Two on a
may be wondering how an obscure mid-1960s horror comedy such as Two on a
Guillotine would make it into our movie reviews section. After all the
great majority of our reviews – probably over 95% of them – are of films
which have been released to theaters in the past 10 years or so.
Periodically we will do special stories about video releases of old films,
but these are usually classics along the lines of Snow White & the Seven
Dwarfs, True Grit, Woodstock, Mary Poppins and The Sting.
why exactly are we doing a story on the limited video release of a
forty-five year old film which is probably barely remembered even by its own
stars? (At least the ones who are still alive…)
fact, the only way that Two on a Guillotine is notable at all in
Hollywood history is that it was the final film composed by legendary film
musician Max Steiner, whose career spanned decades and included such classic
scores as Gone with the Wind, Now Voyager, Casablanca and A Summer
Place. However, we are not picking on Two on a Guillotine for
that historical footnote – in fact, Steiner’s music actually feels a bit
old-fashioned and overbearing in this 60s curio – particularly in one
specific (and somewhat gratuitous) part where the two main characters decide
to go to a swinging 60s dance club, complete with a band and frugging go-go
dancers. In the middle of a rock and roll song, the two leads kiss and the
loose skiffle beat is overwhelmed by dramatic old-fashioned strings and
and Jake and the Fatman star William Conrad and featured a tiny
part by 7-foot-tall actor Richard Kiel, who went on to play the James Bond
super-villain Jaws (the only Bond bad Also, it was directed by future
other than nemesis Ernst Blofeld to
appear in two films in the series
Blofeld was always played by different actors
in each film). However,
neither of those facts were of more than casual interest to me, either.
why review Two on a Guillotine, then?
be completely honest; it is a perfectly 100% subjective choice. I have a
very vague memory of loving this film as a kid growing up. I undoubtedly
saw it on Dr. Shock’s Horror Theater on channel 17 in Philadelphia as
a child. Strangely, though, I only really particularly remember two titles
of horror films I particularly liked from that time
period – this one and an even more
obscure title called The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake.
said, I only had two specific memories of Two on a Guillotine. One
was a skeleton which ran down a very visible wire to scare people. The
other was that a girl had to stay over in the house of her father – a mad
magician named Duquesne – in order to get her inheritance. (To give you an
idea how young I was, I literally remember learning through this movie that
the name Duquesne was pronounced Doo-cane rather than Doo-kwes-knee.)
Besides, I haven’t seen this film since puberty. What are really the
chances that it will live up to my memories? In fact, I’ve been
disheartened to find that overall when I see a film or TV show I loved as a
small child I am almost inevitably disappointed by them.
Therefore, the good news is that Two on a Guillotine actually has
held up pretty well. Sure, parts of it are completely cheesy and the
special effects are laughably primitive, but I’ve got to say I kind of dug
seeing the movie again – even though I didn’t remember huge chunks of it.
Two on a Guillotine
starred Connie Stevens
and Dean Jones. Stevens played the adult daughter of the mad magician –
played by Cesar Romero. The Great Duquesne’s stage show featured the
magician apparently killing his wife (also played by Stevens) in different
dramatic ways. Twenty years earlier while planning a Marie Antoinette trick
with a guillotine for a French tour, the wife disappeared and Duquesne
retired from the stage, became a hermit in his house and sent his daughter
to live with an aunt.
he dies, he wills everything to his daughter – on the provision that she
spend seven straight nights in his house, otherwise all the money goes to
his former business manager and housekeeper. The
magician also makes his last vow to return from beyond the grave as his
final great trick. She goes up to stay at the old
castle – bringing along Jones as an apparently nice concerned guy who is
hiding the fact that he is a reporter. As a magician, it turns out that
Duquesne booby-trapped his own home with a whole group of gags and scares.
Suddenly Stevens and Jones are hearing sounds in the night, seeing all sorts
of strange things and falling in love way too quickly.
Okay, it’s not the world’s most original storyline. And no, it doesn’t
always make sense. Still, I really enjoyed seeing this old forgotten curio
– and not just because of residual good vibes from my childhood. (In fact,
from what little information I have been able to find about The Four
Skulls of Jonathan Drake, the other film I mentioned remembering loving,
it sounds like it would be truly unbearable to me if I were to try to watch
Two on a Guillotine
was a bit of a formula
film, but it is a quaint formula that is rarely done today. It’s not a film
that will change anybody’s life, but it is a fun and charming time capsule
to a time where
all you really needed to scare an audience was a skeleton on a wire.
A day when
films were much more innocent than they are today.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: July 16, 2010.