Thursday, May 28, 2009
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959). Director: William Castle.
"Would you like to see one of those heads? Well come and see!"
Perverse Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) and his pretty, unloving wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) throw a party in a supposedly haunted house where several murders took place. Instead of inviting friends as Annabelle wanted, Loren instead invites several people who are in need of money and agrees to pay them $10,000 apiece if they spend -- and survive -- the night locked in the house. Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook) was the brother of one of the victims and explains how his sister-in-law hacked up his brother and her sister and that the police found many body parts but never found their heads. Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig) has a large family to support, and Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum, sister of Robert Mitchum) has gambling debts. The group is completed with Lance Schroder (Richard Long) and Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshall), not to mention the spooky caretakers, especially Mrs. Slydes (Leona Anderson), who makes a sudden, very creepy if hilarious appearance in a dark basement room [see photo]. The dialogue by screenwriter Robb White is amusing, especially the bitchy banter between Loren and his wife. It's interesting that the house is not some Gothic structure a la Psycho, but a modern bit of architecture that resembles a museum. There are several "impossible" moments in the story, but the whole thing is still a lot of fun, with Price seemingly enjoying himself immensely. Carolyn Craig did a lot of TV work, as did Carol Ohmart. Marshall appeared in a few notable films, but this was the last of Julie Mitchum's seven credits.
Verdict: Much, much better than the remake. ***.