“You’re dead.” “Yes, I am. Won’t you join me?”
Jason Cravatte (Patrick O’Neal) is crazy. He was engaged but when he found his betrothed with another man, he strangled her with her own hair then forced a preacher to marry them. He was caught, put on trial and sentenced to death.
On his way to prison he escapes his handcuffs but must cut off his right hand to do so. The police never found his body. All they recovered was his hand and the iron wheel it had been handcuffed to. The police assume he drowned. Cravatte makes his way to New Orleans. He changes his name to Jason Caroll. In New Orleans he has Chun Sing (Berry Kroeger) create a hook for his missing hand as well as other lethal items that he can attach, at will, depending on his needs. He then plots revenge on those that he believes were responsible for his death sentence.
Jason meets a prostitute named Mary Champlain (Laura Devon). Mary becomes an integral part of his plans of revenge. He brings her back to his hometown of Baltimore. Jason’s list of victims starts with Walter Randolph, the judge that sentenced him to death. Also on his list is Doctor Romulus Cobb (Richard O’Brien), who pronounced him sane enough to stand trial as well as Police Sergeant Jim Albertson (Wayne Rogers), the policeman that arrested him. Finally, he has marked for death Anthony Draco (Cesare Danova). Draco and his partner, Harold Blount (Wilfrid Hyde-White), own and operate a wax museum. On the side they investigate crimes and criminals. Draco was responsible for figuring out where Jason was hiding and alerting the police.
It’s not until after the judge and the doctor are murdered that Jason is exposed as being responsible for the crimes. When Marie sees the wax figure of Jason in Draco’s Museum, she realizes that the man she knows as Jason Caroll is really a cold-blooded serial killer.
“Chamber of Horrors” was released in 1966 and was directed by Hy Averback. It is an American horror movie. The film was originally intended to be a made for television movie and a pilot for a television series called “House of Wax”. The movie was considered too graphic for television, so it was released theatrically instead. Even though it wasn’t appropriate for television the graphic stuff is not all that horrific. Most of the grisly stuff it is implied and off screen. Eventually it did go into television syndication.
The movie makes use of a William Castle style gimmick called a Fear Flasher. The screen flashes red and a sound called a Horror Horn is heard to warn the audience to turn away because a moment of horror will be shown on screen. After a while it was more annoying than anything else. There is an explanation at the beginning of the film that introduces the Fear Flasher and the Horror Horn and tells the audience that there are four supreme fright points. The introduction is voiced by William Conrad.
Despite the kitschy hook the movie turned out to be a decent and fun black comedy. There are some solid actors in the film and the story is laid out nicely. The sets are lavish and do look similar to some of the Hammer period pieces. The addition of the various lethal weapons that Cravatte can attach to his stump is a nice touch, although we don’t get to see all of them in use.
Tony Curtis has a cameo as a gambler.