Monday, September 3, 2012

R.I.P. Screening III: House on Haunted Hill

Next up in my Vincent Price movie-thon for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event was House on Haunted Hill (1959).  Featured in the film along with Vincent Price is Elisha Cook--whose main claim to fame as far as I'm concerned is his role as Samuel T. Cogley, the space age lawyer who defends Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek episode "Court Martial." [Yes, I know he was also, probably more famously, Wilmer, the ineffectual, gun-happy fellow in The Maltese Falcon, but I like him as Cogley.]  It was good to see his familiar face as well.

This film shows Price as his most suave, most understated, most apparently villainous best.  He, as Frederick Loren, and his wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) are hosting a party.  Not just any party--but a ghost party.  Loren has rented the House on Haunted Hill--a place where seven people have died and their ghosts are said to haunt the place....looking for victims to add to their number.  The Lorens have invited five strangers to join them for a night of ghastly "good" times and will pay each of the $10,000 if they agree to spend the night in the haunted house.  The strangers are Lance Schroeder, a brave test pilot (Richard Long); Dr. David Trent, a psychologist who claims an interest in the effects of hysteria (Alan Marshal); Nora Manning, an employee at one of Loren's many companies who has never met the boss (Carolyn Craig); Watson Pritchard, the brother of a man murdered in the house and a survivor (barely) of that previous stay (Cook); and Ruth Bridges, a reporter with a gambling problem.  All of them are in need of the money. 

The guests have barely arrived before the fun starts.  A chandelier nearly kills Nora as they enter the house...and it isn't long before ghosts and bodiless heads and creepy hands are crawling out of the woodwork scaring the poor guests.  There are two apparent murders and two real ones...and the thrills and chills and twists and turns come at a nice clip to keep the watcher guessing.  Just who is trying to murder whom?   It is a lovely classic horror film with no real gore, no naked bodies, and spine-tingling fun built on atmosphere and the deadly interplay between Price and his on-screen wife.  

House on Haunted Hill is a nice wrap-up for my Labor Day Weekend viewing.  Now I have to wait, ever so impatiently, for Theatre of Blood to arrive via Netflix.... 
Watson Pritchard: Only the ghosts are glad we're here.

Lance Schroeder: If I were gonna haunt somebody, this would certainly be the house I'd do it in.

Schroeder: So there are two loose heads just floating around here someplace? 
Pritchard: You can hear them at night, they whisper to each other, and then cry. 

Frederick Loren: Don't let the ghosts and the ghouls disturb you, love. 
Annabelle Loren: Darling, the only ghoul in the house is you! 

Ruth Bridges: Who would want to haunt me? 
Frederick: I would say any self-respecting male ghost. 

Frederick: It's almost time to lock up the house and then your party will really begin. I wonder how it will end... 

Frederick: Don't stay up thinking of ways to get rid of me, it makes wrinkles. 

Frederick: It's a pity you didn't know when you started your game of murder that I was playing too. 


Anonymous said...

I first saw this movie when I was about 3. I still love it.

Carl V. Anderson said...

This is one I own and we watch it every few years. It is a great one, filled with so many of what are now considered horror cliches because they've been copied so many times.

It has so many great creepy, gothic elements and ever since I was a child I've enjoyed the whole "gotta spend the night in this haunted house" plot device.

Vincent Price is at his ghoulish best in this one and is well worth watching. So glad you enjoyed it, what a wonderful way to spend the weekend.

Kate said...

I saw this sometime in college and remember quite liking it, despite that skeleton jiggling down the stairs (am I remembering that correct?) I saw the remake a few years ago too - very gory but good fun I thought.

Bev Hankins said...

Not down the stairs....across the cellar floor, but still jiggling along in a very menacing way. :-)

Ryan said...

I adore this movie. It's one of my favorite Vincent Price films.

I enjoy the remake, mainly because of Taye Diggs, but it doesn't hold a candle to this one.

One detail I can never help but notice in the movie is that the nightgown Annabelle is wearing after she is "hung" is the same nightgown that Agnes Moorehead is wearing in The Bat when her maid is bitten.

Bev Hankins said...

I never noticed that, Ryan. But now that you mention it....You're absolutely right!