From a play by Adam Shirk
Yeah I'm up to my neck in apes. (Inspector Pickens)
"An ancient curse and a killer ape are contained inside an old dark mansion." Thus goes IMdb's nice and tidy elevator pitch for House of Mystery. Well, to paraphrase a certain popular cinematic catchphrase - you had me at killer ape. As a long-time Three Stooges fan it never really occurred to me until recently to question the preponderance of killer apes in certain old works of cinema. It just seemed perfectly natural, but the more you think about it I guess it's not.
In any event, House of Mystery gets underway in Asia, in 1913, where an arrogant archaeologist named John Prendergast is doing such a lousy job of winning friends and influencing people that a group of Hindu priests proceed to unleash their killer ape in residence and then put a curse on him when he kills the ape. As we move to the current day, a diverse and mostly loopy group of backers of his expedition are working with an attorney to get their money back.
Prendergast, who has changed his name to John Pren, is now confined to a wheelchair and is also quite wealthy. He agrees to cough up some dough if the backers will agree to spend a week in his old dark house (for no apparent reason that I could discern). A few murders ensue, each of them preceded by an ominous jungle drumbeat and there may or may not be another killer ape involved. A trio of dimwitted cops turn up and the matter is solved, though not necessarily as a result of their bumbling efforts.
I've watched quite a few movies lately that straddle that nebulous barrier between mystery and old dark house and this is another one of them. As I've said before I've got a weakness for this sort of thing, no matter how slapdash and silly it might be. House of Mystery is hardly a great work of cinema but I found it quite entertaining nonetheless.