Horror Hotel (1960)

“Just ring for doom service!” I must admit I was anticipating some schlocky horror flick but my anxiety turned into pleasant surprise at this thoughtful little atmospheric gem (AKA The City of the Dead) directed by John Llewellyn Moxey. In 1692, a witch named “Elizabeth Selwyn” is sentenced to be burned at the stake but a last-minute deal with the Devil secures her immortality. Flash forward more than 250 years as creepy history professor “Alan Driscoll” (Christopher Lee) advises one of his students, “Nan Barlow” (Venetia Stevenson), to travel to the small village of “Whitewood” in Massachusetts to do research for a paper on witchcraft. After Nan picks up mysterious hitchhiker “Jethrow Keane” (Valentine Dyall) and arrives at the “Raven’s Inn” in Whitewood (the fog machine is working overtime here, folks!), strange and horrific things start to occur all around her. In addition, the sinister proprietor of the inn, “Mrs. Newless” (Patricia Jessel), is a dead ringer for none other than Elizabeth Selwyn! The inn’s mute housekeeper, “Lottie” (Ann Beach), even tries to warn Nan of imminent danger. After Nan disappears without a trace, her brother “Richard” (Dennis Lotis) and boyfriend “Bill” (Tom Naylor) travel to Whitewood in a frantic effort to discover what happened to her. One of the film’s highlights is the final confrontation in the graveyard between the forces of good and evil! The cast includes Betta St. John as “Patricia,” Maxine Holden as “Sue” and Norman Macowan as “Reverend Russell.” Some film critics have pointed out certain structural similarities between Horror Hotel and Psycho, both of which were released within months of each other in 1960. In each movie, a beautiful blonde travels to a remote hotel/motel run by a psychotic manager and meets tragedy less than halfway through the film, among other plot coincidences.

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