House on Haunted Hill
Release Year: 1959
Director: William Castle
Writer: Rob White
Starring: Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshall, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook, Julie Mitchum, Leona Anderson, Howard Hoffman
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #328, week 42 2020
Eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) invites a group of strangers to stay i a haunted house. If they last through the night he will pay them each $10,000.
This collaboration between William Castle (13 Ghosts, 1960) and Vincent Price (The Comedy of Terrors, 1963) is a great examble of old-fashioned campy horror. Five invited strangers, an eccentric host, and his reluctant wife gather in a haunted house for a dare. What follows is an entertaining night of frights, ghouls, skeletons, ghosts. In short, a lot of campy horror fun. Castle was a master at using effects to scare his audience, and House on Haunted Hill boasts both inventive sound effects and visual effects that are quite impressive for the time (except when they are less so). Although there are plenty of supernatural elements, there is also an underlying mystery, which will keeping you guessing until the very end, because one or more of the guests may have ulterior motives. The cast are all good, though most characters are rather stereotypical, but the one who is bound to stick most clearly in your mind is without doubt Vincent Price. Here he is allowed to do what he does best as an actor. His sombre and distinctive voice, his impressive stare and persona helps to create an atmospheric horror film togther with the creepy sets and Castle’s adapt direction. Do not go in expecting a terrifying film, but see it for what it is and you will be thoroughly entertained. Highly recommended!
Exterior shots of the house was shot at the Ennis-Brown house in Los Angeles, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1924.
The opening of the film was quite effective when it was released. The effect of the near-total darkness accompanied by horrible sounds is lost on a small teleision screen, but would have been wuite effective in a big dark theatre. This scare technique gave rise to the idea of using soundtracks of spooky sounds and music for Halloween parties and Hunted House attractions.
This low-budget horror films was actually one of Allied Artists’s most profitable films of that period, and its financial success caught the eye of Alfred Hitchcock, who subsequently had his own go at a low budget horror film with Psycho (1960). Despite its financial success, the studio later fail to renew the film’s license and it is now in the public domain.