House on Haunted Hill

One of the great, grand dark house movies of all time, “House on Haunted Hill” still manages to send the appropriate chills up and then back down your spine. Told in the simplest fashion by gimmicky director William Castle and frequent collaborator Robb White (“The Tingler,” “13 Ghosts”), the film brings together a diverse group of individuals with only one requirement.


houseonhauntedhillThey must spend the night in a haunted house. If they succeed, they each receive $10,000, which is a lot of loot now, but even more so back in 1958. It’s a devilish twist on Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians,” with Vincent Price in all his glory as the host of the party. Price plays Frederick Loren, a millionaire with a twisted sense of humor. When his wife insists on having a party, he rents the notorious “House on Haunted Hill” and ends up inviting the guests. There’s flight pilot Lance Schroeder (Richard Long); young ingenue Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig); Doctor David Trent (Alan Marshal); gossip columnist Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum); and the house’s former owner Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.). They may be a diverse group, but they all have one thing in common. They’re desperate for money, desperate enough to spend the night in a house that has claimed several lives already. Loren’s wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) at first refuses to join the party to spite her husband, but after a little persuasion, she joins the festivities. The hosts even hand out party favors to the guests (guns) before the clock strikes twelve and the doors are locked for the evening. Guns? According to Pritchard, they’re useless against the spirits that haunt the house. He’s right, and it’s not long before strange things start going bump in the night. Things really get nasty when Annabelle commits suicide by hanging herself, and pretty young Nora finds a severed head in her make- up bag. Castle, always the showman, never takes any of this seriously. There is a refreshing tongue-in- cheek quality in Price’s performance that keeps logic at bay. He makes it easy to forgive the script’s many plot holes. The rest of the cast rises to the occasion, especially Ohmart as Price’s scheming wife. Castle makes great use of a very limited set, and the film is never boring. I enjoyed this film the first time I saw it as a child, and had an equally giddy time watching it on DVD. Please note that this review is only for “House on Haunted Hill.” I haven’t even bothered to watch the other side which includes Price in “The Bat.” Maybe later. I couldn’t wait to watch “House on Haunted Hill” again.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ ] 20/20 [ X ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Much better than I as anticipating, the 1.66:1 widescreen (but just barely) digital transfer actually looks pretty decent. There is some noticeable wear and tear, but not the nightmare I was expecting. 41 years is a long time, yet someone has taken very good care of the original negative, allowing for a decent black and white transfer that looks sharp. Blacks are strong, while whites and shadows (which play an important role in the film) look clean most of the time. A little flecking, but I didn’t see any real compression artifact issues.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

The Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack sounds just the way I remember it in theaters. No big deal, but at least the dialogue mix is strong so you can hear every devious line.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ X ] Poor

No closed captions or subtitles.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ X ] Weak

Nothing. Nada. Not even main or scene access menus.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

It’s the little things that count. If they would have added main and scene access menus I would have given this DVD an excellent rating. Oh well!

VITALS: $29.98/Not Rated/75 Minutes/B&W/18 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#2009

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL-THE BAT

BIRTH DATE: 1958/1959

HMO: Roan Group



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