Mansion of the Doomed (1975) review
“No! I’m a scientist! No more nightmares.”
Whether or not Mansion of the Doomed (aka The Eyes of Dr. Chaney) is Charles Band’s first feature as producer – Band has disowned his part in the 1973 racy Last Foxtrot in Burbank, a satire of Last Tango in Paris – his legendary film career truly began here.
Directed by Michael Pataki (with 172 acting credits for films such as Rocky IV, Halloween 4, and Easy Rider, Pataki is known more for his screen appearances than his three directorial efforts, one of which is another Band effort, Cinderella), Mansion of the Doomed is a creepy, gritty, grindhouse riff on George Franju’s 1959 classic, Eyes Without a Face.
Eye specialist Dr. Chaney (played by Richard Basehart in an enjoyably sinister soap-operaish, campy fashion), haunted by his daughter Nancy’s (Trish Stewart) blindness following a car accident, plans radical experiments to restore his daughter’s sight at any cost. Aided in his efforts by his wife Katherine (Gloria Grahame), Dr. Chaney spends his time luring ocular candidates to become unwilling victims of his illicit surgeries. In short order, the Chaney’s basement becomes a dungeon of horrors as it fills up with the newly eyeless who rage and howl and suffer in their bestial confines. It’s fascinating to watch Chaney and his wife descend into a Hellraiser-like willingness to do anything for a loved one, even at the cost of their souls.
As always, any appearance by the fantastic Lance Henrikson is elevating, and he’s great here as Nancy’s boyfriend, Dr. Dan Bryan. FX god Stan Winston does fantastic low budget work as makeup designer, giving victim’s empty sockets and Nancy’s degenerating condition their gross due.
With a unique feel that straddles both the gothic Halloweeny tradition of pre-70s Hollywood horrors and gritty grindhouse exploitation, the presence of genre greats like Winston, Band, and Henrikson, and the Island of Dr. Moreau-like Boschian basement make this worth seeking out.