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63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very scary!
"The Legend of Hell House" freaked me out as a child. I could barely go to sleep after the first time I saw it on TV. Yet thereafter, everytime it came on, despite the fact that I was scared to death of this movie, I always tried to watch it (under a blanket cover, of course). It is probably one of the most frightening movies, haunted house or not, ever...
Published on July 13, 2000 by Ed N

versus
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Low-key horror has mood to spare
THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE

(UK - 1973)

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Theatrical soundtrack: Mono

Odd, effective little shocker. Scripted by Richard Matheson from his novel 'Hell House', and produced at a time when Hammer's influence on the horror genre was being challenged by the new breed of horror emerging from the US and mainland Europe...
Published on October 9, 2001 by Libretio


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT AND INTELLIGENT HORROR MYSTERY!, October 5, 2006
By 
Ernest Jagger (Culver City, California) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Legend of Hell House (DVD)
I first saw this film as a young teenager when it was first released. And I must admit, it has stood the test of time very well. It is just as great and suspenseful today as it was when I first viewed the film. Not only that, it is an intelligentally well done film. The film begins with a dying millionaire who hires a team of investigators to look into the possibility of life after death. They are given one week to give him conclusive evidence if indeed there is life after death.

The investigators are a physicist named Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill) who is also accompanied by his wife Anne (Gale Hunnicutt). Also, there are two mediums, Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) [she portrayed the young girl in Deborah Kerr's "The Innocents"], and finally Ben Fisher (Roddy McDowell), the only survivor of the previous attempt to find out the secrets of Hell House. Florence is a religious medium, while Ben Fisher is a medium who intends to collect the money being offered by the millionaire, without opening up his paranormal powers to the house.

Fisher knows that the house is evil, and does not wish to involve himself in the investigation. He tells the others that the house's malevolent spirits do not mind a visitor or two, but it does not like to be challenged. The physicist has a machine that he claims will clean the house of negative energy. He refuses to listen to Fisher, and claims that science is the key to solving the secrets of Hell House, which he earlier told his wife, Anne, is the "Mt. Everest of Haunted Houses."

Friction develops immediately between Florence and Dr. Barrett. She claims the spirits need to be shown the way out and released from there terrible suffering. While Dr. Barrett believes his science will be the key. Fisher meanwhile is dawdling away the time when the week will be over. The house harbors many evils. It belonged to Emeric Belasco (Michael Gough), where every evil under the sun occurred. The film is great; I don't wish to put spoilers in here for you if you haven't seen the film, but it is highly recommended. A terrific film! [Stars: 5+]
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fair translation of the book., July 23, 2001
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This review is from: The Legend of Hell House (DVD)
This is a very decent haunted house movie. The frights however don't quite compare to those found in the original novel, which is arguably the greatest haunted house story ever written. Part of the problem was the time at which this movie was made--special effects weren't advanced enough and the depths of depravity which earned the Belasco house its nickname couldn't really be depicted. The main danger in this house seems to be poorly installed light fixtures. Yet the film does deliver a few good scares, with fine performances, weird wide-angle shots, and--most fortunately--a screenplay by Richard Matheson himself.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relentless (non-CGI) chiller, October 20, 2005
This review is from: The Legend of Hell House (DVD)
Old, decrepit and yet showing sinister signs of life - the foregoing seems to describe both the haunted house at the heart of the movie and the movie itself. Obviously dated, and showing no breakthrough effects, "The Legend of Hell House" easily matches the CGI-scarefests of today. Not an outright shocker, "Hell House" excels with gallons of unleaded chill. The plot is similar to that for "The Haunting of Hill House" - scientists experimenting on the beyond decide to chance a stay at a bona-fide haunted house. In this flick, it's the mansion of the mysterious Emeric Belasco - an appropriately grim British manor owned by man known for an "awful visage". In Belasco's lifetime the house played host to an entire catalog of human depravity. Belasco himself disappeared by the time an expedition to the house uncovered the grisly remains of his many guests. Decades later, and in true movie-science tradition, Lionel Barrett believes that there's an exotic-yet-natural explanation for the phenomenon that has made Belasco-house the "Mount Everest of haunted houses". Roddy Macdowell plays Fischer, one of the two mediums on this trip - and also the sole survivor of a similar effort from 1953. Fischer's past experience makes him an expert - though it soon emerges that his survival owed to his unwillingness to open his mind to the horrors of the house. Pamela Franklin (the preternaturally mature student from "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie") is Tanner, the other medium. If Fischer is reticent to angry spirits of the house, Tanner opens herself entirely to it/them. Then there's Barrett's wife...

Well, I don't want to spoil things too much. "Hell House" delivers its shocks on a thin conceit - but it does its job well. Very much laying groundwork for "Blair Witch", "Hell House" leads by relying less on special visual effects than on a careful combination of harsh sound effects and the expressions of the main characters - if it's scary enough for Roddy Macdowall, it's probably scary enough for the rest of us. Instead of a score, there's some jarring sounds which are quite reminiscent of "Blair Witch", and the flick even brazenly, yet effectively relies on date/time captions, as if it were a documentary. What saves "Hell House" from camp (and unfortunately, there's plenty of evidence that it was a close save) is the earnestness that the cast brings to its way-out story - with Franklin who'll do anything to liberate the trapped souls of the house; Clive Revill as the scientist who wants to save humanity from its fear of things that go slash in the night; and Macdowall as the surprising hero who may hold the key to everything. A perfect flick to remind you of the gray days before computer animated pseudo-chills.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insane, nasty and beautiful, April 8, 2007
This review is from: The Legend of Hell House (DVD)
"The Legend of Hell House" is one of those in-the-heat-of-the-moment-sadistic-satanic-70's films that everyone wants to forget about, as though cinema had a decade long fever peopled with sweaty dreams of demons, hauntings, and hapless female vixens with mysterious backgrounds and pronounced C-cup screen presences.

There is a cavernous darkness to this film from the opening scene that doesn't let up, not even with the absurd ending (Roddy McDowall jumping around, beating up a spirit who apparently can't escape the phenomenal world because of really good titanium.)

A bunch of psychics and one really pompous scientist decide to investigate the phenomenon of "Hell House", a foul little mansion once owned by an Aleister Crowley type (only worse) named Belasco. How can the name Belasco not inspire fear? It sounds like a tobacco company owned by Satan himself.

This Belasco wasn't a nice guy. One of the most chilling parts of the film is when the vulnerable (cues from "The Haunting" are wisely heeded) and unbalanced Christian psychic accidentally plays a record of which politely greets the troupe and promises "a memorable stay". Indeed.

Things don't turn out well. At all. Some of the highlights are McDowall's bone chilling monologues about the first exploration of the place which almost killed him and an unwise decision on the part of the female psychic to set free the spirit of Belasco's "son".

The ending could have destroyed whatever dubious scientific pretensions the film has, but by the time it takes place the movie has already cast its ugly and compelling spell. A must see.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Best Haunted House Movie EVER!, November 16, 2002
By 
Daniel V. Reilly (Upstate New York, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Legend of Hell House (DVD)
Forget special-effects filled modern junk movies like The Haunting; The Legend of Hell House is horror the way it should be done: With mood and atmosphere, instead of FX and loud sound effects.
The story is simplicity itself: Four people are hired to find out if there is life after death by studying the mother of all haunted houses: The Belasco House, A.K.A. "Hell House". There's the Parapsychologist and his Wife/Partner, the Mental Medium, and the Physical Medium. The Physical Medium (Played by Roddy McDowell) also happens to be the last person to visit Hell House, the only survivor of an ill-fated investigation 20 Years ago. It's been locked up ever since, and it's ready for some new guests....
The film moves at a slow, deliberate pace, letting the atmosphere of the House work on the viewer, rather than going for hokey-looking monsters or cheap scares (Like the tired old "Cat-jumps-out-of-the-closet" gag; There IS a killer cat, though!). Considering that we are constantly watching the same four people, casting is very important, and Hell House has some good performances, especially Pamela Franklin as the tortured Miss Tanner, the Mental Medium, who is used by the House's evil presence. The ending is a little too pat, and the explanation for Belasco's evil is a bit offbeat, but overall, Hell House is a Helluva film. Highly recommended! The DVD Widescreen transfer is excellent, but as far as extras go, it's just a Hell House trailer, and a few other assorted trailers. The Adam West Batman trailer is a hoot, though...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT GOTHIC HOUSE THRILLER!, October 29, 1999
By 
C. Cook (Ladera Ranch, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Especially in light of the absolutely dismal "The Haunting" released this year, "The Legend of Hell House" is looking better and better as a defining film for the haunted house story. Director Hough firmly establishes a foreboding mood from the first frame, and doesn't let go throughout the film. The acting is superb all around, with everyone taking the proceedings with fitting seriousness. There is no tongue-in-cheek attitude here: the Belasco house is evil and everyone (including the audience) feels it. Hough (who also directed "Escape to Witch Mountain" and "Watcher in the Woods") has in "Hell House" found his niche--his ability to be sensitive to moods finds perfect pitch here and his talents as a director are on this occasion supported by a fine script. Special effects are (blessedly) minimal, and while the final denoument may seem a tad contrived, the film still stands head and shoulders above other members of the genre. If you are at all a haunted house fan, "Hell House" is definitely an intelligent and atmospheric film worth a look. (See also: "The Changeling," "The Haunting (1963)", and "The Innocents.")
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Richard Matheson's 'Hell House' on film., June 12, 2006
By 
Eugene Fenlon BA (A far away place.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Legend of Hell House (DVD)
My intention for many years was to read Matheson's 'I Am Legend' and 'Hell House'. Since I have read none of them (as I can't find a copy anywhere), I decided to watch The Legend of Hell House before I do. To my surprise TLOHH is a really good haunted house film and an enjoyable horror flick. I found it to be an actually creepy film with a great use of audio, lighting, and camera work to create an uneasy atmosphere that gives Hell House a convincing evil. The acting is great in this film, with impressive perfomances from Roddy McDowell and Pamela Franklin. Impressive and effective scenes are also included. Scenes such as the 'seance' scene, the 'possession' scene, the 'cat attack' scene and many more.

