Inn of the Damned (1975)

Director Terry Bourke
Writers Terry Bourke
Starring Dame Judith Anderson, Alex Cord, Michael Craig, John Mellon, Tony Bonner
Genre Period Thriller
Tagline Murder, Mystery, Madness

Terry Bourke was no stranger to controversy and indeed earning the ire of the then Commonwealth Censorship Board. His first feature Night of Fear was initially banned, till public outrage forced the movie into theatres on a limited run. Intended as the pilot for a thirteen part Television series, Night of Fear broke some box office records under the banner "the movie they didn't want you to see". Probably still is banned in Queensland no doubt, but Umbrella Entertainment to the rescue there. With Inn of the Damned Bourke once again came under fire from the Censors, this time due to naked flesh, tainted sex (that would be lesbo action to you and me Russ), and apparently sadistic violence. The Commonwealth Board had learnt their leason from the previous fiasco, and this time let Inn off the leash with a brutal rating. Didn't work as the movie managed to astound at the Box Office both locally and Internationally. Australia finally had a hit horror movie, and the genre was up and scaring Down Under. Let's check into the movie.

Talk us through it

On a lonely stretch of road deep in the Australian bush exists an all but forgotten Inn that harbours a secret. Few travelers stay at the Inn since the arrival of boats and trains, but most of those who do don't ever leave. The old couple that run the Inn have something to hide, and Inn of the Damned spends a lot of time exposing it.

American Bounty hunter Cal Kincaid and Police trooper Moore are hot on the trail of a notorious outlaw, when they learn about his association with the Inn that dripped blood. After taking down the outlaw Trooper Moore heads off to the Inn to delve into the disappearance of an English prospector. He is never seen again. Kincaid is soon also drawn to the Inn when he tries to trace what happened to his friend. A surprisingly riveting thriller ensues.

Ready to saddle up and go bush?


Inn of the Damned can best be described as a cross between Hitchcock and Hammer Horror on horseback. Think Norman Bates in 1890s Gippsland and you are on the money. The movie follows the standard three acts and is somewhat laboured in it's 110 minute running time. During the first act our heros, Trooper Moore And Bountyhunter Kincaid are tracking down a villian who has a line in cutting up female victims. Once the mad butcher of Gippsland is disposed of, Trooper Moore visits the Inn that dripped blood, and Kincaid is drawn into investigating his disappearance. The final act see's Kincaid staying at the Inn, and the resolution rolls in some high paced action. Through out the three acts we get a steady mounting body count and more boobs than a nude beach can muster. Dame Judith Anderson was about the only female actor to not get her cloths off, and for that I remain eternally grateful.

To answer the Australian Censors, nope Bourke hasn't reformed from his first movie. There's a whopping amount of bare flesh, so everyone can check out racks galore. Bourke seems to have decided that if he is going to be troubled by the Censors, then to hell with it, let's go total exploitation on the Board's collective arses. Smind salutes the Director for that attitude, then again we're all for naked hotties littering up the screen. There's even a full frontal to look forward to as Bourke regular Carla Hoogeveen lets it all hang out.

Am assuming here the "tainted sex" was the lesbian bedroom and bathroom scene, the later being our selection for the movie still.
As The Todd would say, "something wonderful is happening", we support all lifestyles here so "tainted" didn't form any part of our reviewing of the movie. Finally the "sadistic voilence" was an overreaction. All murders are off screen with the most harrowing involving Bourke's trademark cut to a red screen. You could see a lot worse in cartoons of the period, and certainly U.S movies being released at the same time made this one look pretty tame end of day.

Before everyone rushes down the DVD store to check out the lesbo action, let's talk about how Inn of the Damned stakes up as an actual movie expierance. So hold onto your horses there, and pull the buggy up to the bumper baby!

Behind the camera Director Bourke is once again on fire. We get plenty of crane cam in use, some cool angles, and the bushland locations are used to their fullest. Bourke goes panaromic at stages, and this heightens the feeling of isolation the Director is aiming for. Full marks on some long shots to the actual Inn, Bourke makes it look both brooding and sinister with very little effort. You can't fault the atmosphere, or the tension that gets layered on at various highpoints as the movie progresses. The Director manages to keep his "ace cards" hidden till the end, with one device in particular alluded to, but not shown until the penultimate scenes.

The period costumes, language, and props all look authentic. You are in the 1890s here and Bourke doesn't let the ball drop at any stage. Full respect for the Cob & Co stage coach, an especially nice touch and you are going to party like it's 1899.

