HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL – The Dungeon Review!
I love Vincent Price and that fantastic voice of his! I would see just about anything with his name attached to it. By no means are all Price films good, but even in the worst shite, his awesome presence still shines through. I seen the 1999 remake of ‘House on Haunted Hill’, but this is my first viewing of the original. I actually like Geoffrey Rush, who plays the Price character, but the remake of ‘House On Haunted Hill’ was lame. It features one of the worst endings ever put to celluloid! I don’t like remakes as a rule but they sure as hell took liberties with this one! There is no contest between these two films. The original is far better than the remake.
Frederick Loren is an eccentric millionaire who invites five people to a haunted house in honour of his wife Annabelle’s birthday. The guest list includes the owner of the haunted house, a pilot, a journalist, a clerk and a psychiatrist. He offers each one $10,000 if they will stay the night. They only have a short time to decide whether they stay or go because at midnight the doors are locked, and no one will be allowed out until the caretakers return in the morning.
Vincent Price did back to back films with director William Castle. Both ‘House on Haunted Hill’ and ‘The Tingler’ were made in 1959. William Castle films are generally family friendly light-hearted affairs, and certainly there is nothing to offend here. You could definitely watch this one with the whole family. The premise of ‘House on Haunted Hill’ is pretty simple, five people are offered money to stay in a reputably haunted house. All of the invited guests are professionals with careers and do not appear to be hard up for cash. But that is the rub, as it turns out each guest has a skeleton in their closet which Mr. Loren hints at in a narrated portion of the film. The only exception to this is Nora Manning, the young woman who is a clerk or administrator of some manner for one of Loren’s companies. She needed the money to help out her family. I think he only invited her because she can scream like a banshee! The dialog is actually pretty snappy. Particularly fun is the dialog between Frederick and Annabelle who positively detest each other. “Darling, the only ghoul in the house is you!” and “Don’t stay up thinking of ways to get rid of me, it makes wrinkles.” This is just a couple examples of the banter between the couple. Good fun! Vincent Price as Frederick is the cat’s ass but Carol Ohmart definitely holds her own in their wicked duals. The rest of the cast is somewhat generic with the exception of Elisha Cook Jr. who plays the nervous Watson Pritchard, owner of ‘House on Haunted Hill’. His character is seemingly an expert on the homes history, and his own brother was killed inside its walls. Pritchard spends the entire film wringing his hands and talking incessantly about murders and ghosts. Overall I thought the story was decent and I quite liked the double cross/twist at the end, although I found the finale a bit abrupt.
Castle makes the most of the big rambling house and its many rooms and creates some nice atmosphere. The film is not without some suspense but I wouldn’t exactly say it is frightening. The effects are pretty hokey, particularly the walking skeleton. One of my favourite things about this film is that big old pit of acid in the basement! That just kills me! Every self-respecting villain should have an acid pit in their basement!! Fantastic stuff! And who doesn’t enjoy party favours? Especially when they are handguns that come in coffin shaped boxes? I was kind of hoping he was going to pass around horns and party hats too. There is no two ways about it, ‘House on Haunted Hill’ is camp of the highest order, but it is definitely fun. The performances by Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart alone make it worth a watch. Highly Recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: William Castle
Starring: Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook Jr., Julie Mitchum, Leona Anderson, Howard Hoffman