The House That Vanished (1973)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s another take on this film but for this week of José Ramón Larraz, I wanted to  cover each of his movies myself.

Also known as Scream… and Die!, Please! Don’t Go in the Bedroom and Psycho Sex Fiend, this José Ramón Larraz movie has some amazing taglines like “Are You Planning an Affair? We Can Give You 7 Good Reasons Not to Have Your Next Affair at The House That Vanished And They’re All DEAD!! 1. George 2. Marsha 3. Ted 4. Linda 5. Ronnie 6. Alice 7. Larry” and “Is it too soon to talk about ’72…that time Paul and Valerie fell in love at first sight and began searching for a place to have an affair — and they kept searching until they found…The House That Vanished.” I mean, they did tell us that it was “In the Great HITCHCOCK Tradition!”

Picked up by American-International Pictures in the U.S., trimmed by 15 minutes and given a really similar campaign – actually, it’s the exact same — as The Last House On the Left, this find Larraz playing with his favorite toys: fashionable women in danger, pervy photographers, houses in the London countryside, sexual menace and murder. He kept going back to this well for a bit before throwing Satanism into the stew and, if anything, increasing the sheer levels of filth in his movies. And we were all the better for it.

Valerie Jennings (Andrea Allan) is one of those gorgeous women continually threatened by nearly every frame of this movie, starting when she and her photographer boyfriend Terry (Alex Leppard) travel to a shuttrered hovel of a home deep in the London woods, a place that’s empty save for a room filled with womens’ passports. As they hide in a closet when a new couple arrives, they don’t get to enjoy watching them make love; instead the male dispatches the female with a switchblade. She runs and Terry does too but she never finds him, narrowly escaping to the safety of the big city.

She does find Terry’s car and a modeling portfolio with the images of one girl missing. She asks her friends Mike (Lawrence Keane) and Stella (Annabella Wood) what to do next, but they tell her that she and Terry have committed a crime and need to not tell the police. Meanwhile, Mike introduces her to Paul (Karl Lanchbury, a Larraz villain in numerous entries), a mask maker who invites her to dinner with his aunt Susanna (Maggie Walker). If you’ve seen enough Larraz movies by now, you know that aunt and nephew are soon to engage in the act of darkness.

Life starts falling apart, as Terry’s car keeps disappearing and reappearing; Valerie’s roommate Lorna (Judy Matheson) — who also sleeps nude with her pet monkey — is assaulted and killed, an old man with pigeons moves in downstairs and when she heads out of town to meet with Paul again, she realizes that his house is the same abandoned house she’s been in before thanks to the strange taxidermy inside. Seriously, if you go on a date and someone has a lot of taxidermy, please run.

There, she finds the bodies of those missing and Paul’s aunt appears and demands that he kill Valerie. He responds by stabbing her as our heroine runs outside screaming, directly into the police, while Paul just sits in the void.

Writer Derek Ford also wrote The Legend of Spider Forest, Secret Rites, Corruption (which is not a women’s picture) and Don’t Open Till Christmas as well as directing I Am a GroupieBlood Tracks, The Urge to Kill and The Girl from Starship Venus.

Larraz comes from Spain to England to make movies that seem like they’re from Italy that have their origins in Germany and England. If that doesn’t make you look movies, then I have no hope for you.

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