Allegedly rousing Alfred Hitchcock to make the horror film – Psycho (1960), and while the setting is not as lavish as The Haunting (1963) the House on Haunted Hill is an entertaining 50’s movie.
Eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren played wonderfully by Vincent Price invites 5 people to the house on Haunted Hill for a “haunted House” party and they’ll get $10,000 if they survive the night. The quirky house owner, Mr. Pritchard is played entertainingly by Elisha Cook Jr. and the rest of the cast are good enough.
While the stories ‘twist’ is well developed the large modern 50’s house story is not. There are some creepy moments that include the striking Carol Ohmart as Annabelle Loren but the lighting and sets are so crisp it fails to create any real brooding atmosphere and sadly a movie of its time, the women shriek a lot.
Dr. Markway is undertaking research to prove the existence of ghosts and decides to investigate Hill House. He is accompanied by a sceptic, a clairvoyant and an insecure attuned psychic. Even though made in 1963 it is still very enjoyable even if a product of its time.
Nelson Gidding screenplay is based on novel “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson. The Haunting is an archetype haunted mansion film, superbly directed by Robert Wise. Excellent, painstakingly designed sets, amazing use of sound effects bringing to life the things that go bump in the night, which all add to the eerie and spooky atmosphere.
Richard Johnson plays the perfect English gentleman, Dr. John Markway. Russ Tamblyn as the cheeky chap is amusing, Claire Bloom as ‘Theo’ the lesbian, at the time a risky role for mainstream cinema. The supporting cast of quirky characters are all fantastic.
My only complaints are is that the movie, for effect only, was unnecessary filmed in black and white. In addition, Julie Harris’ superfluous voice-overs are distracting.
George A. Romero has readily admitted that Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls influenced in his making of Night Of The Living Dead (NOTLD). For me, they’re both low budget, both filmed in black and white and both are chilling creepy in places.
Both went onto be get ‘lost’ but unlike Carnival of Souls, NOTLD was haled by critics abroad, who saw it not just as another horror movie, but a film that reflects society. Romero has gone on to define a genre, a feat that very few have accomplished. Many films have been influenced and have imitated George’s creation but few successfully.
The stock music is bold, and the sound is an adequate mix but all these things with their faults add to the charm of this little horror classic.
It’s dark, gloomy and entertaining but more importantly it was a turning point in horror history.
The music is very creepy and a little too intrusive in places, however, for it’s time and budget it is a well crafted film. Carnival of Souls many not be as sleek and stylish as the Haunting (1963) but it is far more eerie. The zombies are not as imposing as in Night of the Living Dead, however, they are vastly creepier and macabre.
The tag-line read ‘By night they leave their graves, crawling, shambling, through empty streets, whimpering, pleading, begging for his blood’ if that doesn’t grab you as a horror fan, nothing will. Remade many times since as The Omega Man (1971), I am Legend (2007) to name a few, Richard Matheson novel I am Legend has been a wealthy piece of source material.
Despite Matheson feeling that Vincent Price was miscast in the lead role, Price gives a sterling performance as Dr. Robert Morgan who is the survivor of a devastating world-wide plague. Morgan is tortured by his dreams and his solitary existence trying to find another human still alive. Price’s distinguished voice and acting really gets the viewer hooked and caring for his character who is harassed by vampire zombies seeking his blood every night.
While not a faithful version of the novel it is well crafted by Ubaldo Ragona, who incidentally only directed a handful of films. Ragona’s work clearly influenced Romero’s set up of the horror classic Night of the living Dead (1968).
What this unsung black and white chiller gem demonstrates best is that The Last Man on Earth shows what a fascinating and captivating actor Vincent Price was.