhouse, Tales of Terror and More Dead Than Alive.
This isn’t a bad film, but there were elements of it that I felt could have been done better if they’d have just done a few more edits on the script. Still, it’s got Vincent Price, which is more than enough for me to give it a recommendation, even though it is a mild one. For fans of the great Vincent Price it’s a release you’re going to want to add to your collection, though you’ll likely not find yourself watching it anywhere near as much as some of his better films, like A Comedy of Terrors, which is one of my all time favorite films.
If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here: http://www.kinolorber.com/video.php?id=2064