director John Llewellyn Moxey
The City of the Dead (a.k.a. Horror Hotel in the U.S.) is the very unusual British film set in America. Even more unusual, it’s about a little village (hardly a city) with a history of witchcraft, witch-burning, and devil worship.
Christopher Lee plays a teacher of the history of witchcraft and sends the very game Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) to his hometown of Whitewood, MA to dig up some original materials, but unbeknownst to her, she’s really a virgin lamb for ritual slaughter for their annual sacrifice.
The City of the Dead was produced in part by Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, who would go on to form Amicus Productions, Hammer Film’s lesser known but quite good cousin in British horror. And the film is a nice production, shot in clean black-and-white, and features a peppy jazz score by Ken Jones through much of it. It’s quite a likable flick.
I find devil worship films the most unusual of these old horror films. I think it’s maybe because I never really grew up with any of them. I speculate that maybe in the Florida of my youth, they were cool with monsters and aliens and what-have-you, but maybe balked at devil worship? I’m thinking of films like the Val Lewton/Mark Robson The Seventh Victim (1943) and Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon (1957) and maybe even Burn Witch Burn (1962). I’m tempted to throw in I Married a Witch (1942) for good measure, though that is not exactly the same sort of genre film after all.
Anyways, good stuff.