The Legend of Doom House
November 14, 2011 1:37 AM   Subscribe

Malpertuis (Belgium, 1971, aka ‘The Legend of Doom House’) is a movie that has been described as ‘bizarre, lurid and baffling;’ ‘a mysterious curiosity;’ and ‘exquisitely bonkers.’ An international cast led by Mathieu Carrière and Susan Hampshire (playing five rôles) also included Orson Welles. Its director, Harry Kümel, is otherwise best known for his stylish lesbian vampire flick Les Lèvres Rouges (aka ‘Daughters of Darkness’). The movie was adapted from an unusual gothic novel, first published in wartime Brussels—the work of Jean Ray (aka Raymond Jean-Marie de Kremer): a convicted embezzler & prolific hack, who was, nevertheless, one of the foremost exponents of the fantastique in French-language fiction. Please note that some of the links above are NSFW (some nudity) & several contain SPOILERS.

The whole movie (in its English edit, but overdubbed in Russian) is currently on YouTube in eight parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. A 2005 DVD release including two cuts of the movie is still obtainable, and the English translation of the novel is still in print.
posted by misteraitch (7 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

Fascinating; thanks, misteraitch! I'm going to see if I can find the book in an electronic version.
Orson Welles was hired for three days of shooting. An irascible elderly eccentric by this time in his career, Welles asked for his fee to be delivered in cash in a suitcase. Welles was drunk and rude on the set, interfering with Kümel’s attempts to direct and, in one case, repeatedly ruining one of Michel Bouquet’s takes until the director agreed to give Welles a closeup he had requested. At the end of Welles’ three-day contract, the project was well behind schedule due to the legendary actor’s drunkenness, extended lunch breaks and general peevishness. Apologizing for his behavior, Welles volunteered to work for a fourth day free, and performed all his remaining scenes perfectly in a single morning, putting the production back on schedule.
I'd love to see those outtakes.
posted by taz at 2:56 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

A doom house?
posted by EmGeeJay at 3:59 AM on November 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

I remember seeing this film when I was off school ill (some time in my teens). I watched it through twice in a day -- something I never do with films.

I'm almost scared to watch it again, as there is no way that it can be as hypnotically, wonderfully transgressive as it seem to me back then, and seeing it would diminish it in my memory.

I read the book a few years ago, and its plot is not that close to (my memory) of the film, but enjoyable enough anyway (even if it is a funny size and shape and looks weird on my bookshelf).
posted by couch at 4:52 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Great post, thank you.
posted by cog_nate at 6:38 AM on November 14, 2011

Taz, that is the exact paragraph I honed in on. What a crazy man but with a nugget of professionalism.

Somewhere in Ghent lies a colossal, voluminous, mystery-laden house owned by former sea captain Cassavius (Orson Welles) who is now a beached hulk, and populated by a bizarre menagerie of petit-bourgeois types who are in fact the remnants of the pantheon of Greek Gods. Discovered lying moribund and nearly dead from a lack of belief, they were stitched into human bodies by crazed genius taxidermist Philaris (Charles Janssens), and revived thanks to Cassavius’ alchemistic talents.

The movie sounds like it might be interesting to look at but the basic premise leaves me cold for some reason. Maybe because the moribund gods, revived has been done in a very cheesy way before. Clap if you believe in fairies! Still, I might spend some time on YouTube this afternoon since it will take no more effort than to click on a link.

Thanks, misteraitch for all your work putting this post together.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:07 AM on November 14, 2011

Hey wow! My somewhat eccentric French teacher pressed this book upon me, over my protestations that it was her childhood copy, and that it was already falling apart.

It did fall apart, as I read it. Really fun read, though.
posted by everichon at 8:38 AM on November 14, 2011

A doom house?

posted by FatherDagon at 11:37 AM on November 14, 2011

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