House of Mortal Sin (1976)
Director: Pete Walker
Starring: Anthony Sharp, Susan Penhaligon, Stephanie Beacham & Norman Eshley
Released by: Redemption Films
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Kino Lorber, under their Redemption Films banner, continues their onslaught of releases from famed British horror maestro, Pete Walker (The Flesh and Blood Show, Frightmare). Controversial and twisted, House of Mortal Sin casts a dark shadow over the sanctity of religion with a blackmailing, inappropriate priest at center stage. Co-starring Susan Penhaligon (Patrick), Stephanie Beacham (Schizo), Norman Eshley (See No Evil) and Sheila Keith (House of Long Shadows), Redemption Films proudly presents the film fully uncut.
House of Mortal Sin centers on a young woman, Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon), who confesses her most intimate details to Father Xavier Meldrum (Anthony Sharp). Unfortunately, Father Meldrum has no tolerance for sinners and records their conversation in a blackmail attempt. Suspicions are raised as bodies begin turning up, but no one believes that a holy man could possibly be responsible, except Jenny.
The 1970s reigned supreme with religious-themed horror films that rattled the box-office. House of Mortal Sin is a unique entry in the canon in that it does not hold the devil responsible for evildoings, but instead a respected priest. Pete Walker’s own resentment towards attending Catholic school resulted in his film that never shies away from exposing the hypocrisies of the institution. Anthony Sharp (Barry Lyndon) wonderfully captures the aged, yet respected Father Xavier Meldrum who is widely regarded amongst his community. Shortly after Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon) admits to the seasoned clergyman about her abortion, an unhealthy obsession begins. Father Meldrum records the intimate information and uses it as a ploy to keep Jenny within his grasp. Unfortunately, most people find her accusations ridiculous as a servant of the church would never do such wrongdoings. In this sense, House of Mortal Sin serves as an interesting time capsule where people would not commonly accuse a clergyman of committing any harm. Of course, today we live in a society where cases of abuse at the hands of priests have become all too common and sadly, unsurprising. Thankfully, House of Mortal Sin chooses not to be a tale of child abuse at the hands of the church but more in the vein of a slasher film. Father Meldrum’s obsession with Jenny causes him to lash out at those closest to her resulting in several murders including a grizzly strangulation with a Rosary. In addition, Meldrum possesses shades of Norman Bates as a man with a mommy complex. He confides in his elderly mother who can no longer speak but is obviously disturbed by her son’s actions. Meldrum’s mother is cared for by the equally devilish and one-eyed, Miss Brabazon (Sheila Keith), who takes great pride in abusing the ailing woman when her mad son isn’t watching.
House of Mortal Sin continues to surprise as the film’s final act doesn’t include the typical final girl and madman showdown. Nonetheless, Pete Walker’s opus concludes on a satisfyingly, somber note that’s quite effective. House of Mortal Sin may not have possessed children or projectile pea soup, but still delivers a chilling tale of a disturbed priest hellbent on teaching sinners a lesson. Headlined by a talented cast that turn in memorable performances, Pete Walker’s exercise in Catholic-horror will surely shock and entertain those brave enough to endure creepy clergymen.
House of Mortal Sin is presented in a 1080p transfer bearing a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Minor instances of speckles aside, the transfer looks exceptionally clean sporting a healthy layer of grain. In addition, colors translate well with skin tones appearing natural as can be. In comparison to some of Kino’s previous Walker titles that were slightly more problematic, House of Mortal Sin ranks as one of their finest looking transfers yet.
Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 mix, House of Mortal Sin has no noticeable issues to speak of with dialogue coming across very clearly. A very pleasing and modestly effective audio mix make this a pleasurable listening experience.
- Audio Commentary with Director Pete Walker and Jonathan Rigby: Rigby, author of English Gothic, moderates this highly informative commentary track that has been kindly ported over from the previous DVD release.
- Pete Walker: An Eye for Terror Part 2: Elijah Drenner interviews Walker in this 11 minute featurette that finds the director explaining his first interest in filmmaking as well as his own opinions on his films now.
- Pete Walker Trailers: Includes The Flesh and Blood Show, House of Whipcord, Frightmare, The Comeback and Home Before Midnight.
Kino Lorber’s exciting Redemption banner does a fine service in their continuing efforts to bring Pete Walker’s work to the high-definition realm. House of Mortal Sin is an effectively creepy take on a disturbed and obsessive priest. Anthony Sharp steals the show as the twisted Father Meldrum who poisons and strangles his way through victims with no remorse. Pete Walker’s tale of corruption and religion makes a wonderful leap to Blu-ray with a satisfactory video presentation and an informative array of special features to cut into. Unquestionably, House of Mortal Sin is a personal favorite of Walker’s many works and one that is screaming to join your collection.