House on Haunted Hill (1959)   7 comments

aaahohh

Vincent Price invites you to a party.  Are there balloons and noisemakers and a clown?  Gee, I hope not.  No, but Price does invite a bunch of total strangers, a creepy housemaid, and a scaaaaary skeleton.  Ahhhhh!!

aaacrone

Avon lady!

Millionaire, Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) holds a birthday party for his wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) in a spooky mansion.  For those of you playing at home, that mansion is Ennis House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  If his guests can stomach a night in the spooky house, Loren will pay each of them $10,000.  That’s about $81K in 2015 dollars.  A nice payday.  It sounds simple enough until we learn that several people, including Watson Pritchard’s (Elisha Cook, Jr.) brother were murdered in the house.  Funny thing though, they never found his head.

aaennis

A building from Wright’s pueblo pyramid period.

Just when we think we’re watching a straight haunted house film, Loren and his wife go at it.  The couple do their version of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF and it’s clear this party might end badly.  Loren, you see, has had three wives before Annabelle and each has expired under mysterious circumstances.  Hmmm.  Annabelle confides in guest, Lance Schroeder (Richard Long) that she fears for her life.  Her husband, she says, wants to kill her and he’ll stop at nothing.  When the servants leave prematurely, locking the party-goers in for the night, they’ll have to contend with ghosts and spirits and a possible murderer among them.

aaaparty

Vincent has the coolest party favors.

Robb White, frequent William Castle collaborator, wrote the screenplays for HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, MACABRE, THE TINGLER, and others for the great showman.  Castle directed this movie and filled it with piercing screams, an active skeleton, and a rolling old lady.  Supposedly, Alfred Hitchcock saw Castle’s big box office returns and decided to make PSYCHO.  Then, Castle saw PSYCHO and decided to make HOMICIDAL.  I hope that’s true.  Anyway, we win.  All three films are horror classics.

aaaeat

“There’s no food at this party.”

Oozing charm and menace, Vincent Price does his best Vincent Price.  The rest of the cast hold their own, but are nothing to write home about with the exception of Elisha Cook, Jr.  His crazed, drunken ramblings about ghosts and unseen forces are appropriately over the top.  Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, who might win an Una for screaming artistry, and Robert Mitchum’s big sister, Julie round out the players.  Julie Mitchum’s claim to fame in this film is that when offered a drink, she always asks for a scotch and…  A scotch and what?  Motor oil?  Drain cleaner?  Mare sweat?  It’s an odd thing, but it always strikes me as funny.

aaaacook

“Aaahoooo Werewolves of London!”

Ever the marketing genius, William Castle used this tagline for HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL.  First film with the amazing new wonder EMERGO: The thrills fly right into the audience!  I wish I had been around to see a Castle film in the theatre.  Flying skeletons, fright insurance, cowards’ corner…such fun.  By the way, does anyone know a good acid vat installer?

aaemergo

Teehee!

haunty

 

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7 responses to “House on Haunted Hill (1959)

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  1. Reblogged this on clawkent.

  2. The next time I order a drink, I’m asking for Scotch and mare sweat! Which should get odd looks, especially if I’m at Dairy Queen! 🙂 Love this film and I also adore William Castle. His sense of showmanship and his gift for making a cinema visit an Event are mostly lost arts these days. When I watch ‘Matinee’ in which John Goodman plays a very Castle-esque character, I long to see the entire movie-in-a-movie he’s promoting, ‘Mant!’, based on the clips of it we see in the film. Thank you for a great review and for captions that always make me chuckle. Time to watch ‘The Tingler’ DVD once more!

  3. Pingback: Trash Tuesday Presents: House on Haunted Hill

  4. I remember when I first saw this-I swear it was on PBS for some reason. I was in high school-probably technically too old to be part of the original target market. I think my dad watches it with me-and if he had seen it before, he didn’t let on (he was never much for horror but was a movie omnivore, and was in high school when it came out). I knew Price and had heard of Castle thanks to a reviews of Popcorn and Matinee, but when the title came on, I confused it with The Haunting, which my horror obsessed aunts name checked as THE haunted house movie to see. I was primed for something completely different but ended up loving it for its tongue-in-cheek humor along with Cook (who I am not sure I connected with his earlier appearances in Bogart detective movies). It all made sense later, but this is still one of my favorite fun spooky movies to watch on a fall night. It’s not scary in the slightest but who cares when it’s fun? I look forwArd to introducing my kids to it. I’m going to pay attention to the drink orders next time. 😉

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