Released by: Cheezy Flicks
Released on: 12/5/2006
Director: William Castle
Cast: Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Elisha Cook, Carolyn Craig, Howard Hoffman, Julie Mitchum
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This classic William Castle production stars Vincent Price as an eccentric millionaire who invites a group of strangers to spend the night in the most haunted house in America. Any of the strangers who can spend the night, and make it through the night alive, will be rewarded with $10,000. Hey, it was a lot of money in the 1959. Among the guests is Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook, “Icepick” from Magnum P.I.
), a drunk with ties to the house. His sister befell some tragedy there and as Pritchard puts it, she’s now among the others in the house, the others being ghosts.
The rich cat, Frederick Loren (Price) is currently on his fourth wife, Annabelle (the smoking hot Carol Ohmart), and from the get go it’s obvious there isn’t much love in that relationship. They talk of her trying to poison him as through it’s no worse than farting under the covers, and the fact that all of his wives have died does not uncommented upon by Annabelle.
Creepy things start to happen very quickly, with Nora (Carolyn Craig) being the one who seems to have the worst luck with the ghosts. As a result she’s regarded by the others as having “lost it”, with the exception of an airline pilot, Lance (Richard Long) who suspects something is amiss with the millionaire and his $10,000 deal. Murder creeps into the story and causes everyone to suspect everyone else. With the house locked down and no means of escaping, the guests are forced to remain until dawn and wait out the night, wondering who will be next and who is responsible for all the shit going down in the mansion.
Although really short in running time (75 minutes), the movie manages to cram in plenty of great moments, visually and verbally (Vincent Price: “What husband hasn’t at some time wanted to kill his wife?”). Great use of shadows combined with interesting photography help bring a great atmosphere to the movie, making certain set pieces very effective. The special effects are on the cheesy side, but that doesn’t take away from the movie’s ability to deliver memorable scenes. The acting techniques are standard for the time, but Elisha Cook and Vincent Price are the standouts. Price’s performance is an iconic one, so much that Geoffrey Rush pretty much played Vincent Price in the remake 40 years later. This is great black-and-white, atomic-age horror done with style and is very effective with its purpose: to be creepy. Over 50 years after it was made it still holds up as a fun time and that old blind lady who pops up here and there is so frigging freaky STILL, even after seeing it multiple times. If for some reason this one has eluded your attention, you owe it to yourself to give it whirl.
Not much has been done to this version of House of Haunted Hill
, by way of restoration. Actually this is nothing more than a decent tape burned to a disc. The fact the film is in the public domain might play into the lack of attention given to making the movie look better (it would look outstanding in HD, one would imagine). For the most part it looks fine, but it’s sourced from a tape, so it looks like a tape. One thing to note is the movie freezes in two spots. Not the disc, but whatever source they used. At 5:39 and 50:56 the movie pauses then after a second or two comes back. As far as the audio goes, it's a mono track and is serviceable. No issues to mention.
A “Special Introduction by Vincent Price” can be watched…all thirteen seconds of it. An “Intermission” item consists of two one-minute advertisement spots played at drive-ins, one being for “Smithfield Barbeque” and the other for the “Bernz-O-Matic In-Car Heaters”. Also available is a reel of clips for other Cheezy Flicks discs like Convoy
, Dracula vs. Billy the Kid
, and Star Knight
The Final Word:
A must-see for horror fans, well at least ones who enjoy the older stuff to some degree. For those who haven’t seen it, you really should make it a point to put this one in the player. Cheezy Flicks went the easy route on the extras by not really putting any on there, which is a shame.