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"Mansion of the Doomed" (1976) Doesn't Live Up to the Hype

India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.

Mansion of the Doomed (1976)

Mansion of the Doomed (1976)

Dan: “Give up my eyes? I can’t.”

Dr. Chaney: “I think you can.”

— "Mansion of the Doomed," 1976

With a name like “Mansion of the Doomed,” you’re probably expecting a movie about a haunted house, or maybe a serial killer’s residence—not the home of a doctor who steals people’s eyeballs before locking them in his basement. (Seems the jail cell came with the house. The previous owners must have been into some pretty kinky stuff.)

And therein lies the rub. Though “Mansion of the Doomed” does its best to create a spooky atmosphere, it’s more goofy than scary. Really, the only terrifying thing about this movie is that someone thought it was a good idea! (No doubt many drugs were used in the production of this film.)

After getting into a car accident, Dr. Chaney’s daughter Nancy (Trish Stewart) loses her sight. I doubt that getting a few pieces of glass in your eyes would cause total blindness, but then again, this movie isn’t exactly concerned with verisimilitude. Driven mad by guilt, Chaney vows to do whatever it takes to restore Nancy's vision. (Red flag #1, activated!)

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The (Not So Good) Doctor

Unable to accept the idea of his daughter living the rest of her life in total darkness, Dr. Chaney (Richard Basehart) decides to abandon his Hippocratic oath—as well as his common sense—by kidnapping people, removing their eyeballs, and implanting them in Nancy’s skull. You may wonder how he is so confident in his success. Well, he's not. But as Chaney puts it, “How do we know it won’t work until I try it?” (Not something you want to hear from your doctor, but I digress.)

Well, he tries it…and unsurprisingly, things don’t go as well as he’d hoped. Though Nancy temporarily regains her sight, soon she’s back to being blind—leaving dear old Dad no choice but to search for more “patients.” However, the deranged doctor isn’t all bad. After removing his victims’ eyes, he thoughtfully provides them with new accommodations: consoling himself with the thought that once he restores Nancy’s sight, he can fix theirs, as well. (Which would require more victims, but oh well. Thinking ahead clearly isn’t the doc’s forte.)

The Patients

While I’ve never had my eyeballs removed, I imagine it would be quite the traumatic experience. That being said, Dr. Chaney’s victims seem to lose more than their sight, as they spend most of the movie huddled on the floor, shrieking and wailing. (It’s a miracle he manages to sleep with all the noise they’re making.) And rather than walking, they crawl—until the end of the movie, when they suddenly remember how to use their legs. Even then, however, the patients lurch around like particularly uncoordinated zombies, holding their arms out Frankenstein style.

In case you’re thinking I’m being too hard on them, Sylvia—the only person to escape—sabotages herself by staggering down the street and screaming incoherently before walking into traffic. While she may not be able to see, there’s nothing wrong with her ears. Visually impaired or not, most people have the common sense to stop when approaching a busy road. If Sylvia had just used her (nonexistent) brain, she could have saved herself as well her friends. But alas, it was not to be, and she meets a suitably pathetic end at the business end of a car.

Poor, Poor Nancy

Nancy spends most of the movie unconscious, as her father and his secretary/surgical assistant/girlfriend Katherine (Gloria Grahame) perform surgery after surgery in an attempt to restore her sight. But while it may seem unfair to criticize her, even Dr. Chaney’s daughter isn’t immune to the stupidity which has infected every character in this movie. After all, Nancy never questions why her vision is constantly going in and out like a bad TV signal. And when Katherine hands her a mirror during one of her rare periods of sight, she doesn’t notice that her eye color has changed. Then, after making her way to the basement and discovering the people trapped there (sans eyeballs, no less), Nancy decides to return to her room rather than calling 911. When her dad comes looking for her, she reassures him that she knows he “meant well.” (I’m sure that’s really comforting to the people whose eyeballs he stole.) Maybe Nancy's father should focus on brain surgery instead of repairing her optics.

© 2022 India LaPalme

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