Horror or suspense movies that take place in haunted houses are tough to do. The remake of "The Haunting", for example, managed to be too literal and show too much which undermined its effectiveness especially compared to Robert Wise's spare, stark original film which was much more about atmosphere.
Richard Matheson's novel ("Hell House")and screenplay for "The Legend of Hell House" was something of a homage to Shirley Jackson's novel "The Haunting of Hill House" (and Robert Wise's classic film adapted from it "The Haunting"). The two novels and films have the same basic premise but go in different directions with them.
Physicist Lionel Barrett (Clive Reville)is hired to investigate the possibility of life after death. The location selected is that of the Belasco House once owned by the imposing Emeric Belasco. According to legend, Belasco was a sexual pervert who tortured his victims and their spirits supposedly still reside inside its walls.
Barrett hires two different mediums to participate in the experiment with him and his wife ((Gayle Hunnicutt). The first psychic is Ben Fischer (the late Roddy MacDowall)a survivor of a previous experiment in the house who reluctantly agrees to participate because he needs the money. The second Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin)has her own motivation for wanting to join the party.
Shout Factory does a nice job of renovating Hell House for its Blu-ray debut. The film has never looked quite this good--images are quite nice with depth and there's little to no debris evident in this transfer. There are occasionally small scratches and speckles but, on the whole, the film looks quite nice. I was a bit concerned, not because Shout Factory hasn't put out good product before, because this is more of a cult film that wouldn't normally receive the TLC that it deserves.
The audio is clear with the original mono soundtrack receiving a nice sounding transfer. This version does not include the 4.0 mix that Fox made for the DVD. Subtitles are provided in English. The moody score sounds quite nice here as well.
The special features are pretty good as well. They may not be as extensive as what Shout provided for some other releases, but they make up for quantity with quality.
We get a 30 minute interview with director John Hough. Hough has directed a number of b-movie classics and provides insight into his approach in shooting "The Legend of Hell House" as well as "Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry" another cult classic that he is responsible for.
The second major extra is an audio interview with Pamela Franklin presented as an audio commentary track. While there are long periods of silence, she does provide an interesting contrast to some of Hough's observations.
We also get a photo gallery, vintage radio spots and the theatrical trailer rounding out the extras for this release.
As usual Shout provides us with a reversable cover--the outside is the original theatrical poster while there's newly commission artwork on the reverse.
"The Legend of Hell House" is a film that I didn't think would receive a Blu-ray transfer and I've always enjoyed and admired what Hough, Matheson and the cast did with their small budgeted film. I'm a sucker for 70's horror films when they are well made and "Hell House" falls into that category. Fans will enjoy this as the transfer is exceptionally good with nice extras.
on October 1, 2014
OK -- this review, even though I see it is now FINALLY out on DVD & BLU-RAY (yeaaahhh!) -- is based on when I saw it in the theaters back in the early 70's ...
That said ...... in terms of being the two scariest films I'd ever seen; despite being filmed & released theatrically a decade apart ...
... there first came director ROBERT WISE'S 'THE HAUNTING' (1963) from the novel 'The Haunting of Hill House' by Shirley Jackson and then --
-- director JOHN HOUGH'S 'THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE' (1973) from (alas, the recently late and forever great) Richard Matheson's novel / screenplay 'Hell House'. (FYI: He gave us the oh-so-Vampire-epic novel 'I Am Legend' -- that became the films 'THE LAST MAN ON EARTH', 'THE OMEGA MAN' & 'I AM LEGEND')
I share these credits by Mr. Matheson because when you had him writing your screenplay of his novels, you had one of the best.
SPOILER ALERT: And, so -- please forgive the rambling as part of this review comes from the eyes and memories of a then 14 year old boy and so, I best jump to the proverbial chase. This film, had not a single CGI effect (not invented yet) -- nor was there a man in a ghost suit (if ever they made one, that is ...) -- nupe .... 'THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE' relied on the best special effects ever created:
a) What you HEARD on the sound-track (from an electronic music score and sound effects created by Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson) and --
b) Then what your BRAIN SAW in your IMAGINATION from what the film's perfectlly casted actors reacted to (Roddy McDowell, Clive Revill, Gayle Hunnicutt, Pamela Franklin and as 'Emeric Belasco' aka, the notorious "Roaring Giant" -- Michael Gough ...