Where Bourke did let me down was in the actual script, which comes across as slightly padded and displays a disjointed pace. The opening act takes far too long to get where it's going, and a healthy edit was needed to quicken things up. Bourke unfortunatly falls into the trap of many young film makers, he tries to put too much plotting into a pretty stock standard horror joy ride. As much as I hate to say it, the lesbian sub plot wasn't needed. It would actually have formed the basis of a pretty torrid movie in it's own right. Have a murder mystery with flashbacks bracket in there. Damn, just been drummed out of the Down Under Online Reviewer club for crimes against lesbian bath scenes. Equally the English prospector got way too much introduction for a minor character, with the sole intent being to make that Asian umbrella a plot device, we got it already, let's not labour the point! Bourke completely misses nailing things with his unveiling of why this tale of ordinary madness is going down in an isolated Inn. Considering this movie is heavily informed by Hitchcock I was expecting something a lot more nasty, Bourke didn't want to go there, and the Hitch certainly would have. Complete let down, and about any reader still with us at this point could have really hammered home a shock ending. What was with the final five or so minutes of Inn of the Damned? I kept waiting for a twist in the tale and it didn't come.

Dame Judith Anderson (Caroline Straulle) was a standout for mine. The chick rode in on madness, kept that high on her priorities through out, and darned if Judith didn't get some sympathy by movie's end. Great performance and am already searching out more of her work. Alex Cord (Cal Kincaid) was the token American for the Night. Seem's at this era of genre flick making an America Actor was a prerequisite for no apparent reason, other than possibly getting some action at the North American Box Office. Cord was well cast and managed to keep his character interesting all the way through. Not sure where the "you better be prepared to use that gun" went by the third act, but Bourke may have been trying to make a statement with Inn that escapes me. Interesting to note that Cord's character works out what's going down, but needs saving by the locals as he chews off more than he can swallow. Cord does bring that particular surprise twist into focus, by managing to appear changed after events. Good solid performance, slightly overshadowed in places by other cast members.

Michael Craig (Trooper Moore) was also an excellent casting choice. He uses his blond good looks to best advantage, but does come across well as the "by the book" member of our crime fighting duo.

Guess I already mentioned the heavy amount of T&A going down during Inn's running time, and yes it's dudes night at the Cabana of terror here. The Ladies do get Craig showing off his upper body work, and come on gals admit it, you like boobs as well! Before I forget there are a couple of lesbian scenes which may offend male viewers.

Bob Young did a score that remains interesting in that it doesn't stick to one mood or one genre. Sure we get parts that would have done justice to most horror flicks, but we also get movements that wouldn't be amiss in a Sergie Leonie Western Epic, and even some playful fun with Biscayne being treated as a comic relief. About the only thing missing was a signature piece that is instantly recognisable. But even today I don't note that as being a big factor of Down Under horror score composition.

Summary Execution

Not entirely sure if I enjoyed the movie or not to be honest. In parts Inn of the Damned is excellent, but there's a whole feeling of some scenes having been added as padding, and the pace is uneven at best. The story line isn't strong enough for the movie's running time, and the supposed shock discovery late in the movie did not have the impact Bourke may have intended. Given Bourke's debut feature Night of Fear I was expecting something slightly more nasty to be shown. Come on Dude you hit out with full frontals and lesbo action, adding in some real deranged stuff would not have made you any more disliked by the Censors. Bourke pulls up short on really hitting a classic out of the ball park.

Inn of the Damned is available as a second feature along with Night of Fear from Umbrella Horror DVD Downunder. There's some rock solid extras added to the mix and the DVD is certainly worth the price of admission. You get a feature commentary track from actor Tony Bonner, the original Theater trailer, and a pretty interesting stills and promotional gallery. Full respect to Umbrella for including press clippings charting Inn's impact.

Not entirely sure who the hell I could recommend this movie to if I was being completely honest. Historically Inn is important as it proved Down Under horror could be made for a profit, and thus remains of importance to Horror Historians in this part of the World. European and North American readers probably wont dig this outing, specially considering the movie is over 30 years old and lacks the impact of modern genre product. Asian horror fans simply wont jive to the beat here, there's no revenant action going down. Which of course leaves us with the Down Under fan base who certainly should go grab a copy today if you haven't already scored one. I didn't find Inn as ground breaking as I expected, but you may like your stay. Book a room today, and see what secrets might unfold.

Editor's Note: Well that completes Scary Mind's look at Director Terry Bourke's early body of work and we certainly enjoyed our time in country at Bourke's Backyard; (ka boom tish, it's taken us two reviews to get to the obvious pun, now you saw this coming right?). Special thanks to Umbrella Horror DVD for having the balls to re-issue a whole lot of local classics, we'll be digging in during the coming weeks. For readers wanting to check out the catalog, see our links section for Umbrella's online presence. Remember support the local horror industry, buy those DVD's locally and get your sorry arse down to the cinema for the up coming .... is there anything upcoming?

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Worth a rental if the movie is at your local store, or simply buy the Umbrellia package deal.