A Review of The House on Haunted Hill(1959) and The Cinematic Experience.

House_on_Haunted_HillThe House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Cast:  Vincent Price, Carol Omhart,Richard Long
Writer: Robb White
Director: William Castle.

It is a kind of shame not being able to experience something like this on the big screen.  Because if I have, I might have enjoyed this a little bit more.  That’s not to say I was disappointed in this.  It was enjoyable, but it isn’t something I would want to revisit anytime soon.  However if they put this back in theaters and showed it the way it was back in 1959.  I would gladly pay over ten dollars to check it out and would go back and bring
friends too.

The story is easy enough to understand.  Frederick Loren(Vincent Price) invites five people to spend the night at his haunted house for his wife’s birthday. If each person can stay the entire night, they will all win ten thousand dollars a piece.  As the night progresses some will have claim to have seen ghosts while others will become suspects of an actual murder plot.

The whole enjoyment for me was solving the mystery as it progresses.  It’s a tad predictable but I sure had fun regardless of the outcome.  The movie did manage to throw in some surprises in the story that even I was not suspecting.  So I gotta give them some credit for that.  The only thing they could have improved on were the scares.  As you can see from the below picture.  This is as gruesome of a monster you will see in this entire movie.  Oh and get this, it’s not even a ghost.  I won’t tell you who it actually is, but when you find out.  You’ll go back to that scene and ask yourself why was it making that face. There were a few other moments that I’m guessing were suppose to bring scares to the audience, but it brought nothing to me.  This is why seeing it in a theater would have changed my perspective of it greatly.

house-on-haunted-hill-stillThere is one moment near the end that shows a skeleton chasing after someone on-screen.  When this happens, an actual skeleton appears in the theater being pulled by a wire.  From today’s standard this might appear to be a little hokey, but with the right audience this could also be a lot of fun. Theaters today could add in even more cheap scares to help living the place up a little if this was shown today.   It reminded me of seeing “Grindhouse” in the theaters versus seeing it at home.  Now I saw that movie with friends when it came out, and had an absolute blast.  So much that I went back and saw it two more times.  I have shown this movie to other friends at home and they liked it.  But it just didn’t have the same type of appeal that it did when it played in the cinemas.  Now some may argue that this could be said about every movie made, but not every movie can be called an experience.  “Gravity” for example is an experience.  I don’t think you could have the same enjoyment watching that movie at home as you would the big screen. I don’t care how large your screen is or how good your sound is.  This is why many older movies get rereleased on the big screen because we want to relive the experience all over again.  As much as something like the “Fast and Furious” franchise manages to cash in and make a lot of great sequels.  I don’t think you will see the first one being repackaged and put out to screens again. “The House on Haunted Hill”  however is something I could see being played around Halloween and if they marketed it right.  It could be a fun midnight hit.  It would also be fun if other movies incorporated live scare into their shows.  Imagine how cool it would be if in “The Conjuring” random people stood behind someone and clapped right after that one key scene.Vincent_Price_in_House_on_Haunted_Hill

Would you watch this in theaters if they added  the same elements they did back in the 50’s?  Is the remake from 1999 worth checking out.  Please leave comments below.  Thank You.

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About The Vern

I love movies and I enjoy writing about them too. They both go pretty much hand in hand with each other and it's fun to discover new classics. I co host the podcast The Film Pasture and As You Watch. While also contributing reviews and articles to other great sites when I can.
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7 Responses to A Review of The House on Haunted Hill(1959) and The Cinematic Experience.

  1. You pose an interesting question. The theater experience has changed so much since the inception of the cineplex that I’m not sure a film like this would be successful. The Regals and the Cinetopias of the world rely on a machine-like system to get people in and out as fast as possible; there isn’t much room for culture and community.

    With that said, a movie like this would work great for a small, independently owned downtown cinema. If that were the case, I would be there in a heartbeat.

    • The Vern says:

      I agree fully with your statement. There is no way Regal, AMC, Mann, and ect will abandon their model for something like this unless it was used as a Riff Track night. Smaller owned theaters are the way to go. Thanks for the comment Jacob

  2. Karen says:

    I do have to say that I still prefer this to the remake that was made, I adore the classic movies and William Castle certainly had some flair when it came to getting his audience involved in his movies, imagine how terrifying it must have been back then with the skeleton.

    If memory serves me right, I think he did similar tricks with his audience for other films, such as the glasses for 13 Ghosts and electric shocks through the seats for The Tingler, ah those were the days 😉

    • The Vern says:

      I agree that being there for those movies at that time would be a huge thrill. It would be great if they did those thrills today, but if they did. Theaters would need to get a good legal department. Because certain audience members would find an excuse to sue. Thanks for commenting Karen.

  3. Chris says:

    The Haunting (1963) and The House on Haunted Hill (1959) are a bit tame by today’s standards. The performance by Vincent Price was pretty bad-ass, though.
    An actual skeleton appears in the theater being pulled by a wire? That sounds pretty cool. It would be fun to be in the audience for that.
    I heard about a screening this October of a silent horror film complete with spooky live organ accompaniment:
    http://weeklyview.net/2013/10/10/silent-horror-film-live-pipe-organ-scare-up-a-classic-halloween/

    • The Vern says:

      I agree about it being tame today. That’s why it would be perfect for a family night out. Kids can watch a scary flick without being too scared by it. That live orchestra version of a silent movie looks awesome. I wish more movies did that.

  4. Pingback: The Gore Report Halloween Edition – Celebrating With Bloggers | French Toast Sunday

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