Mysterious houses have not been kind to the fragile male ego in horror films. James Brolin and Ryan Reynolds both succumbed to the madness of the Amityville house in different versions of The Amityville Horror while Jack Nicholson and Steven Webber spiraled into insanity, decades apart, while attending to The Shining’s Overlook Hotel. Similarly, novelist Joel Gregory in 1976’s Death at Love House finds himself transported to the brink of erotic hysteria by the lingering essence of a former movie queen in her long shuttered abode.
Efficiently helmed by veteran television director EW Swackhamer, this telefilm is perhaps most notable for its use of such Golden Era greats as Joan Blondell, John Carradine, Dorothy Lamour and Sylvia Sidney. That they all play former rivals of or associates to the glamorous Lorna Love, a kind of Jean Harlow-Marilyn Monroe-Jayne Mansfield hybrid, makes this quick primetime horror a truly fun experience for those lovers of ‘30s and ‘40s cinema. Sidney, as Ciara Joseph, the mansion in question’s caretaker, definitely has the most interesting role, but one has to wonder how this frequently cantankerous presence felt about playing the film’s silly twist in the project’s final reels.
Of course an argument could be made that DALH, piloted around the disintegration of Gregory’s marriage to his wife/collaborator Donna (Kate Jackson) as they work on a project about Love, truly comes alive when LaMour, as coffee commercial queen Denise Christian, reminisces about Love’s evil deeds. Blondell devotees are also sure to admire her hysterical break from reality during the heat of the film’s fiery climax. Whatever your preference, DALH is ultimately high on mysterious mood and thoroughbred nostalgia.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!