on December 26, 1999
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is one of my favorite movies. It has everything. A haunted house, a dark and stormy night, ghosts, a bloodstain that won't wash out, severed heads, an acid vat, organ music...It's just so atmospheric. The plot: Millionaire Vincent Price and his scheming wife invite five strangers to the house on Haunted Hill. He'll pay them 10,000 dollars each if they spend the night there. One of them dies, and a murder mystery also evolves. This movie from William Castle and Robb White is so much fun, and the set and acting is fantastic. If you love this, check out 13 GHOSTS, which I have also reviewed.
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William Castle at his gimmicky best! A Classic, spooky Black and White, with deliciously devilish Vincent Price as millionaire with a bored gold-digger wife. She wants a Halloween party with her friends, Price tosses a party all right, but not with the people of her choosing. He offers $10,000 dollars to five stranger if they will join him and his wife in spending Halloween night in a truly haunted house. One of the 5 is a young Elisha Cooke, family of the former owners who died in the house, and he leads them on a murder tour. To jazz things up, Price passes out "party favors" - guns. And it's a race to find out whether Price of his wife will be the last one standing. This movie is a grandfather of nearly every clichés, blooding dripping from the ceiling, dark mysterious corridors, a witchy woman floating around and vanishing - and the topper that organ music!! This is more like a Halloween Fun house ride than a movie! Price is campy and has great fun with the role, with super lines, especially when fussing with his less than happy wife.
Castle originally devised this movie with "special touches" for the audiences, like ghost on wires gloating through the audience of people in costume sitting down beside you to enhance the fun house feel.
Just plain fun and a wee trip down memory lane.
on November 25, 2008
Vincent Price, eccentric millionaire and master of terror, invites you to spend a single night in his house of terrors... if you dare! (No spoilers here!)
House on Haunted Hill is one of those landmark films that are responsible for launching an entire sub-genre (survival-horror in our case) and for spawning countless imitations, ranging in scope from classic Scooby-Doo episodes to modern tripe like Scary Movie 2. Such an important film deserves quality reproduction to preserve it for future generations, and this recent release from Legend Films provides superlative value in doing so.
Though billed as a color version, potential consumers should note that this DVD also contains a fully re-mastered version of the original black and white. Apparently, the same technology that was used to add such a vibrant and believable rainbow to the film's palate can also be used to improve the visual quality of the black and white source material. Having seen various versions in my day, I can unequivocally say that this is the best quality release available. On the whole, both die-hards traditionalists (the black and whiters) and their children (the colorers) will appreciate what this DVD can offer. Particularly given the extras...
Worth the price of admission itself, this film also contains a Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque audio commentary from the show's writer and star, Mike Nelson. Any fan of the show, or anyone else interested in a bout of riotous laughter, will be tickled pink by its hilarious inclusion. For the uninitiated, Mystery Science Theater became a cult television hit for its heckling of terrible, B-movies (not to suggest that the present film is representative of that genre). The DVD also features several versions of the original theatrical trailer, which is always a treat for movie buffs or people curious about the evolution of marketing over time.
on June 14, 2006
Say what you want about producer/director William Castle (The Tingler, 13 Ghosts, Mr. Sardonicus) but one thing was for sure...he knew how to fill seats in a movie theater, primarily by forcing some sort of direct interaction between the audience and the film (at least in his horror themed features). In House on Haunted Hill (1959), he utilized a technique he called `Emergo', which essentially featured a skeleton, suspended from wires, coming from the screen towards the audience during a specific part of the movie, the intent being to scare the pants off those in the theater. From what I've heard, it didn't sound like many were frightened, but it didn't really matter as Castle was a master at selling the sizzle, rather than the steak, as they say, and audiences flocked to his films...produced and directed by William Castle, the film features the merchant of menace himself Vincent Price (The Fly, The Tingler, House of Usher) in the first of two films he made with Castle. Also appearing is Elisha Cook Jr. (Shane, The Haunted Palace), Carolyn Craig (Giant), Richard Long (Ma and Pa Kettle), Carol `homina homina' Ohmart (Spider Baby), Alan Marshal (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and Julie Mitchum (Edge of Hell), sister of actor Robert Mitchum.
