It’s been about one year since I started reviewing and posting movie reviews again. Thank you for being a faithful reader! With Halloween coming up, I’ll be featuring reviews for a few scary (and not so scary) films for the season.
A Vincent Price film from 1959, the black and white House on Haunted Hill is a campy mystery starring the man whose voice is as recognizable as his on screen persona. Michael Jackson after all used him for the speaking part in his famous Thriller song, and Vincent’s eerie laugh and performance really added to the success of the song and music video.
This story involves Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) and his fourth wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), who invite five guests to their home on Halloween Eve: Nora (Carolyn Craig), a young woman who works for him; Mr. Pritchard (Elisha Cook, Jr.), who is convinced ghosts haunt the house on the hill following several murders; Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum), an older woman who is a columnist; Lance (Richard Long from The Big Valley TV show); and Dr. Trent, a psychiatrist (Alan Marshal). All arrive at the rented house at the appointed hour, the prize offered by Frederick of $10,000 each for spending the night locked in together in the house their impetus.
Frederick and Annabelle are at each other’s throats as soon as we meet them, and have a kind of creepy yet sexy exchange of dialogue between them. You know they aren’t the best match and suspect their intentions for the evening immediately.
Nora soon becomes hysterical when she sees ghosts wandering the deserted rooms of this very strange looking house. (The exterior of the house doesn’t really resemble what you’d think of as a haunted house, and is actually the Ennis Brown house in Los Angeles designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1924.) Lance of course is a perfect pairing with the hysterical young woman, coming to her rescue again and again.
The alcohol flows and Frederick ups the ante by giving each of the guests a little gift. What that gift is you’ll have to watch to find out. The film is only an hour and fifteen minutes, hardly much out of your day if you indulge in it. The music reminds me of an Ed Wood movie, that eerie odd soundtrack adding to the campiness of the film.
Carolyn Craig must have auditioned for her role solely by screaming. Carol Ohmart playing Frederick’s wife Annabelle was the best actress in the film, and with Vincent Price, they make the film, well, amusing.
Special effects are primitive and not believable, thus the campy feeling throughout the film. It’s really a mystery more than a ghost story. I read that the large grosses for this film were noticed by Alfred Hitchcock, which led him to creating his own low budget horror film, Psycho.
By all means give House on Haunted Hill a watch. It would make a nice double feature with another scarier movie some rainy, cold evening.