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Series / Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible

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"Hello. I'm Doctor Terrible, and welcome to my House Of Horrible."
Doctor Terrible, Once per Episode.

An Affectionate Parody of Horror tropes, Doctor Terrible's House Of Horrible was a six-episode series created by Graham Duff and co-written by Steve Coogan for The BBC in 2001. In Horror Anthology style, each episode is introduced by Doctor Terrible (Coogan in heavy makeup) and then proceeds with the week's tale, where the main character will be played by Steve Coogan, the episode then concluding with a skewed moral message, more-or-less completely unrelated to the events of the tale, delivered by Doctor Terrible (Coogan again).

People other than Steve Coogan were involved, naturally. Aside from a grab-bag of British comedy talents (Mark Gatiss, Simon Pegg, Ronni Ancona, and John Thompson, among others) hamming it up with all their might, veterans of the very productions being lampooned leant their talents - Honor Blackman, Graham Crowden, and Angela Pleasance all appear.

Each episode is an Affectionate Parody of a particular subgenre or house style; for example, the episode "And Now the Fearing..." riffs on the anthology horror films of Amicus Productions. Amicus is also the source of the series title; the first of its anthologies was titled Dr. Terror's House of Horrors.

Viewing figures fell short of expectations - the humour is both dark and very silly, which tends to induce Mood Whiplash on first viewing - and the BBC opted not to order a second series. If, like many fans, you find that the series improves with repeated viewings, you will just have to reconcile yourself to the fact that six episodes is all you're ever going to get. For the uninitiated, they are:

  • "Lesbian Vampire Lovers of Lust" - Captain Hans Brocken (Coogan) is on holiday with his young bride. They decide to stay at [dramatic pause] The Castle. Countess Kronstein seems very interested in the Captain's lady... There are Lesbian Vampires in it.
  • "Frenzy of Tongs" - Yellow Peril Hang Man Chan and Gentleman Adventurer Nathan Blaze (Coogan) pit their wits against one another, with the main parodic targets being Hammer's The Terror Of The Tongs and Doctor Who's "The Talons Of Weng-Chiang". Mark Gatiss plays Hang Man Chan, and remarks in the commentary that he decided to play it as if he and Blaze were former lovers.
  • "Curse of the Blood of the Lizard of Doom" - Seeking to harness the regenerative powers of the Lizard, Doctor Donald Baxter (Coogan) begins experimenting on himself... oh, you know where this one's going already, don't you? Dooooooooomed!
  • "Voodoo Feet of Death" - A talented ballroom dancer (Coogan) loses both his feet in a giant-scissors related accident, and his transplanted new feet seem to have a mind of their own. A lot of foot-related Puns are paraded for your enjoyment.
  • "And Now the Fearing..." - A wealthy industrialist (Coogan) who cornered the market in Methylated Spirits (because Tramps have to drink something) is trapped in a lift with two other people. They relate their recent nightmares, which include gypsy curses, stable time loops, and killer coffee tables.
  • "Scream Satan Scream!" - Tobias Slater, Witch Locator (Coogan) is very definitely determined to locate witches, no matter how many young maidens he must lech on along the way. Features a hilarious turn by Warwick Davis as his mute assistant Tygon.

This series provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible is a loving parody of the British horror films of the 1960s and 1970s made by the likes of Hammer, Amicus, and Tigon, with cameos, nods and references all over the place.
  • Boomerang Bigot: In "Frenzy of Tongs", there is a British police chief of Chinese descent who says several incredibly racist things about the Chinese crime gang.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Spoofed in "Frenzy of Tongs", where the Yellow Peril Diabolical Mastermind and the Gentleman Adventurer Guile Hero are noted in the commentary track to have played it "like they used to be lovers", although it wasn't in the original script and mostly conveyed through the acting. Mark Gatiss explained in the commentary that the relationship between hero and villain is inherently a romantic one, as heroes need villains in order to express their glory and villains need heroes in order to have someone to defeat.
  • Inscrutable Oriental: One of the tropes being parodied in "Frenzy of Tongs". At one point a character, after being betrayed by Hang Man Chan, actually yells "Damn your inscrutability!"
  • Male Gaze: The title card for the episode "Lesbian Vampire Lovers Of Lust", the episode parodying Hammer Horror's house style, appears over a shot of generous cleavage generously spattered with drops of blood.
  • No Name Given: Parodied with a voodoo man who says "My name is...unimportant." Or rather, as eagle-eyed viewers who read his passport know even before he appears, his name is "Unim Pawtant". (His brother is named Mosim.)
  • Oh, Crap!: Captain Tobias Slater, Witch Locator, at the end of "Scream Satan Scream" when he realizes he’s about to be killed by a villager due to the witches’ curse.
  • Once per Episode: In addition to Dr. Terrible's introduction above, there's also what he says after each tale: "That was truly diabolical."
  • Slurpasaur: Parodied; one episode uses miniature footage of an ordinary crab superimposed on footage of a sewer, as well as some footage of a claw puppet, in order to give the impression of a Giant Enemy Crab.
  • Staying Alive: Hang Man Chan.
    Blaze: That's the trouble with these Chinese. You kill them, and then twenty minutes later, you have to kill them again.
  • Try to Fit That on a Business Card: Hang Man Chan, Sinister Bony-Fingered Menace of the East and Would-be Emperor Of The Free World.note 
  • The Voiceless: Tygon, delightfully portrayed by Warwick Davis, never speaks a word. Davis relates in the DVD extras that he loved the fact that neither the character's height, nor his inability to speak, was ever made the subject of a joke.
  • Yellow Peril: Parodied with Hang Man Chan, Sinister Bony-Fingered Menace of the East and Would-be Emperor Of The Free World, and his daughter Woo-Woo.