Oh, if only the studios of today (2014) could trust the aforementioned 'imagination' of the viewers and not always the Go-Zillions of $$$'s of today's CGI ghost-monster-alien overdone 'porn' ........
And this was a film made (if I recall correctly) for less than a million U.S. Dollars ... and what you got from the main character, the 'Mt. Everest of Haunted Houses' -- was the interiors & exteriors of the on-location filmed house it self.
EXTERIORS: Were filmed at Wykehurst Park, West Sussex. (Oddly enough, where a long ago British girlfriend and cousin to a best growing up buddy and her later husband first lived after they got maried as the the huge place was divided into condo-apartments.)
INTERIORS: Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
Finally, just how scary is 'THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE'? Well, if you ever had that nightmare ... where you felt the blood draining from your legs -- and you want to run from this place, these people, this moment ... but cannot ..(?)
THIS is that nightmare made into a movie. Now to be seen in your home, your iPhone, your iPad,etc. -- lights on, lights off -- it'll still scare the living ghosts out of you and replace them with the vast, long into death willpower of 'Emeric Belasco' ... (so there)
BUY THIS FILM ! But don't watch it alone.
on August 30, 2014
So my guess is the immediate question is what is number one? That is reserved for, and always will be in my mind, Robert Wise' THE HAUNTING. That movie set the stage for haunted house films. The great thing is that this movie tips its hat to that film in the extras. This is not to say that his film doesn't deserve great rewards though. It stands out as an amazing movie in the genre, filled with enough scares to haunt your dreams and enough great moments to deserve a spot in the horror hall of fame.
If you've never seen the movie this is your chance. Shout Factory has gone out of their way to present the film in all of its eerie glory with a transfer that doesn't overly clean up the print but allows it to retain that fog shrouded walk to the house as it was first seen and presents it much as I recall seeing it that first time as a second billed film at the drive in. Too bad they didn't realize that the better film that night was this one, so good that I can't even recall what the first movie was after all these years.
The story takes place in the Belasco house, a home said to contain the most evil of spirits. The current owner employs Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill) to give him conclusive proof that there is or is not life after death. To do so he gives him one week inside the house with all expenses to get his equipment there. He also insists that a select team accompany Barrett including a psychic named Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) and the only survivor of a previous effort to the house, Benjamin Fischer (Roddy McDowell). If they make it through the week and return with the answers he seeks, each will be paid handsomely.
Joining the group is Barrett's wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt). While Barrett thinks she should sit this one out, she insists on accompanying him to help. As the four enter the grounds of the house the surrounding area is covered with fog. Opening the door they find the area prepped for them already with electricity running and the house prepped with food and needed supplies.
Once they settle in they have a séance. During this whatever spirit resides in the house manifests itself through Florence, first with ectoplasm emanating from her fingertips and then speaking through her. Warned to leave they fail to follow the advice of the spirit and things go from bad to worse.
Through the first part of the film Fischer stands or sits tentatively saying very little, choosing his words carefully. Eventually he tells them the story of what happened before and how he was fortunate enough to survive. Through it all Barrett disbelieves the existence of a malevolent spirit, a man of science who believes this is nothing more than trapped energy within the house. But Fischer and Florence try to tell him that there is more here than energy, a presence that once lived here is at work. Florence believes it to be someone in need of help. Fischer knows it is something more, something that is pure evil.
That should be enough story to set up what you will experience when watching this movie. More happens, trust me, some of it frightening and much of it thought provoking. For being made in 1973 the effects are quite well done and the movie, much like THE HAUNTING, doesn't overly rely on the effects to frighten or move the story forward. Instead it lets the actors move about freely in their characters with each ones quirks and beliefs as they are manipulated by the spirits that haunt this mansion, evil spirits that are not fully revealed until the end.
