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Subj: Creature Feature 112: House On Haunted Hill(1959)
Posted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 at 02:52:35 am EST (Viewed 146 times)
House On Haunted Hill tells the tale of a haunted house party in which murder is afoot. The 1959 film was directed by low budget horror director William Castle and starred Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Carolyn Craig and Elisha Cook. It was released by Allied Artists and was a huge success, thanks in part to the "Emergo" gimmick in which a skeleton swung over the audience during certain parts of the movie.
Millionaire Frederick Loren(Price) and his wife Annabelle(Ohmart) are holding a haunted house party on Haunted Hill with five guests who are guaranteed $10,000 if they can survive the night. Strange things begin to happen, mostly to pretty Nora(Craig), as the group is trapped in the haunted house and it's eventually learned that murder was indeed planned for the evening but things don't turn out as planned for all the participants.
House On Haunted Hill is such a fun 50's fright flick with some genuinely creepy scenes. William Castle really knew how to reach the kids of the time who enjoyed these types of drive-in movies. Not everything makes sense and the plot can be convoluted when you think about what the characters were trying to accomplish, but so what? This is an entertaining bit of B-movie that has gone on to become a cult classic.
Vincent Price is at his best, giving fans exactly what they expect from him. He's charming and cool, slightly weird, and always with a hint of malevolence. Elisha Cook's Watson Pritchard, the damaged man who knows of the house's history and spreads the tales of ghosts, is alright but sometimes too over-the-top. The acting and dialogue are actually pretty good for such a movie and the haunted house cliches are not unwelcome. There are no actual ghosts, so there aren't a great deal of special effects to talk about. However, there are good scares and fun twists that often make you wonder what the heck is going on. I'd seen this one a few times before but had forgotten most of the story which made this viewing a pleasure.
House On Haunted Hill has a bit of a unique opening as the screen stays black for a few seconds until a blood-curdling scream is heard. This is followed by floating headshots of Cook describing the ghosts and then Price introducing the characters. Right off the bat, you know that this movie will concentrate on fun scares.
The caretaker's wife scaring Nora. The ghostly looking and aptly named Mrs. Slydes suddenly appears to Nora as she and Lance explore the basement. Mrs. Slydes is blind and deaf and glides across the floor as if on wheels giving Nora and the viewers quite a surreal fright.
The severed head in Nora's room and Annabelle hanging herself. These are satisfying haunted house scares that give the viewer just what he expects.
The ghost of Annabelle appearing in Nora's room. The rope trick is cool as the rope Annabelle used to hang herself moves through the window and wraps itself around Nora's feet before the ghost approaches the window. You're better off going along for the ride and not trying to figure out how the scares were accomplished.
The skeleton scene. I expected this to be cornier than it was. Nowadays, a plastic skeleton is about as scary as a guy under a sheet but this movie is able to pull off a pretty cool and weird scene while maintaining 1950's monster charm.
House Of Haunted Hill trailer
House On Haunted Hill appeared in the documentary on B-movies It Came From Hollywood(1982). This is where I first heard of it and I quickly sought it out at the video store.
William Castle made a career out of using gimmicks in his films to gain notoriety. This film used "Emergo", in which the skeleton "emerged" from the screen. The Tingler employed "Percepto" and had a few seats in the theater which would vibrate at key times. 13 Ghosts was filmed in "Illusion-O" and moviegoers were given handheld ghost viewers which allowed them to see the ghosts. Castle also produced Rosemary's Baby in 1968.
Julie Mitchum, who played Ruth Bridges, is the sister of screen tough guy, Robert Mitchum, known for playing psychos in Night Of The Hunter and Cape Fear.
Elisha Cook is probably best known for playing the somewhat ineffective gunsel Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon(1941). He also appeared in The Big Sleep, The Killing and Rosemary's Baby.
Mrs. Slydes was played by former silent screen star Leona Anderson. She experienced a career revival in the 50's, billing herself as "the world's most horrible singer" and released an album Music To Suffer By in 1957.
You can watch House On Haunted Hill here:
House On Haunted Hill
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