THE CHRISTOPHER LEE CENTENARY CELEBRATION PRIMER: Horror Hotel (1960)

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can watch this movie this weekend at the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama! Get more info at the official Drive-In Super Monster-Rama Facebook page and get your tickets at the Riverside Drive-In’s webpage.

Better known as City of the Living Dead, this movie was the first film that John Llewellyn Moxey directed. It was also made in the UK but set in the U.S., so everyone is doing their best American accent.

Back in In 1692 in Whitewood, Massachusetts, Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel) and Jethrow Keane (Valentine Dyall) sold their souls to the Devil for eternal life and revenge on everyone if they just sacrifice one virgin during Candlemas Eve and another during the Witches’ Sabbath. That said, Elizabeth is soon tried for being a witch and burned alive.

History professor Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee) tells Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) that if she wants to learn about Whitewood, she should go there. She visits the town, staying at the Raven’s Inn, which is owned by Mrs. Newless and soon meets the only normal person in town — so she thinks — Patricia Russel (Betta St. John), who gives her a book on witchcraft. She learns that it’s Candlemas Eve just in time to be sacrificed on an altar.

Bill Maitland (Tom Naylor), her fiancee, brings her brother Richard (Dennis Lotis) to town, along with Patricia, who wonders where her friend has gone. You can imagine what happens next, but this is still fun.

This was written by George Baxt as a pilot for a television series that would have starred Boris Karloff. Producer Milton Subotsky rewrote it to be longer, including a romantic subplot about the boyfriend who goes looking for Nan. Produced by Vulcan Productions, it was made by Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, making this the first Amicus movie.

The big difference between City of the Living Dead and the American Horror Hotel cut? Elizabeth Selwyn, before being burned at the stake, says the following before she’s burned alive: “I have made my pact with thee O Lucifer! Hear me, hear me! I will do thy bidding for all eternity. For all eternity shall I practice the ritual of Black Mass. For all eternity shall I sacrifice unto thee. I give thee my soul, take me into thy service.” Jethro Keane adds, “O Lucifer, listen to thy servant, grant her this pact for all eternity and I with her, and if we fail thee but once, you may do with our souls what you will.” Elizabeth Selwyn: “Make this city an example of thy vengeance. Curse it, curse it for all eternity! Let me be the instrument of thy curse. Hear me O Lucifer, hear me!”

In 2011, Evil Calls: The Raven came out with a very similar plot and even lifted footage directly from this movie. But I didn’t complain when Iron Maiden’s “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter” and King Diamond’s “Sleepless Nights” videos did. This movie played enough UHF TV that The Misfits even wrote a song about it.

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