House on Haunted Hill (1959)
“I’m going to my room and if anybody comes in,
I’ll shoot him…
A classic horror from William Castle and starring Vincent Price as millionaire Frederick Loren (Price) is hosting a Haunted House party for five specially picked strangers.
Anyone that can stay the entire night, locked up in the house, will receive US$10,000.
Not only stay but survive as the house is supposedly haunted by 7 killer ghost as the houses owner and one of the guest, Watson Pritchard, will continue to remind everyone, everytime he speaks, which is often.
Along with Watson is psychiatrist Dr. David Trent, newspaper columnist Ruth Bridges, pilot Lance Schroeder and one of Fredericks employees Nora Manning.
None of whom have ever met him or his young wife Annabelle who is quick to point out that this party was her idea but since Frederick took over is not for her anymore like he claims as she knows none of the people there and this entire song and dance is for his enjoyment only.
Frederick accuses Annabelle of only being after his money and would prefer him dead, to which she agrees, but when he accuses her of trying to poison him in the past, she denies this and refuses to go downstairs to take part.
As the night goes on strange things happen of which most of it is focused on young Nora who starts seeing things including a ghostly old woman and severed heads.
Of course no-one believes her which causes her to become more and more fearful as she comes closer to her breaking point.
Maybe it wasn’t wise to give everyone loaded guns including owner Watson that already is sitting on frayed nerves and has started drinking.
House on Haunted Hill is a very basic mystery film that has dangles enough threads for the viewer to leave most guessing for long enough with a good enough reveal and twist.
It is campy at points, especially with Nora freaking out or Watson talking about the murders in the house but it does have some very effective and atmospheric scenes. In fact the house itself is dipping in atmosphere and as perfectly cast here as Vincent price himself is.
Bit of trivia, the Ennis house which was used for exterior shots was also used for Deckard’s apartment in Blade Runner.
So while some of the acting is a bit wooden as they say, and parts of the plot will need for you to just accept it and not question things too much, the same cannot be said for every scene involving Frederick and Annabelle together.
Every scene is written probably better than deserves in this film with the constant accusations, snide remarks and petty digs at each other all done behind a very fake pretense of being civil between the pair which, when this fake civility crumbles, though always just for a moment, you can see just how much they hate each other and how well both actors work off each other.
The colourisation I watched was not all that intricate. Not as if it had been filmed in colour as the colours aren’t as vibrant and lacks detail, but are good enough to add to the film instead of take away.
Not for everyone but when the blood is red, sort of, then I’m happy and there always is the black and white version for purist.
Despite the ending having some silly elements in it I found this to be one I can stick on and watch again. Remember, this is a 50s B-movie so if you are ok with that then I recommend you try it.
Colour is optional.
As the film is in public domain you might as well watch it here.