Monday, February 23, 2009

Film Review: THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959, William Castle)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 75 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Vincent Price, Elisha Cook, Jr. (THE MALTESE FALCON), Julie Mitchum (Robert Mitchum's older sis), Richard Long (The seminal TWILIGHT ZONES, "No. 12 Looks Just Like You" and "Person or Persons Unknown"), Carol Ohmart (Miss Utah 1946), and Von Dexter (composer for THE TINGLER, MR. SARDONICUS, 13 GHOSTS, etc.).
Tag-lines: "See it with someone with warm hands!"
Best one-liner(s): "I am not such a fool as to hang my wife from the ceiling, by a rope! "

"What husband hasn't, at some time, wanted to kill his wife? What husband hasn't had a thousand opportunities to do it in such a way so that he'd never be suspected?" Gimmick-meister William Castle submits, for your consideration, his latest shlocky piece de resistance:'s... a skeleton on a string. Alright, so it's no 'Percepto' or 'Illusion-O'... it's called 'Emergo,' and it's a glow-in-the-dark skeleton on a string, goddammit! Hey, at least it's better than Castle handing out useless gold-painted plastic coins for ZOTZ! (1962). Well, regardless of whether the gimmick is up to par, the flick is still pretty solid. It stars Vincent Price, for God's sakes. There's teeny coffins, vats of acid, zany ghosts, disembodied heads, and a Frank Lloyd Wright house. There's an aging Elisha Cook, Jr., TWILIGHT ZONE regular Richard Long, and blood dripping from the ceiling on Bob Mitchum's older sister's hand. (I kept waiting for something worse to happen to her, or maybe Vincent to hit on her, so Bob Mitchum could crash through the wall and issue a thrashing of Biblical proportions. Cause although Mitchum usually doesn't give a damn, I think that's the one thing that would actually get him worked up.) Then there's Vincent.

Vincent does not disappoint. Vincent never disappoints. What does he think of his wife's morbid sense of humor? Vincent thinks she's "so amusing." What does he think of your prattling on about ghosts? He thinks he's "had enough of your 'spook talk,' Pritchard."

Everything he says is gold. And thats largely due to the velvety, soothingly ominous timbre of his voice. Combine that with a 'stache, a suit, and a blase attitude, and you've got a horror icon that can do no wrong. Weak gimmick, strong cast, and four stars. Viva Vincent.

-Sean Gill

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