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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

House on Haunted Hill (1959) - William Castle


Every year, during Halloween time, my mother would put The House on Haunted Hill on television. Introduced and starring Vincent Price, Haunted Hill is a Halloween staple. The effects are cheesy and the overly dramatic cast list reads like a Twilight Zone episode. Richard Long, Carol Ohmart, Carolyn Craig, Alan Marshal, Elisha Cook Jr... The cast is full of big names from the late fifties.  The movie played big on the drive-in, date night, style of movie that was popular at the time.

Vincent Price plays Frederick Loren, a bored millionaire that decides to throw a haunted party for a random group of citizens. The party includes a $10,000 prize for anyone that stays though the night. $50,000 in all. Through the night the contestants begin to notice strange goings on. A vat of acid, used to dissolve bodies, sits in the basement ready for a new victim. Voices, Pounding, Walking, Knocking, all of these things are happening. Quickly driving the inhabitants mad. Can they stay the night?

The movie is very campy and obvious. It used to be frightening. However, now it's full of Halloween fun. Easy and safe for even children to view. I wouldn't be surprised if this came on the Disney channel nowadays. The movie harkens back to the early days of horror, using the Old Dark House storyline. A usual for the early days. The scares in the movie are still there. The infamous scene with the skeleton coming out of the acid is the scariest scene. Impressive for it's time, it's a stretch now. Very safe for Halloween parties of all ages.

The movie is fantastic. Such a classic and best to be brought out during a Halloween or Halloween Eve movie parties. The soundtrack, the actors, the storyline, and the sets are all made especially for viewings such as this. It's not a usual Thursday night movie that you can just put on at any time during the week. Rather, a film for a certain season.

"If I were gonna haunt somebody, this would certainly be the house I'd do it in."
  • The large grosses for this film were noticed by Alfred Hitchcock. This led him to create his own low-budget horror film - Psycho.  
  • The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film.
  • Used a gimmick called "Emergo" in theaters. When the skeleton rises from the acid vat in the film, a lighted plastic skeleton on a wire appeared from a black box next to the screen to swoop over the heads of the audience. The skeleton would then be pulled back into the box as the skeleton in the film is "reeled in". Many theaters soon stopped using this "effect" because when the local boys heard about it, they would bring slingshots to the theater; when the skeleton started its journey, they would pull out their slingshots and fire at it with stones, BBs, ball bearings and whatever else they could find. 
   

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