Price plays Frederick Loren, an eccentric millionaire who, along with his wife Annabelle (Ohmart), has thrown together an interesting little party involving five, seemingly random strangers gathering at a haunted house with ten thousand dollars to each who dare stay through the night. In attendance, along with Frederick and his wife, is Watson Pritchard (Cook), whose brother, one of the previous owners, was murdered within the house, Lance Schroeder (Long), a test pilot, Dr. David Trent (Marshal), a psychiatrist, Nora Manning (Craig), a typist, and Ruth Bridgers (Mitchum), a newspaper columnist. Seems all have agreed to play Frederick's little game for one reason, they need the dough, and if some crazy rich dude is willing to part with his green for such a seemingly easy task, what the hay, right? Well, the guests arrive, introductions are made, and Frederick gives them the full lowdown. The secluded house is like a fortress (steel doors and bars on the windows) in that once they're locked in (at midnight, to be precise), there's no getting out until the caretakers arrive the next morning. Also, there's no electricity or telephones, and the nearest neighbors are well beyond yelling distance. After a tour of the house, highlighting where various grisly events occurred (including a visit to the acid vat in the cellar...man, this place has everything), a few drinks, and some scares (the ghosts seem to have a thing for Nora), Fredrick passes out some party favors in the form of loaded handguns (nothing like being drunk and armed), not that they'd do anyone much good if there are ghosts out and about...anyway, midnight is coming so if anyone wants to cut out of this ghoulish get together, they'd better get while the getting's good...
While not my favorite Castle feature (that goes to The Tingler), House on Haunted Hill is still a hoot and a half for all of its campy, good-natured fun. The one thing this film has going for it, above and beyond everything else, is Vincent Price. No matter how rotten the feature was (which wasn't the case here), Price always brought with him a real sense of class and sophistication to the proceedings, especially true of the number of Poe based films he and Roger Corman made throughout the 1960s for American International Pictures. The absolute best parts of this movie for me occur early on as Price's character is interacting with his wife, and we see the pair have an interesting hate/hate relationship...here's an example of their often snide and insinuating banter they engage in behind closed doors...
Fredrick: Of all my wives you're least agreeable...
Annabelle: But still alive.
Here's another bit...
Frederick: Do you remember the fun we had when you poisoned me?
Annabelle: Something you ate, the doctor said.
Frederick: Yes, arsenic on the rocks...
There are a few more excellent exchanges between Price and Ohmart, worthy alone of seeing this film. As for the rest of the performers, I had no real complaints. Elisha Cook Jr.'s character did get on my nerves after awhile, with his constant dour outlook punctuated by his persistent `doom and gloom' predictions. Drink some more booze, you rummy...seriously, all this guy did was talk about how the ghosts were going to come and take them all away. Perhaps this attitude was assisted by his excessive alcohol intake, but really, what's the point of accepting an invitation to spend a night at a house you believe you won't come out of alive? The money? Won't do you much good if'n you're dead, fool. If I was in that house I probably would have shot him just to be rid of him. At least I learned one thing...never invite Elisha Cook Jr. to your party and ply him with lots of booze as he'll turn into a real poison pill. I did like Ms. Ohmart, and not just because she was a smoking babe with a large rack, but because she held her own with Price, even if it was for just a handful of scenes. If you've got a hankering to see more of her, and you like ookie horror features, you should really check out another film she appeared in called Spider Baby (1968), featuring Lon Chaney Jr. There are a few, minor scares scattered throughout the film (a crusty crone, a disembodied head or two), but nothing that will make you soil yourself...some scenes will make you snicker, though, like the one where Pritchard chucks a dead rat into the acid vat, if only to demonstrate the acid is really acid. After some bubbling effects, a fully articulated rat skeleton bobs to the surface, indicating to those watching it truly is the real deal. Yes sir, that be some powerful acid...the movie may not be much for scares, but it does have plenty of atmosphere created by Castle's direction, groovy, cobweb laden set pieces, spooky music, and usage of the Ennis Brown House in Los Angeles, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, for the exterior shots.
It seems this film has fallen into the public domain (i.e. the copyright expired), as I see there are a number of DVD releases by various companies. I can't speak for those other releases, but the one I own, put out by Warner Brothers (it has a large headshot of Price in the lower right hand corner and Ohmart in a nightgown being menaced by a disfigured hand in the upper left), looks exceptionally good, and features both the fullscreen and widescreen formats, along with a excellent Dolby Digital mono audio track. The only extras included are a theatrical trailer for the film and subtitles in both English and French.
By the way, this movie saw a remake of the same titled, released in 1999, oozing with high tech special effects. It was decent enough, but I still liked the original better.
Vincent Price. A haunted mansion house. Spooky caretakers. And a giant pile of money to any of the guests who lives through the night. What's not to love?
"The House on Haunted Hill" is one of those rare horror movies that seems as fresh as if it were made yesterday. The script is clever, the acting is solid, and while the direction is a bit on the hammy side, the plot is clever enough to keep viewers riveted until the final twist. It's horror, myster and dark comedy all in one.
Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) decides to host a macabre birthday party for his devious wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), in the "House on Haunted Hill." He invites a test pilot, a columnist, a secretary and the house's unbalanced owner, and offers each one ten thousand dollars if they stay all night. Chandeliers fall, doors slam shut, and they get to see the wine vat full of acid.
But as the night goes on, poor Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig) begins to see specters and rotted heads. The others think she's hysterical -- until Annabelle is found hanging in the hallway, dead. The unfortunate guests start to suspect that Loren brought them there to murder them (except for the owner, who blames ghosts). But the truth is far more complex and sinister....
William Castle made a lot of slightly kitschy horror movies like "13 Ghosts" and "The Tingler," but this clever twist on haunted-house movies is probably his best work ever. Okay, that dancing skeleton is unintentionally funny, as is the gliding crone. But most of the time, it provides some in-your-face chills and great work from Price.
This movie has solid dialogue ("Do you remember the fun we had when you poisoned me?") and some truly wicked exchanges between Price and Ohmart, as spouses who completely loathe one another. Castle's weird sense of humor shows up in the coffin-shaped boxes, the vat of acid, and the organ playing itself.
But the most impressive aspect of "House" is that it's not just another ghosts-terrify-screaming-idiots movie. It's more of a mystery, before the crime is committed. We're never quite sure if there really are ghosts haunting the place, or if the humans are the ones who are really causing all this trouble. What's really scary is that the humans are more frightening.
Vincent Price is definitely the star here -- creepy, intelligent, debonair, and he has an acid comment for every occasion ("Don't stay up thinking of ways to get rid of me. It makes wrinkles"). Ohmart runs a close second with her seductive, devious trophy wife; the other actors do solid jobs as well, although Craig doesn't do much except shriek periodically.
"House on Haunted Hill" is a deserving vintage horror movie -- a twisty plot, and Price at his finest. A must-see.
on February 26, 2009
I've been waiting for a special edition of House on Haunted Hill for awhile now. The special features are listed as "90 minutes long" and include the following:
1. less than 5 minutes of a fan talking about Carol Ohmart (1 minute of it is with Jack Hill). Waste of time.
2. less than 5 minutes of the same fan talking about very well known facts about the house in the movie. Waste of time.
3. over 80 minutes of trailers and a terrible quality willian castle tv spot. Waste of time.
The only reason to buy this is for the cool dvd art. Nothing else.
Maybe one day we'll see a special edition dvd worth buying. Until then, don't double dip on this one.
on November 21, 2015
I am not old, but definitely into older movies. I just recently saw this movie for the first time. Previously i had only seen the modern version of house on haunted hill.Let me just say, if you have never seen this older, original version, you are missing out! I love Vincent Price, and this original version is very different from the modern version, but nostalgic! I very much so enjoyed it, as well as my six year old daughter...and that was in black and white on tv!So....when i found this dvd in color here on amazon, i was thrilled! I had to order it so we could see it in color! The price was awesome, and it arrived on time.I am very happy with my purchase, and highly recommend.
on September 20, 2010
I like Vincent Price & this movie, 'nuff said on that. What I would like to cover is this particular edition of this movie. Not only does this disk include the original B/W version & a new colorized version, but it also has a bonus audio track from the creators of Rifftrax. This Rifftrax only features Mike Nelson.
The original B/W seems to be cleaned-up high quality version (I own another disk from another publisher that is very bad on both audio & visual quality). I'm very happy with this B/W movie.
The colorized version is absolutely amazing. I normally don't like colorized B/W movies (I'm one who watches a lot of old B/W movies), they look fake and it can really ruin the feel of the movie. Many colorizations seem to forget to colorize the inner mouth, so that when someone is talking, it just looks freaky and disturbing. They also seem to try too hard, it's as if they can't accept that a film is done in B/W and rather than compliment the film or simply enhance, they try to make it a bright, colorful, modern looking film. Not so on this disk(at least not that I noticed). When I played the colorized film, I couldn't believe the quality. If I hadn't known this was originally a B/W film, I don't think I could have ever guessed it. I was very impressed with the job these guys did on the film, both in cleaning up the B/W and also with the colorization.
The concept of Rifftrax is to basically make fun of movies, usually bad ones. I've seen some bad movies that are "riffed" and frankly, if it's truly a terrible movie, there is no amount of "riffing" that can make it worth watching. They just aren't funny. Usually the best riffing is done on something that is either so old people don't understand the acting or writing style (and hence can make fun of it), or it's on a movie that isn't all that bad. This is one of those not so bad movies that are just fun & relaxing to watch. The only problem with the riffing on this movie is that the banter between the three guys (Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, & Kevin Murphy) is missing as Mike is doing all the riffing. I found this to be jarring and not very interesting as I'm accustomed to hearing all 3, each lending his own take on the particular riff. It's a nice bonus and I'm happy it's on there, but it shouldn't be a primary reason for a purchase.
