Back in 1840 in Kyoto, a young woman welcomed her boyfriend into her home, and offered him a trinket to pledge her love to him: an erotic ivory carving. He knew what that meant, and soon they were disrobing and caressing one another, the trouble with that being the woman's husband could see their canoodling silhouettes against the paper panels outside. He wasn't best pleased, and drew his sword, smashing his way into his house and slicing up the lover in a rage, even going as far as chopping his head off. Then he slaughtered his aghast wife and committed hara-kiri. The house itself remains to this day, and it has been rented by an American family, completely unaware...
After making this film, director Kevin Connor promptly turned to television and helmed about a billion TV movies and series episodes, which should give you some idea of how successful The House Where Evil Dwells was at the world's cinemas. Essentially, it was The Amityville Horror in Japan as the guileless Americans - Edward Albert and Susan George, plus daughter, as the Fletchers - barge their way through a possibly unknowable Eastern culture and proceed to be possessed of the evil spirits that dwell within. The ghosts were the residual presences of the three characters who died violently in the first five minutes, and they were dead set on revenge. Or something like it.
Actually, it may not have been revenge the spooks were after, since they spent most of their time observing in see-through apparition form, occasionally making mischief by knocking objects from tables and shelves. Absolutely terrifying, right? Well, not exactly, and Connor's unhurried pace tended to work against any suspense, though it was not all completely tedious, since there were parts that proved entertaining, though maybe not for the reasons intended by the filmmakers. To Connor's credit, the version released was not his director's cut, it was a pared down adaptation of British writer James Hardiman's horror novel, so something vital may have been lost in the edit.
Mind you, seeing what the producers chose to keep, you may have your doubts about that. Connor had made some adventure films with Doug McClure in the nineteen-seventies, staples of holiday television for a generation or two, so naturally Doug showed up here, playing an American diplomat who helps his old pals the Fletchers settle in. Fair enough, but he was coaxed into acting out some decidedly out of character scenes, most notably when the female ghost invades Mrs Fletcher and tries to re-enact the love triangle that got her into so much trouble, which could only mean one thing: sex symbol Susan George and definitely not sex symbol Doug McClure getting it on. They even shared a nude scene, which was fine for her fans, but somewhat distracting when Doug's bottom hoved into view.
Earlier, those dastardly re-cutting producers made sure we saw a whole lot more of Susan as she and Albert "Christened" their new abode with a love scene that seemed to last about five minutes of screen time, suggesting every last scrap of sexytime footage had been brought into play. If you could tear your mind away from these images, there was more fun to be had in the shape of crabs. No, not like that, when the parents are out, their daughter and the babysitter were menaced by a mass of the little horrors, plus some two-foot-wide ones which were patently rubber, mechanical creations - and they rhubarbed away in angry Japanese. Obviously, not many Westerners would be aware of what the crustaceans were saying, nor why the film had abruptly turned into a Guy N. Smith paperback adaptation, but if you thought that was funny, get a load of the finale where the possession-happy trio indulged in karate moves and led to a would-be grim conclusion guaranteed to have you burst out laughing. A mixed bag, then, not good, but not without entertainment. Music by Ken Thorne.