The Legend of Hell House is a great haunted house film, with a creepy atmosphere and great performances, this has got to be one of my favourites. I will still intentivly read the book as soon as I find it. This is a horror film that I will add to my horror list and will treasure for a long time.
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37 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but Memorable, November 1, 2003
This review is from: The Legend of Hell House (DVD)
All roads lead to Rome--or in the case of haunted house stories to Shirley Jackson's THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. Published in 1959 and then memorably filmed by Robert Wise with Julie Harris in 1963, both book and film have exerted a powerful influence over the years, and this was particularly true where author Richard Matheson was concerned: although he added a number of original ideas and created a memorable chiller, his popular novel HELL HOUSE was so similar to the Jackson blueprint that it is a wonder her estate did not contemplate legal action.
The novel's film version, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, inevitably suffers in the comparison to both Jackson's novel and its film version. But while it is not a great film, it is a very good one--and it has a number of assets that ghost story connoisseurs will relish. As in Jackson's story, the plot concerns four individuals sent to investigate a house of very unsavory reputation: two men and two women. Here the expedition is led by a skeptic, Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill), who believes that "hauntings" are manifestations of residual energy rather than of surviving personalities--and who considers the Belasco house an ideal opportunity to put his theory to a practical test.
He is accompanied by his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt) and two mediums: Benjamin Fischer (Roddy McDowall), who has the distinction of being one of the few individuals to have previously visited Belasco House and lived to tell about it, and Christian spiritualist Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin), who soon clashes with Dr. Barrett over his skepticism. And although Dr. Barrett has meticulously planned this investigation into Belasco House, from the moment the party enters the doors nothing turns out the way any of them expect.
The great thing about the film is Pamela Franklin, who was one of the most interesting actresses of the 1960s and early 1970s, first making her mark as a child in the memorable thriller THE INNOCENTS and then giving a devastating turn as one of her teacher's pets in THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE. While THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE is hardly on the same level as these other films, Franklin herself is--and she is quite extraordinary from start to finish. (It is a tremendous pity her career faltered not long after the release of this film.) McDowell also offers a memorable turn as Mr. Fischer, and Revill and Hunnicutt offer superior performances as well.
The fact that it was filmed on a low budget is actually an asset to the movie, for instead of elaborate set-ups the film emerges as visually lean and clean, relying on its performances to create a very effective mounting sense of unease. Where it falls down--and more than a little--is in the script, which was written by Matheson himself. There are too many loose ends here, and while in some hands this might result in a sense of mystery, here it gives the feeling of sloppiness. Perversely, it also suffers from a determination to explain away everything it can, and the result is often somewhat anti-climatic.
The DVD offers nothing in the way of extras beyond the original trailer, but for the most part the transfer is quite good. Some critics have noted that the soundtrack is slightly out of synch at points, but I myself did not particularly notice this to any great extent; others have commented that the version released to the home market has been slightly edited, but since I have never seen it except in this release I cannot comment. I will say, however, that edited or not, and largely due to Franklin's performance and McDowell's strong support, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE will likely satisfy viewers who prefer their ghost stories strong on atmosphere and psychology. For all its flaws it is a memorable film, and well worth having.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars legendary, but also mired by time/setting/origins, November 16, 2001
By 
Eric "seric26" (Somerville, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Legend of Hell House (DVD)
This is a good movie, and a worthy heir to the true best haunted house movie ever made, Robert Wise's The Haunting. Borrowing heavily from that story, novel and screenplay author Richard Matheson similarly sends a scientist and a team of psychics into a haunted house. In the previous film, a wealthy matron was indulging the whim of a scientist, prior to passing a white elephant of a property onto an heir. In this one, a dying aristocrat longs for proof of life after death, caring little for the evil nature of the supernatural goings on in "Hell House."
Roddy MacDowall anchors this movie, the reluctant survivor of a previous mission to the home, too battle-scared to hope for more than collecting his money at the end of their one-week experiment. Pamela Franklin impresses as a gifted young mystic, reaching out to the house as it reaches out to her (again, an echo of Eleanor and Hill House from the Shirley Jackson novella). Clive Revill and Gayle Hunicutt keep things focused as the more conventional paranormal scientist and his wife. He, representing all English rationality while the others represent English superstition, is convinced the house possesses not entities, but merely energy, like some sort of time-charged battery.
The X-files would later borrow the technique of beginning each scene with a tension-inducing subtitle of date and time. The house is scary, with a truly spooky set shadowy enough to make Dark Shadows jealous. Tension does build, and rapidly, in the effective and memorable set-pieces. The eventual reveal, though well-performed, loses power in light of modern-day FX, and due to the convoluted explanation of the haunting. Not as resonant as the father figure/religion/gender relations axis of Jackson's more psychologically astute story, and more like a mystery than a horror story in form.
Worse, the script uses the haunting as an excuse to portray and tame the power of female sexuality through allusions to masochism and vampirism. Franklin (Miss Tanner) is brutalized physically by the ghost she tries to aid, and in Hunicutt the house seems to unleash a sexual perversity and desire that may or may not cast reflections on her marriage to the tightly wound scientist.
No real in-story explanation is given for brutalizing the women in this way; this is one of those British stories where ultimate sympathies lie with that quintessential figure of the isles, the schoolboy who's too repressed to grow up. Both Revell and MacDowall are different aspects of this sadly limited character.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best horror/supernatural films ever made, July 12, 2004
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This review is from: The Legend of Hell House (DVD)
This film is a classic in every sense of the word. It has every element of supernatural and even some psychological horror. It has the spooky house, and a superb cast of characters. It is extrenmely well-written, and the direction and cinematography are truly excellent.
This film marked one of the late Roddy McDowall's best screen performances, and I'm not the only one who says that. It was even mentioned by several members of the Motion Picture Academy at memorials after his death a few years ago.
If you are looking for a genuinely good fright movie, you cannot go wrong with this film. It is required for any good horror movie collection.
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