Based on the novel by the late Richard Matheson, the movie tones down much of what the book contained. The amount of sexual depravity the book's Belasco brought in to the house is extremely lowered and yet the film contains enough hints at this and that to make you realize how depraved he truly was. While watching I felt that it had enough of that part of the story to make the movie not one for young impressionable children and yet at the same time not enough to offend sensitive adults. . It retains enough of the story to make it a truly scary film.
At the same time you must consider that this film was made in the seventies. Had it been made today I'm certain that there would be gratuitous amounts of nudity and debauchery witnessed on screen. Perhaps the fact that it isn't included here makes this film better. Rather than rely on the latest hot actress with the newest implants this movie focuses instead on the actual haunting going on and the effect it has on these four and that's what makes it both believable and frightening.
For fans of the film the extras are limited but good ones worth paying attention to. Included is, of course, the original theatrical trailer. But you also have an audio track during the film done by Franklin which gives some insight into the process of making the movie and an interview with director John Hough that is filled with some wonderful information as well. Once again Scream/Shout Factory has done a tremendous job in bringing to life a movie that got a lackluster release prior to this one, a first time blu-ray edition. For movie fans and horror fans alike, this one is worth adding to your collection.
on September 13, 2015
The Legend Of Hell House comes to Hi Definition Blu-ray. This perhaps is one of the best Haunted House movies made. I love it and I often watch it with another favorite of mine, "The Haunting" starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom.
In "Legend", we have the same format. A group of paranormal researchers are sent in to investigate the Belasco House/ aka "Hell House" and they all nearly succumb to it's power and influence. A great thriller, but not a jump in your face shocker every five seconds. The cast includes Clive Revill, Roddy McDowall, Pamela Franklin, and Gale Hannicutt.
There are a few Special Features ~
Interview with Director John Hough
Audio interview with Pamela Franklin
DTS HD Mono (why they chose this when the DVD has a 4.0 stereo mix is beyond me).
This edition looks really good and is in improvement over the DVD in picture quality overall.
I suppose that one man's treasure is another man's garbage, or SO the old saw goes.
I do not believe they EVER made a BAD haunted house movie---or time travel movie,
for THAT matter---I love 'em all. SURE! Some are better, some are worse. I liked this
one for its cast, story, and music. The commentary track wasn't the best though. They
should have the folks commenting WATCHING the film instead of just layering the back-
ground vocals on like a song from Mo-Town.
All-in-all, this is as good as it gets... take a pee b-e-f-o-r-e you sit down!
"Although the story of this film is fictitious, the events depicted involving psychic phenomena are not only very much within the bonds of possibility, but could well be true." --Tom Corbett, Clairvoyant and Psychic Consultant to European Royalty. I mean, how can you disregard a film prefaced by a guy who reads fortunes to royalty?
Over the years that cinema has been around, one of its most popular genres has been horror, going all the way back to the silent days of "Nosferatu" and "The Phantom of the Opera." Of course, there have been monster movies and sci-fi creature movies and psychological thrillers, but one of the subclasses of the type that's always been a favorite of mine is the haunted-house flick. In spite of this category's appeal, however, there are surprisingly few of their number around with any genuine appeal for serious adults. "The Old Dark House" (1932 and 1963), "The Bat" (1915, 1927, and 1959) and "The Bat Whispers" (1930), "The House on Haunted Hill" (1958 and 1999), "The House That Dripped Blood" (1970), "The Exorcist" (1973), and a multitude of others all have their faithful adherents. My personal preferences have long been "The Uninvited" (1944); "The Haunting" (1963), Robert Wise's rendering of Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House"; the subject of discussion here, "The Legend of Hell House" (1973); the sci-fi horror flick that works like an old-fashioned ghost story, "Alien" (1979); and Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" (1980). Of these latter five, it's Wise's "The Haunting" that still evokes the most horror and suspense for me, I suppose because the director never shows us anything directly and forces us to use our own imagination; but "The Legend of Hell House" is a decent runner-up for haunted-house honors.
