Many of the cast and crew members were former Warhol superstars: Mary Woronov, Ondine, Candy Darling, Kristen Steen, Tally Brown, Lewis Love, filmmaker Jack Smith and artist Susan Rothenberg. It was filmed in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York in 1970 but was not released theatrically until 1972 under the alternate titles Night of the Dark Full Moon, and in 1981 as Death House (sometimes stylized as Deathouse).
Although it is attributed to Zora Investments Associates in the credits, the film was never registered with the United States Copyright Office, and thus fell into the public domain.
On Christmas Eve 1950, a man named Wilfred Butler, engulfed in flames, runs out of his mansion near East Willard, Massachusetts. His death is ruled accidental, and the house left to his grandson Jeffrey.
Twenty years later, lawyer John Carter arrives in East Willard on Christmas Eve with his assistant and mistress Ingrid, having been charged by Jeffrey Butler to sell the house. Carter meets with the town’s leading citizens: Mayor Adams; Sheriff Bill Mason; Charlie Towman, who owns the local newspaper; and Tess Howard, who operates the town’s telephone switchboard. They all agree to buy the Butler mansion on behalf of the town for the bargain price of $50,000, which Jeffrey Butler requires to be paid in cash the next day. Carter and Ingrid stay the night at the Butler mansion, unaware that they are being watched. After dinner, they retreat to a bedroom to have sex. Their unknown stalker enters the bedroom and brutally murders them both with an ax, and then reads from a Bible before placing a crucifix in Ingrid’s hand. The killer calls the sheriff, asking him to come investigate Carter’s disappearance, and introduces himself as the house’s owner. While talking with Tess, who forwards his call, he calls himself “Marianne”.
Jeffrey Butler arrives at the mansion to meet with Carter, but finds it locked and empty. He drives to the mayor’s home, where he meets Diane, the mayor’s daughter. The mayor has gone to the county’s bank to obtain the required cash for the payment, so she redirects Jeffrey to the sheriff’s office. At the same time, the sheriff is heading to the mansion, but stops at Wilfred Butler’s disturbed gravesite, where he finds Butler’s diary, then he’s attacked and killed with a shovel.
Failing to find the sheriff, Jeffrey goes back to the mayor’s, where Diane tells him she’s received some calls for her father by a certain “Marianne”, who said to be waiting at the mansion. Puzzled by the strange events, Jeffrey and Diane decide to drive to the mansion, but stop after they find the sheriff’s abandoned car. They instead go find Towman at the newspaper. Towman, who can’t speak due to laryngectomy, manages to explain that Tess also drove to the mansion. Jeffrey and Towman go after her while Diane does more research in the archives. After a call from “Marianne” tells her to look up the events of Christmas 1935, she pieces together Wilfred’s story. In 1930, his wife died of tuberculosis. In 1933, his daughter Marianne, who was 15 at the time, was raped and got pregnant; the son she gives birth to is Jeffrey, whom was sent away to California. In 1935, Wilfred turned the mansion into a mental hospital and had Marianne committed. The rest of the story has apparently been redacted.
At the mansion, “Marianne” greets a visibly frightened Tess, then repeatedly bashes her over the head with a candlestick. After an unfruitful trip to Tess’s house, Jeffrey goes back to Diane, who fills him in about her discoveries, particularly the fact that his mother didn’t die giving birth like Jeffrey thought. They head to the mansion. On their way there, they pass Towman’s car, which has been set on fire. Further down the road, Towman throws himself at Jeffrey’s car and Jeffrey runs him over, killing him. Examining the body, he realizes somebody cut his hands off. At the mansion, Jeffrey finds his grandfather’s diary, where it’s revealed he was the one who got Marianne pregnant. The diary recounts how Wilfred grew hostile toward the complacent hospital staff, so freed the hospital’s patients, causing a massacre that resulted in Marianne’s death as well. He then ended up faking his death in 1950 and he’s been living anonymously in a nearby mental hospital ever since.
Jeffrey tells Diane that his grandfather/father is still alive, and that the sheriff, Tess, Towman and the mayor were all former inmates Wilfred sought revenge on for the death of Marianne. The mayor arrives at the mansion armed with a rifle, and he and Jeffrey open fire, killing each other. The elderly Wilfred Butler finally appears, and Diane grabs Jeffrey’s gun and shoots him. A year later, Diane takes one last look at the Butler mansion before it is destroyed by a bulldozer.
By Gershuny, Theodore (director) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons