Two on a Guillotine was one of the few directorial outings for William Conrad. What’s funny is the film was part of a four picture deal to capitalize on William Castle’s popular roadshows. Taking advantage of young stars such as Connie Stevens and Dean Jones, Warner Brothers saw an opportunity to break out into a new generation of horror. The story is familiar about a crazy relative making a young person stay in his seemingly haunted house. All the while, the real secret is far more spooky!
Cesar Romero kills as Duke Duquesne. Duke is a weird magician that seemingly gets off on trying to kill his family members. After his wife dies, it’s not long before Duke vanishes and his daughter Cassie is left to pick up the remnants of his life. The William Castle similarities are quite much, but the film never quite stands out. More often than not, Conrad’s TV roots come through to the surface.
I love when Classic Hollywood would make big studio features that dabbled in horror. Two on a Guillotine continues this streak by showing how little Hollywood understood horror for the masses. Still dabbling in the ideas of the Hollywood Golden Age, we had people like Cesar Romero playing more eccentric weirdos than monsters.
While I love a good weirdo chewing on scenery, it feels a little too villain of the week rather than movie threat. If Two on a Guillotine has one problem, it’s that it’s not scary. More than anything, it requires you to sympathize with the familial dynamics that entangle Connie Stevens and Cesar Romero.
I appreciate the classic score from Max Steiner and the efforts to play as horror. But, it feels like it was trying too hard in an era where Terence Fisher and Hammer were already starting to win over American gorehounds. At best, it’s a fun slice of transitional horror. At worst, it’s Pat Boone connecting to the kids by singing Beatles tunes. That’s the gift and curse of Two on a Guillotine.
Warner Archive just kills these classic Blu-ray releases. When they were DVD only, I used to only pick up their classic animation releases. However, the HD generation has brought so many wonderful titles out of the woodwork. This Blu-ray comes with no special features, but check out that A/V Quality. Look at all of these wonderful screenshots and see the magic that Warner Archive can achieve with any film.