Based on his novel, "Hell House," Richard Matheson's screenplay is a classic spook-house story, with all the quintessential ingredients: a big, scary old mansion, seances in the dark, ectoplasmic manifestations, weird noises, and, of course, things that go bump in the night--namely, ghosts. Matheson also throws in as much accepted psychic mumbo-jumbo as possible to establish a sense of verisimilitude, and for good measure adds a few touches of implied (and perhaps not-so-implied) eroticism. Then, director John Hough ensures that there's only a modicum of blood or gore and that the spirits are never seen, just heard and felt, all the more frightening for us. It makes for a heady brew, and one that's kept me interested for nearly thirty years.
The plot is not unlike "The Haunting" from 1963 in that it involves a group of people investigating a supposedly haunted house. Even the exterior of the old house looks like the one in the earlier film. An elderly multi-billionaire, Mr. Deutsch (Roland Culver), offers each of three persons £1,000,000 each to establish the facts of survival after death. To do so, they must spend a week in Belasco House, the "Mt. Everest of haunted houses." The people involved are Dr. Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill), a physicist and parapsychologist; his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), who comes along for the ride and presumably must share her husband's pay; Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin), a young mental medium, meaning, I guess, that she can communicate with the dead but can't make stuff actually happen; and Ben Fischer (Roddy McDowall), a physical psychic and the only survivor of a previous attempt to examine Belasco House twenty years before. He is said to have crawled out of it a mental wreck while everyone else was killed, crippled, or driven insane. The Barretts are the cocky skeptics of the group, Tanner and Fischer the believers. Dr. Barrett believes that "ghosts" are no more than clusters of mindless residual energy left over when a person dies, and he intends to exorcise the house with a complicated machine that will remove all of its energy. The story sets up a struggle and eventual confrontation between the believers in science and the believers in the metaphysical. Oh, and look for a very special and quite unique cameo by Michael Gough.
We get a minute-by-minute account of all of this via time and date notes on the screen, something like a documentary or like the clocks in "High Noon." McDowall is especially delightful in his deadpan delivery; he never touches on a smile once in the film. When Mrs. Barrett asks him what made the house so evil, he replies, "Drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, bestiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies." "How did it end?" asks Mrs. Barrett. "If it had ended, we would not be here," he responds. Apparently, before the disastrous first investigations, over two dozen people were murdered in the house, but the body of Emmeric Belaso, the owner, was never found. The house makes everybody go a little funny.
The Blu-ray picture quality of this quarter-century-old print shows some signs of age, a few age flecks here and there, and a bit of grain in the backgrounds. The colors themselves are not showy but dark in tone and glossy, pretty much what I remember, in fact, from my having first seen the movie in a motion-picture theater. HD sharpness is reasonably good and better than the DVD.
Scream Factory provide audio in DTS-HD Master Audio mono. I had only remembered the film being in mono, so that's fine. There's not much to say about it except that it renders dialogue and the occasonal scream fairly clearly.
For bonus features we get very little: The highlight is an interview with director John Hough that lasts about half an hour. Then there is an audio interview with Pamela Franklin and a theatrical trailer.
"The Legend of Hell House" is suspenseful, creepy, and well-acted. It's just the kind of thing to curl up with on a dark and stormy night.
