Death at Love House
Death at Love House (a.k.a. The Shrine of Lorna Love) is a 1976 American made-for-television horror film directed by E.W. Swackhamer. Part of the ABC Movie of the Week, the film stars Robert Wagner and Kate Jackson.
|Death at Love House|
|Written by||James Barnett|
|Directed by||E.W. Swackhamer|
|Music by||Laurence Rosenthal|
|Country of origin||USA|
|Running time||74 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Spelling-Goldberg Productions|
|Original release||September 3, 1976|
While on a tour in Hollywood, a young couple, Joel and Donna Gregory (Robert Wagner and Kate Jackson), arrive at the house of Lorna Love, an infamous actress who died in 1935. There, they meet with housekeeper Clara Josephs (Sylvia Sidney) and agent Oscar Payne (Bill Macy), to investigate the mystery behind Lorna and finish a book that they are writing on the actress, an interest that came out of the discovery that Joel's father was her lover. While staying at the mansion, strange incidents occur. The couple immediately notice a portrait of Lorna, painted by Joel's father, and shortly after, Donna catches a 1930s-dressed woman at the center-located shrine in the garden.
At their first night, they are visited by Conan Carroll (John Carradine), a film director who directed Lorna in her first breakthrough film Gone of Desire. Conan claims that Lorna ruined his life, and that Joel Sr. was the only person ever to walk away from her, after telling her that she had no soul. He quickly wants to exit the mansion, leaving Joel and Donna with even more questions. As Conan leaves, he is attacked by an unknown creature, and falls in the fountain, in which he drowns following a heart attack. While processing this information, Donna finds a mysterious blade that was commonly used in witchcraft and one of her photos torn apart. Joel, meanwhile, tries to find out more on a locked room, and finds out through Clara that it was Joel Sr. and Lorna's bedroom.
Later that day, Joel and Donna visit Denise Christian (Dorothy Lamour), an aged actress and former rival of Lorna at a set for a commercial. Denise explains that Lorna tried to blackball her at every studio as soon as Denise became as big of a star as her. She continues to tell that she first met Joel Sr. at the studio - where Joel Sr. was working in the art department - and that Lorna stole him from her just to bug Denise. Denise concludes to reveal that Lorna contacted a healer for eternal beauty and youth, and could not sleep ever since: after Joel Sr. smashed all the windows and left, she lived in the spiritual world of the healer,"Father Eternal Fire."
Back at the mansion, Joel finds a book about witch spells, and becomes obsessed with Lorna, fantasizing about her (Marianna Hill). Moments later, the same man who scared Conan tries to murder Donna through carbon monoxide poisoning in a locked bathroom, and Joel and Clara are only just in time to save her. Donna initially insists on leaving, but decides to support her husband as he explains that he is near discovering Lorna's secrets and thus can't leave yet. They next meet with Marcella Geffenhart (Joan Blondell), Lorna's self-proclaimed best friend. She tells them about "Father Eternal Fire", a spiritual man, though refuses to elaborate on the witchcraft blade that Donna found. After the conversation, Donna claims that Marcella is the woman who ran past Lorna's shrine on the first day of their arrival, and wants to continue meeting with Marcella. Joel, however, forbids her from doing so, explaining that Lorna deserves to have secrets.
That evening – in an obsessed rage - Joel breaks into Lorna's bedroom and reads about details of Joel Sr.'s affair with her. Donna, meanwhile, has again spotted the woman from day one and reaches out to Joel for help. The next morning, Donna pleads to leave, but Joel again protects Lorna and refuses to go. Donna then meets with Oscar who reveals that part of the healer's activities involved fire, and that her husband is not safe in the mansion. Donna hurries to save Joel, and finds a terrified Marcella at the mansion along with the witchcraft blade cut through a photo of her. As she looks around, she finds out that Clara Josephs is actually a very alive Lorna. She rushes to save Joel, but he does not recognize her and instead turns to Clara/Lorna. While under her spell, Joel kisses her at the shrine and fire breaks out. Donna goes in to save Joel, and leaves Clara/Lorna to burn to death.
- Robert Wagner as Joel Gregory Jr./Joel Gregory Sr.
- Kate Jackson as Donna Gregory
- Sylvia Sidney as Clara Josephs
- Marianna Hill as Lorna Love
- Joan Blondell as Marcella Geffenhart
- John Carradine as Conan Carroll
- Dorothy Lamour as Denise Christian, Lorna's only rival in film land
- Bill Macy as Oscar Payne