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DVD Review: Two On A Guillotine

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The Great Duquesne (Cesar Romero) was once hailed as the world’s greatest magician (or is it “illusionist?”). Whether it be a bloody onstage Grand Guignol performance or a simple disappearing act, The Great Duquesne could wow an audience like no other.

But his greatest disappearing act was also his most inadvertent.

One night, 20 years ago, Duquesne’s wife (Connie Stevens) simply up and vanished without a trace, leaving the magnificent showman broken — thus forcing him to retire from the business for good. Two decades on, following The Great Duquesne’s funeral, his daughter Cassie (also played by Connie Stevens) is set to inherit her late father’s entire $300,000 estate. Naturally, there’s a catch: she has to spend an entire week in her pop’s creepy old castle, which comes complete with skeletons on wires, moaning walls, and a rabbit that knows too much.

She agrees to the terms of the will, taking up residence at the Duquesne family dwelling, wherein young reporter Val Henderson (Dean Jones) comes-a-callin’ to get a scoop on both her and her father’s demise. Posing as a real estate flunky, Henderson convinces Cassie to let him stay in the house as well — for her own safety (yeah, sure). As one red herring scare pops up after another, Val decides to figure out who’s trying to scare Cassie out of her money, and (naturally) a romance between the two is unavoidable.

Okay, folks, I’m just going to cut to the chase here: William Conrad’s Two On A Guillotine (1965) isn’t a great movie. It’s fun, yes — much in the same way some of William Castle’s lesser gimmick movies are fun for their sheer goofiness — but, as a “serious thriller,” Two On A Guillotine leaves a lot to be desired. For starters, the movie seems to intermittently change from being a thriller to a horror film, and then a light-hearted romantic comedy.

It’s nice to see Dean Jones in a non-Disney role, and the film boasts a rather haunting song by Connie Francis entitled “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Some folks may want to give it a gander just to see a brief glimpse of either William Conrad or Richard Kiel, but, ultimately, Two On A Guillotine just doesn’t have a lot going for it. Thus, it’s easy to see why Warner made this part of the Warner Archive collection (movies straight from the Warner Brothers vaults that are manufactured direct to DVD-R).

But don’t let the whole “DVD-R” thing discourage those of you who have been waiting an eternity and a half for this one to hit home video. Warner has done a fine job with this “Remastered Edition,” presenting Two On A Guillotine in an anamorphic 2.35:1 ratio (plus). The transfer itself is a very decent one (another plus), and the disc boasts an English mono soundtrack. No special features are included on this release (minus).

Oh, and if you haven’t seen the film and you want to try and guess what’ll happen in the film’s climax, don’t check out the back cover (big friggin’ minus).

In short, Two On A Guillotine has a few positives going for it, and the film has achieved a semi-cult film status over the years. And, while I can’t see myself watching again anytime soon, it should definitely warrant a viewing from any and all vintage horror/thriller fans.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.