on March 27, 2015
Legend of Hell House
more of a suspense thriller than an actual Horror film, there's no Gore in the film at all
a Group of Psychic investigators, Actors Roddy McDowall, Pamela Franklin, Clive revill & Gayle Hunnicutt
investigate a particular Haunted house/mansion known as Hell House
all 4 of the investigators are Mediums trying to find out if there's any spirits, Ghosts that Dwell inside the mansion
that's basically the plot
the film is based on one Richard matheson's novel Hell House
one of Richard's other novels is the Last man on earth which was also made into a film with Vincent price
this Legend of Hell house film was alright, some scenes were scary mainly the poltergeist scenes
where objects would move & fly around the rooms themselves
there's also scenes where one of the mediums played by Actress Pamela Franklin
gets possessed by an evil spirit in the mansion which was scary but not Horrific to the point i had to close my eyes & not look
the film goes for 90mins tops so some scenes did Drag on
so as i said more of atmospheric suspense thriller than an actual Horror
and i've seen more scarier Ghosts films than this 70's thriller
and there is a big Difference between an atmospheric suspense thriller & suspense Horror
but it's a matter of opinion really
Scream factory have released this 70's thriller on Blu-ray now
and the HD transfer does look pretty Good but not excellent in 1:85:1 widescreen there's still some Grain & Dirt and some scenes
but the picture quality is big improvement from the old DVD version for sure
the sound quality has been given a new master audio stereo mix which sounds alright
as for the extras
a new retrospective interview with Director John Hough is on this blu-ray, goes for about 20mins
he gives his comments about the script, the casting, shooting the film, the special effects, the Legacy of it
an interesting interview
there's only 4 Actors in the film and most of them have passed away now (Died)
except for Actress Pamela Franklin who could've been interviewed for this blu-ray release
but instead she chose to do an Audio commentary for the film
her commentary is definitely informative so it's worth listening to,
but her commentary starts when here first scene is up on the screen which is about 10mins into the film
there's also a Photo Gallery & Theatrical trailer
time to upgrade for sure, throw out the old dvd copy & get this new blu-ray which has new interview with John Hough
i would give this new blu-ray version maybe 4 stars if the picture quality was more sharper & clearer meaning not much Grain or Dirt
in my opinion this blu-ray version it's only worth 3 stars which is okay
on February 8, 2015
THE STORY: A team of fringe investigators enter "the Mount Everest of haunted houses" in an attempt to debunk or validate the mysterious goings-on that have plagued an extravagant estate located in the English countryside for decades. Shortly after their arrival, it becomes very, very clear that these paranormal events are most definitely NOT pranks. Will the band of dedicated researchers stay the full week to complete their investigation or flee? And if they stay... will any of them survive the ordeal???
THOUGHTS: This is a very stylish, scary film from 1973 that covers much the same ground as Robert Wise's "The Haunting" made a decade prior. Thankfully, this film is just as entertaining. Solid turns by the entire cast boosts the intensity (and credibility) of the film. Roddy McDowell is, as always, a total joy as a man who battled the spirits inhabiting the creepy title dwelling as a teenager and has returned to confront them once and for all. Clive Revill is bristling with a burning desire to see his theories proven, while seemingly innocent Pamela Franklin finds her soul (and very life) threatened by the malevolent forces churning within the walls of Hell House. Much like the original "The Haunting" from 1963, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE relies on mood & atmosphere to create tension and generate dread & scares. A solid script by legendary writer Richard Matheson insures you will be entertained without being insulted. If you measure your thrills by the number of mutilated bodies and gallons of fake blood sprayed at the screen then you're in for a major letdown with this film. If, however, you have a fertile imagination and are spooked by what could be lurking in the dark & things that go bump in the night then you are in for a real treat. There are some scenes that absolutely creeped me out and made my hair stand on end. My wife & I both really enjoyed this old school haunted house fright flick.
THE BLU-RAY: Audio & video on this Blu-ray of THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE is quite good. For an older film the sharpness & colors were strong, and the transfer overall looks really nice. Sound design is well-balanced and is mostly clear of the crackles, hissing & pops that plague many older films. Bonus features include an interview with the film's director and an audio commentary track with lead actress Pamela Franklin, as well as the original theatrical trailer. So... pop some popcorn, turn down lights, cuddle up in your favorite spot by the telly with the one you love, and get ready for some old-fashioned scary fun with THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE. I give this spooky old school frightfest 4 STARS.
on September 4, 2015
Considering this movie was made in the 70's, not a bad show. However, if you haven't read the novel, you may be lost on a lot of the plot. I had read the novel just before seeing the movie, and the movie does follow the book well...not exactly, but well. Just some minor liberties taken. Compared to today's horror movies, this one will seem very tame. It gets three stars for following the novel as closely as it did.
on February 28, 2015
I actually only have DVD version right now but just ordered this version.
I really like the way they have cleaned up these old movies and added extra's to a lot of them.
This is actually one of the spookiest horror/ghost films for it's time. Some really fine actors/actresses in this movie and the
cinematography is fantastic also so i can hardly wait to see what it looks like in Blueray!
My copy arrived and although the extra's weren't all that great they did do a good job of cleaning up and enhancing the video and audio so i am going to stick with the 4 star rating.