October Horrorshow: The Dungeon of Harrow

The Information Age is a wonderful thing. As long as it keeps its filthy hands off of democracy, anyway. What I mean is, all a person needs to make a movie these days is a smartphone and an idea. That’s pretty much all Nigel Bach has, and that guy just made his seventh horror flick in three years. Besides that, countless people have been shooting small moving snapshots of daily life that are creating a pastiche of culture to pass down to the ages that is unrivaled in human history. But that doesn’t mean that the world of film was completely closed off to everyone outside of Hollywood or New York in the days of analog. Sometimes, someone on the fringes of the entertainment biz — someone along the lines of Herk Harvey or Harold P. Warren — would get it into their heads to make a movie, and, despite all the obstacles of a time when one couldn’t carry a film crew in their back pocket, managed to make it happen. Such was the case with The Dungeon of Harrow, the 1962 gothic horror flick from writer/director Pat Boyette.

Boyette was a Texan who had a successful career in local television as a news anchor and producer. But, the call of film was too much for him and he, along with fellow screenwriter Henry Garcia, turned out a shitty movie to rival any of the hopeless efforts of the day. Think Manos: The Hands of Fate or The Killer Shrews, and one will get an idea of the objective quality of this film.

Dungeon follows Aaron Fallon (Russ Harvey, who also produced), the scion of a shipping tycoon in the 19th century. On the way to some place from somewhere, the tall ship on which he is sailing crashes against the rocks and Fallon, along with the captain of the vessel (Lee Morgan) are marooned on a mysterious island.

The island is occupied by Count Lorente de Sade (William McNulty), a nobleman who was forced to move to the island with his wife and household staff when the Countess contracted leprosy. During his time on the island, the Count has gone mad, convinced that The Dungeon of Harrow movie poster from Mexicoeveryone who arrives on the island is a pirate who wants to loot his castle and murder him. He is joined in his castle by a slave he captured while overseas, named Mantis (Maurice Harris), and a servant, Cassandra (Helen Hogan). When the Count learns of the shipwreck, he sends Mantis to capture any survivors and bring them to the castle.

After arriving at the castle, it doesn’t take long for Fallon and the Captain to realize that the Count is a nut job. The Captain figures that out when he’s introduced to the dungeon of the title, while Fallon, because he’s the main character, is spared any of those shenanigans, and comes to realize the Count’s madness without all the violence.

That’s about it for coherent plot. The Count’s motivations are based in madness, so there’s no talking sense to him, and no rhyme or reason to his behavior, except that he consistently makes harmful choices. In that, this film succeeds. What’s the point of having a movie madman if he isn’t unhinged? That’s all that was done right in this flick, however. Dungeon is schlock amongst schlock. It looked like Harvey couldn’t raise more than a few dollars to make this movie, and Boyette barely knew what he was doing, anyway.

Remember that shipwreck from early in the movie? The model work looks like, well, a model. The tall ship looks like something that Boyette bought at a toy store or hobby shop. It’s far below what would normally be acceptable in a movie. But, there’s nothing in this film that meets normal, minimal standards of acceptability. It’s trash all the way through.

The acting is trash, the sets are trash, the film stock is trash…even the makeup is trash. In the first scene featuring the count, his makeup can best be described as Trumpian gloss. It’s a sight to behold.

Like many other super low-budget horror flicks of the day, the biggest problem with Dungeon is a lack of forward motion. The inherent kitsch of a shitty movie is extinguished by the slow pace, making this a hard flick to pay attention to.

This is the type of shitty movie that appeals to the more masochistic side of the shitty movie fan. It’s a test of endurance, a notch on the shitty movie fan’s bedpost, or whatever. The Dungeon of Harrow is an awful film. Unless one truly can’t enough garbage in their film-watching experience, I cannot recommend it. The Dungeon of Harrow takes over the #284 spot from The Screaming Skull. Stay away.

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