I'm very happy I bought this version of this movie. I believe they also did a colorized version of "Last Man on Earth" and I'm hoping this company does other movies as well.
on July 31, 2001
My original copy of House On Haunted Hill was a budget video cassette, so you can imagine how much of an improvement the DVD was! I noticed a tiny bit of noise on the film, especially near the beginning and the end, and often when a scene changed, but in general the picture was quiet to silent.
I was struck by my ability to see the quality of the original film: in particular, the scene where the chandelier falls in the hallway near the beginning, the shot from the top of the room is softer than the surrounding shots... perhaps because stunt doubles were being used? I don't know and I'm not sure how to find out, but it sure wasn't noticeable in the video cassette I had! :)
Another amazing difference was being able to read the ending credits! Again in my video tape the end credits were ghosts themselves, completely bleeding out any recognizable letters.
The audio, to my ears, was excellent considering the source material. The noise floor was remarkably low, and dynamics were impressive as well. Some websites comment on a minor lack of bass, but again compared to the video, voices were remarkably warm.
Only the slightest hint of stressing of the limits of the audio system were detectable only during screams or occasionally during complex organ chords... possibly due more to the organ than the recording. Any distortion was kept to an amazing minimum, such that I doubt your average person would catch it.
The widescreen version was an eye-opener as well. This movie is laid out better than it appears if you've only seen the cropped version! Excellent subject balance shows up scene after scene... and the loss of this balance is obvious (and unavoidable) in the pan-and-scan version. In the opening credits as the doctor looks down upon the city so far below the house and the hill, the feeling of being way up above seems lost in the cramped pan-and-scan version.
In pan-and-scan, shoulders are constantly cropped off, people feel stuffed into the scene, perspective is occasionally off, and to my eyes it is just not as appealing a presentation visually as the original widescreen.
Pan-and-scan also occasionally gave motion in the room a jerky movement as the pan-and-scan tried to follow the focus of the action... often leaving out nice details available only in the widescreen version. Again, I have heard the pan-and-scan gives more detail for what is there, but I personally saw no loss in the widescreen version whatsoever.
The scene on the front cover of the DVD with Annabelle recoiling from a gruesome hand isn't in the film; possibly it is taken from publicity stills? I believe the same is true for the shot of Norra Manning looking through the cobwebs... and the shot of Frederick & Annabelle on the front inside cover... and the shot of Jonas Slydes holding Norra on the back cover... makes you wish there was a collector's book of publicity stills to go with it, huh?
Of course as a HOHH junkie I would have loved a full disc of extras, but the trailer is a wonderful addition by itself and will work well as a teaser for the movie to show my friends and get them hooked. :-) This is and will always been a classic Halloween movie; this DVD beautifully preserves it for Halloweens to come. I couldn't be happier with my purchase!
"What husband hasn't at one time wanted to kill his wife?" - Frederick Loren, chapter 15
This review is for:
House on Haunted Hill (Colorized / Black & White) (DVD)
Format: Black & White, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Restored
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Legend Films
DVD Release Date: July 1, 2008
Run Time: 75 minutes
Vincent Price stars as millionaire Frederick Loren in this 1959 horror film directed by William Castle. Loren rents a creepy old haunted house because his fourth wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) originally had the amusing idea of having a haunted house party with friends. (I should mention that Loren's first wife disappeared and his second and third wives both died of heart attacks in their twenties.) Loren nixes the idea of inviting friends, and instead chooses to invite five guests who are badly in need of money. He offers each guest ten thousand dollars if they will spend the entire night in the house.
Seven murders have already occurred in the house, and Castle gives us another alleged murder made to look like suicide early on, along with ghosts, secret passages, doors that open and close on their own, blood dripping from the ceiling, etc. Naturally this is all done with 1950's gimmickry so I have fun trying to imagine how audiences of that time experienced this movie vs. what we would think today.
Don't be too analytical when you watch this. The story is good but there are logical loopholes with certain events though this may have been intentional, hinting that the house is actually haunted after all. This movie is a product of its time and should be viewed as such. It is an acclaimed horror classic.
Legend films specializes in restoring and colorizing old films, and they did a really nice job with this movie. This DVD contains both the color and black & white versions, and an optional humorous audio commentary by Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. It also contains images from the film's original press book. The skillfully colorized movie looks great and the Dolby audio is very good. Details in so many scenes come to life as never seen before so I think it is much better to watch than the original black and white movie.
I highly recommend this excellent colorized DVD version to any fan of the original movie. Personally, I don't think I'll ever go back to watching the original black and white film.