The House in Nightmare Park 1973 ***

House-in-Nightmare-Park-1973-2

Frankie Howard is a UK comedy institution, as much part of British life as arguing about Brexit and football hooliganism. Howard’s face might be familiar from plum roles like Road Workman in Hole from 1962’s The Fast Lady, or his startlingly awful appearance in the 1978 film of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But his success at a tv comedian didn’t translate well to film; Howard had a gift of speaking in a conversational tone to an audience, and his titter-ye-not pauses are ingrained in the British psyche. Peter Sykes’s 1973 horror comedy casts Howard as Foster Twelvetrees, an actor treading the boards with little success until a mysterious booking leads him to a remote house where Ray Milland commands him to perform. The usual tropes about reading wills and hidden assassins are trotted out, with Kenneth Griffith amongst the support. Known as Crazy House in the US, but not by many, the relatively straight-man comedy of The House in Nightmare Park was abandoned in favour of the somewhat cruder humour of the Up Pompeii tv and cinema series; Sykes’s film shows Howard in an uncommonly restrained role.

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