The City of the Dead (film)
The City of the Dead (U.S. title: Horror Hotel) is a 1960 horror film directed by John Llewellyn Moxey and starring Christopher Lee, Venetia Stevenson, Betta St. John, Patricia Jessel and Valentine Dyall. Produced in the United Kingdom but set in America, the British actors were required to speak with North American accents throughout.
|The City of the Dead|
|Directed by||John Llewellyn Moxey (as John Moxey)|
|Produced by||Seymour S. Dorner|
Max Rosenberg (uncredited)
|Screenplay by||George Baxt|
|Story by||Milton Subotsky|
Betta St. John
Betta St. John
|Music by||Douglas Gamley|
Ken Jones (jazz)
|Edited by||John Pomeroy|
|Distributed by||British Lion|
|September 1960 (UK)|
In the Massachusetts town of Whitewood, a witch named Elizabeth Selwyn was burned at the stake in 1692. But before her death, Selwyn and her accomplice Jethrow Keane sold their souls to Lucifer for eternal life and revenge on Whitewood in return of providing the Devil with two yearly virgin human sacrifices on the Hour of Thirteen during Candlemas Eve and the Witches' Sabbath.
In the present day, following his lecture on witchcraft, a university history professor named Alan Driscoll advises an interested student named Nan Barlow to visit Whitewood during her vacation to slake her interest in witchcraft by studying the town's history. Nan settles in The Raven's Inn, a hotel owned by eccentric Mrs. Newless, becoming acquainted with the town's only normal-seeming local resident Patricia Russell who loans her a book on witchcraft. Soon learning that the night is Candlemas Eve while reading the book, Nan is eventually lured down to the basement and is restrained on a satanic altar by Mrs. Newless and members of her coven. Mrs. Newless reveals herself to be Elizabeth Selwyn before proceeding to sacrifice Nan. Two weeks later, Nan's concerned fiancé Bill Maitland and her brother Richard learn that The Raven's Inn does not exist in any phone directory before they are visited by Patricia, who is also concerned with Nan's disappearance.
The two men separately travel to Whitewood soon after, Bill barely surviving a car crash caused by an apparition of Selwyn. Richard reaches Whitewood and meets up with Patricia before visiting her grandfather Reverend Russell, who reveals Whitewood to be under the control of Selwyn's coven. Soon after, Patricia is kidnapped as the coven's sacrifice, Richard attempts to save her before they are cornered in the graveyard as Professor Driscoll is revealed to a coven member. But a severely-injured Bill arrives at the last minute and succeeds in extricating a large wooden cross from the ground after being gravely wounded by Selwyn, using the last of his strength to burn the coven members alive under the cross's shadow. Selwyn escapes during the chaos, but her pact with the Devil is undone by the intervention as Richard and Patricia find her charred corpse in the hotel that is revealed to built on the site of her burning.
- Christopher Lee as Alan Driscoll - Professor/warlock
- Dennis Lotis as Richard 'Dick' Barlow - Nan's brother
- Patricia Jessel as Elizabeth Selwyn / Mrs. Newless - Witch from 1692
- Tom Naylor as Bill Maitland - Nan's fiancé
- Betta St. John as Patricia 'Pat' Russell - Citizen of Whitewood
- Venetia Stevenson as Nan Barlow - Student
- Valentine Dyall as Jethrow Keane
- Ann Beach as Lottie - Maid at Raven's Inn
- Norman Macowan as Reverend Russell - Pat's grandfather
- Fred Johnson as The Elder
- James Dyrenforth as Garage Attendant
- Maxine Holden as Sue - Friend
- William Abney as Policeman
The script was originally written by George Baxt as a pilot for a television series starring Boris Karloff. The producer Milton Subotsky rewrote it to be longer, including a romantic subplot about the boyfriend who goes looking for Nan after she goes missing. Financing was obtained from television producer Hannah Weinstein, along with money from the Nottingham Forest Football Club.
Production began on 12 October 1959 at Shepperton Studios with a budget of £45,000. Milton Subotsky was credited as the film's executive producer. The film was produced by Vulcan Productions, although because it was made by Subotsky and producing partner Max Rosenberg it has been considered the first of their Amicus Productions.
Some dialogue was removed the American version of the film, including the following lines in the opening sequence which clarify the plot. They are retained in the original British version, which has been shown on Turner Classic Movies:
- "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."
- "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."
- "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!"
The City of the Dead was released in September 1960 in the United Kingdom. It was a box-office disappointment, although it did make a small profit. It was not released in the United States until 1961 under the title Horror Hotel.
Heavy metal band Iron Maiden use scenes from this film in the music video for their song "Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter". King Diamond also uses clips in his "Sleepless Nights" video as do punk band UFX in the video to "Bitch", while Rob Zombie used Christopher Lee's opening words to similarly preface his track "Dragula" from Hellbilly Deluxe. In addition, the punk band Misfits wrote a song called "Horror Hotel" (the American release title). Most recently in the summer of 2017, metal rock band In This Moment also uses the opening lines by Christopher Lee in their song "The Witching Hour" from their new album Ritual.
- Hamilton, John (2013). X-Cert: The British Independent Horror Film 1951-70. Hailsham, England: Hemlock Books. pp. 72–77. ISBN 978-0955777455.
- Bryce, Allan, ed. (2000). Amicus: The Studio That Dripped Blood. London, England: Stray Cat Publishing. pp. 12–15. ISBN 978-0953326136.
- Chibnall & McFarlane 2009, p. 238.