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April 3, 2012

Movie Review: House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Directed by William Castle

Starring Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart and Richard Long

Director William Castle was more then just a film maker, he was a showman, the undisputed king of B-movie's during his time. He was the “gimmick guy”, and when you stepped into the theater to watch one of his movies you would always be entertained, from flying skeleton's floating through the theater for House on Haunted Hill, to electrified theater seats for The Tingler.

And although his movies were never considered great during their time, they always made money and most are now considered true cult classics of this early age of horror movies. In fact, director Alfred Hitchcock was so impressed with the success and style of House on Haunted Hill, after watching it he decided to try his hand at making his own low budget horror movie. I think it was something called Psycho.

Teaming up with Castle on House on Haunted Hill was the one and only Vincent Price, who's mere presence could turn any piece of shit movie into a guaranteed success. Castle was no fool, and he used Price in several of his movies, and to great effect.

The story-line is simple but effective, Eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) invites five people to a party he is throwing for his cheating, scandalous wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), in a rented old house that is rumored to be haunted and promising to give them each $10,000 on the condition that they stay in the house the entire night, with all the doors being locked at midnight. (I am assuming $10,000 must have been quite a bit of money back then) Annabelle doesn't want to be there and she warns the guests that her husband is psychotic, putting everyone on edge.

One of the guests Nora (Carolyn Craig) becomes convinced Loren is trying to kill her when she keeps seeing frightening apparitions, including the ghost of Annabelle, who has apparently hung herself during the night. But in reality Loren has erected an elaborate scheme to exact revenge on his scheming wife and her secret lover, Dr. Trent (Alan Marshal) who is also on the guest-list. The guests are mere pawns in his game and eventually he succeeds in dumping the two-timing wench in a pit of acid with the help of a home-made floating skeleton trick. Who says the good guys never win?

Originally released by United Artists, the movie has since become public domain and is available in a number of issues. This particular one is through the distributor Cheezy Flicks, and unfortunately no one bothered to do a restoration on it, so the video quality is subsequently a little on the dicey side.

Although not particularly scary, even for its time, its still a fun, quaint little piece of old-time fright-cinema. If you haven't seen it, I'd say go out and pick it up, these kinds of movies can be found in the bargain bins at several different retailers and are usually very inexpensive. Like all of Vincent Price's movies, its a cool addition to any horror collection.

6.5 out of 10 Reviewed by KennyB

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