Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pat Boyette's...Dungeon of Harrow

Back in 1962 I was just rolling around in my crib, as Pat Boyette was putting the finishing touches on his horror film masterpiece, Dungeon of Harrow. And if you jump thirty-six years later to Fort Worth, I was lucky enough to see this film the first time with the director himself, sitting in his living room with a bunch of other comic/original art fans. Now if you never were privileged to meet Mr. Boyette, you missed out on hearing that smooth baritone voice he perfected over years in radio and TV broadcasting. For me, it was seventy-four minutes of pure entertainment from the opening "Black Forest" script credits to the end title. It was like watching one of Pat’s Charlton comics come to life, or on second thought, really more like some of his Warren stories from Creepy or Eerie -- in full color. Shot in only two weeks in his native San Antonio, Boyette wrote the screenplay, designed the sets, and filmed the entire production in record time! No matter what the credits say, he also wrote the score, edited the entire film, provided the narration, and did just about everything else, costumes, sound, you name it. Even though Pat declared the acting of his main character was as wooden as some of the sets, (they were more papier-mâché than wood), he did need the financial backing from the "star" of the show, Russ Harvey. Russ also picked a few of his close friends to be in the production, since he was titled as the casting director too.

Does this movie have "cardboard" sets, and a "comic book" plot, coupled with some amateur acting -- most definitely it does, but that’s part of the film's charm. This first print I ever saw was a bootleg video that had some big problems with a muddy soundtrack and severely faded picture quality, but fortunately Alpha Video got hold of a better print when redistributing the film years later. It’s made Pat very popular in the B movie crowd, even more famous that his comic work I imagine, but you can give me some of his moody detailed original art anytime. However, no one should be surprised that this artist chose a horror film to make his mark on cinema. When I started looking over his comic art work, I was shocked to see that out of the roughly two hundred ninety six stories he published over the years with Charlton, DC, Marvel, Warren, Atlas, and a few other minor publishers, almost half that volume, one hundred thirty-nine stories, were of his chilling horror tales. Take my latest page offer here for your enjoyment from Archie Comics Red Circle Group from Sorcery #9. Another beautiful example of Boyette’s lush artwork in the spirit of the Caniff school with ghosts and demons haunting a local church. Unfortunately, these pages seem harder to find than just a few short years ago, but I’ve had my fair share of Pat’s artwork. I also am including another favorite spook page from Atlas Comics Weird Suspense #2 from the 1970s with two cops being eaten by a couple of giant tarantulas.

Pat said it was one of the happiest moments of his life, making this flick, and even though he did not set out to make schlock, with his limited resources, that’s the best he said you can hope for. It’s too bad though, that his later experiences in marketing this feature, discouraged Pat so much, he gave up the movie making business after only a few more films. Not wanting to give away this chillers plot, the film has many of Boyette’s classic themes like, a Victorian setting, one deserted island, damsels in distress, ruthless pirates, ghosts, a big spider, some torture, an insane host, the dungeon of course, disease, a touch of romance, and the shocking twist ending. I noticed many of these themes in his later Charlton comic work, and especially in one memorable Warren story that was pretty close to the "monster" of this motion picture. If you ever get the chance to see this movie and you enjoy Pat's moody detailed artwork, you're in for a real treat.


Angelo said...

Beautiful, very interesting blog.
Greetings from Sardinia, Italy

Dave Karlen said...

Angelo, thanks for the kind words.

Boyett-Brinkley said...

In 1962, while you were rolling around in your crib, I was spending many hours on the set of "Dungeon". It was a great time for me and I enjoyed every minute of it. You are right, it is like watching a comic book come to life -- I still enjoy watching it. Thanks for the kind words about my dad, I appreciate it and I know he would too.

Melissa Boyett Brinkley

Pearl said...

A great film! I saw it on the tube in '71 as a kid. Later in '94 I bought a decent VHS copy from Sinister Cinema. Has anybody else besides me noticed the uncanny similarities with Roger Corman's "The Terror"? Too bad Boyette didn't make more gothic horror films.

Unknown said...

My father,Maurice Harris, played Mantis. My mother tells the story about how Boyette casted him for the movie. Dad passed in 2003 and the movie is the only living part of dad now. Great movie.

Small Axe said...

A truly great film! I found it on Roku, and was so impressed.
Loved the dialogue - and the acting was perfect. And I totally
agree with Pearl. A real shame that the man never made make
more horror films. This one is a classic!!