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With: Boris Karloff, Julissa, Carlos East, Isela Vega, Yerye Beirute, Eva Muller, Santan—n, Pamela Rosas, Fuensanta
Written by: Jack Hill, Luis Enrique Vergara
Directed by: Jack Hill, Juan Ib‡–ez
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 89
Date: 01/01/1968

Fear Chamber (1968)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Brain Food

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Fear Chamber embodies everything that's great about "B" movie ingenuity. In 1968, American director Jack Hill (Spider Baby) was hired to write four scripts for Boris Karloff. The ailing Karloff could only shoot for a limited time on a sound stage in Los Angeles, while the rest of the films were to be "filled in" by another crew in Mexico.

Director Juan Ib‡–ez "completed" the films, which included Snake People, House of Evil and The Incredible Invasion, though those titles have been changed multiple times over the years to fool gullible drive-in audiences into seeing them again.

In Fear Chamber, Karloff plays a scientist looking for "crystallized intelligence." He gets to sit in his lab while his daughter (Julissa) and another young scientist, Mark (Carlos East) search for it. They find it and bring it back, but soon discover that it feeds on a particular chemical generated by the human body while terrified. So the good doctor and his creepy assistants set up a kind of "haunted house," in which they frighten kidnapped young women and siphon the needed chemical from their bodies.

Oddly, this amazingly far-fetched set-up makes for a great evening's good-bad entertainment. There is far too much expository dialogue, and none of the other actors can even match Karloff's skill, much less his screen presence, but the color photography is quite striking and the old-fashioned haunted house lends itself to a kind of comforting, giddy chill.

Karloff shot one other movie around this same time, Peter Bogdanovich's Targets (1968), which would make an excellent double bill paired with this one.

DVD Details: Elite's new DVD comes letterboxed, with the 89-minute American edit. As a bonus, it also comes with the nude scene that the American censors originally cut out. Jack Hill provides an unusually informative commentary track, and there are two audio mixes to choose from.

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