House on Haunted Hill (1959)

[Cliccate QUI per la versione in italiano.]

Hello again, my dears!
Lately I’m particularly obsessed with ghosts and monsters, so I looked for a good old ghost story and I found House on Haunted Hill.

The most spoiler-filled poster EVER.

Technical details:
Director: William Castle
Writer: Robb White
Production: William Castle Productions
Cast: the One and Only Vincent Price, Carol OhmartRichard LongAlan MarshalCarolyn CraigElisha Cook Jr.Julie Mitchum and Skeleton as Himself (not kidding, he’s even in the ending credits! Anyway, still a better actor than Kristen Stewart.)
75 mins, black and white
(colour version available)

(House on the Haunted Hill on IMDb)

IMDb rating: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 95%
Polenta’s rating: 3 popcorns and 2 facepalms

If an eccentric millionaire offered you $10.000 -an awful lot of money if you’re living in 1959, mind you!- would you stay in a haunted house for a whole night? Apparently, his five guests’ answer is ‘yes’.
So, in a house that should’ve been built in the 1850s -but has a strangely modern and not scary at all architecture- we find seven people: the millionaire himself (Vincent Price), his beautiful wife, the whiny paranoid drunk guy, the psychologist, the lady journalist, the young good-looking guy and the young good-looking innocent girl.
Will they survive until morning or will they join the ghost gang infesting the house?

Vincent Price understandably unsettled by an awful lamp with little angels and tons of fake cobwebs and a scared cat statue whose purpose is unknown.

Polenta’s comment
There’s a fundamental consideration to keep in mind watching this film: for us, people of the 21st century, this is the Cliché Fair. Really.
A bunch of guys closed in a haunted house, no one of them has ever met the person who invited them, the characters are so stereotyped and the so-called plot twists are awkwardly obvious.
But we have to consider that this stuff was actually pretty new and therefore actually scary for the 50’s folks.
That being said, I must admit that the film double-bluffed me at some point.
Knowing that the people of that time was easily impressionable and not used to such complex plots (did someone mention ‘The Big Sleep‘? Point taken. But it’s the exception that proves the rule, ok?), I expected things to go on exactly in the most predictable way possible. That’s why I’ve fallen in the trap, in the end. Not because I’m dumb or anything, got it?


From left to right: the journalist, the psychologist, the millionaire, the handsome guy, the pretty girl, the paranoid drunk.

There are actually few really scary bits in this film, starting from the very beginning.
The screen is black, and suddenly you hear a girl screaming. At that point, you’ve lost about 10 years of your remaining life.
Then, the paranoid guy’s face appears and tells you a lot of useless gibberish that makes you imagine many horrible things that are going to happen in the movie but they actually won’t.

The parts I liked the most were those in which the characters did something extremely stupid, which is about the 80% of the film.
The list includes brilliant ideas that will be proposed again in almost every horror movie ever made, like: something in this creepy house is trying to murder us, let’s split up!
Yes, that is pure genius, I tell you.
Also: oh, I’ve found a pitch-dark secret passage, let’s go explore it without even a freaking candle!
I call it natural selection.
I was screaming at the screen like a True Man does during a soccer match. Things like ‘Don’t go in there, you moron!’ and ‘Are you all stupid?! They’re all stupid.’. So I guess in the end I really got into the film.

During the movie’s premiere, when the story climaxed, a skeleton dummy came out at the side of the screen. The gimmick worked only the first time, because from the second time the amused spectators started throwing popcorns and stuff at the poor skeleton.

A bunch of ladies, all with exactly the same glasses of questionable taste, laughing at the efforts of our poor friend to look scary.

And by the way, how cool it was that they included the dear Skeleton in the credits?
Now, his acting skills were great, but sadly the scene itself was pretty silly.
Every horror movie has his good share of laughable stuff, but this one was almost cute. Anyway, here’s a lovely photo of Skeleton with Vincent Price.

Ah, lucky guy! Vincent, I mean.

If you want more, here’s a pic of Skeleton with Nora, the pretty and nice girl.

Skeleton looks so happy in this photo.

Finally, I’m aware that a 1999 remake exists. As much as I like Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen, I’m not so eager so watch it, I must admit.

Thanks as always for reading, feel free to leave a reply if you want.
See you next week with a wonderfully kitsch film!

[Click HERE for the film trailer.]


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