Yoshie Mitake awakens from a nightmare to find out that her extremely ill husband, Chonin, has just died. After her husband is cremated Yoshie is approached by an attorney named Daimyo who informs her that her husband had a mansion in the country that she never knew about. He hands her the deed to the house and the key to the front gate. The house has the unfortunate nickname of “Satan’s Pit”. Yoshie goes to investigate the house. In residence is a hunchback who says he is the caretaker. In the entrance hall of the mansion is a giant statue of Satan.
Not long after Yoshie arrives at the mansion spooky things start happening. Doors open and close on their own. A crow hits the window and breaks its neck. There are strange noises. Soon others show up, Yoshie’s letch of a father-in-law Dr. Mitake, his assistant Dr. Takashi Yamashita and Yoshie’s niece Ohara. Dr. Mitake tries to blame everything on the hunchback. Yamashita is beginning to believe Yoshie that there is something else going on in the house, something unearthly.
After a bizarre night more people show up at the mansion. Daimyo, the lawyer, arrives with Miss Susi Akemi, the dearly departed’s mistress. Also out in the driveway is Ling, Yamashita’s girlfriend. The mistress is looking for money that she says Chonin promised her before he died.
The attorney Daimyo has a thing going with the mistress and they are both up to something. Chonin’s will shows that he was in debt and the only thing that is free and clear is the haunted mansion. The will says that Mitake and Yoshie own it together and when one dies the other gets the mansion. The niece Ohara is in love with Yamashita, who in turn is in love with Ling. Ling promises to marry Yamashita if he can get Mitake to resign so that he can take over Mitake’s position at the hospital. Yamashita blackmails Mitake.
That night the mistress, Akemi, dies. Out of nowhere a medium shows up saying that the hunchback is possessed by a crow and that the house is Satan’s pit. A séance is forthcoming. The creepiest séance I’ve ever seen. After that… let the killing begin.
“House of Terrors” AKA “Ghost of the Hunchback” AKA “Kaidan semushi otoko” AKA “Il Pozzo Di Satana” AKA “The Pit of Satan” was released in 1965 and was directed by Hajime Sato. It is a Japanese horror movie that was dubbed in Italian with English subtitles. The credits are in Italian and the Japanese cast has Americanized names. It’s an unusual and rare film. There’s no record of it ever being released to video, nor have I heard of any other release than the Italian/English combo.
The movie is a strange combination of Japanese gothic, Eurohorror and a touch of soap opera. The intensity builds and every scene is painted with a chilling atmosphere that doesn’t let up. The house itself seems to breathe as if it is possessed itself. Almost every character has a dark side that comes out in insane ways.
The film is not long, only an hour and twenty minutes more or less. It goes by briskly, mainly because there is something strange and eerie going on all the time. The film is full of horror elements, all of them done well. The special effects were quite convincing. The acting was also good. After awhile you forgot that the movie was dubbed in Italian.
Many have compared the film to “The Haunting” 1963 or some of the Italian gothic horror films by Mario Bava and the like. Although not quite on par with those comparisons it does come close. Whether it’s Sato’s direction or the strange combination of Japanese, Italian and English, something makes this film compelling.