Retro Reviews: House On Haunted Hill (1959)

Be thankful you were not one of the guests invited to stay overnight at the eery “House on Haunted Hill” mansion. Each unfortunate guest was offered the chance to win $10,000 but the question is: Will they ever get the chance to spend it?

Retro Reviews: House On Haunted Hill (1959)

House on Haunted Hill

Directed by William Castle, this campy and spooky film is noted for becoming his kick-start to fame. It was originally filmed in black and white but was changed to colour by Legend Films in 2005. (Personally I prefer the old school black and white effect as it adds to the atmosphere.)

The plot is a familiar one. The eccentric and wealthy Frederick Loren, skillfully played by Price, and his wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) invite 5 unsuspecting guests (including the owner) to stay in the supposed “haunted” mansion until the next morning to win the $10,000 prize.

Guests arrive in separate funeral cars lead by a hearse and each are given a .38 caliber pistol for protection. Now if that doesn’t scare you off right then- you may just make it to morning! Annabelle warns the guests that Frederick, her husband, is a little ‘psychotic’ setting them up to be suspicious of him. Guests include vintage actors Richard Long as Lance Schroeder, Alan Marshal as Dr. David Trent, Carolyn Craig as Nora Manning, and Elisha Cook Jr. as owner of the mansion- Watson Pritchard. And to add to the guest list this sometimes humorous film also features a number of ghosts and apparitions that do not wish to have their names revealed at this time.

It has a decent plot that was probably very original for the times.. As the story unfolds it does become obvious that both the husband (Frederick) and wife (Annabelle) have their own motives in the outcome of the venture.The movie can get bogged down now and then but will keep you wondering until the end

House on Haunted Hill (1959) turned out to be the film responsible for the launching of Vincent Price’s career in the horror/terror film genre. That is, the career that eventually would bring him to his present famous icon status.

Price’s long list of movies included some good, some not-so- ventures- but “House” has lasted as a classic and a favourite to view on Halloween. It is good old-fashioned vintage-spooky with all the props and events, like doors opening by themselves, hands reaching, disembodied heads, lots of screaming, candles in the dark, skeletons and murder victims. It could be the basis for a scary ride in a theme-park!

Part of Price’s appeal as a villain was his distinctive voice and how he could use it to create tension and fear. His rich and eerie tone was able to insert an unsettling feeling and menacing quality to his roles. Price thought nothing of his famous speech patterns. “To me, I sound like everybody else in Missouri.” He once said,”I think I sound like Harry Truman, according to the Los Angeles Times.

This film launched him into a multitude of thrillers, horror films, mystery and creepy film noir productions so that his reputation grew to a point where he became a parody of the classic villain. It is hard to separate him from some of his many horror film roles including “The House of Wax”, “The Fly”, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” and many more.

I rate House on Haunted Hill (1959) a decent 6.6/10 for it’s atmosphere and campy horror fun. A super film for fright night at the movies but may be a little too scary for young children.

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    • Lin Jenkinson
  1. Sandy KS

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