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The Legend of Hell House (1973)

When it comes to a good spooky thriller the haunted house genre has the ability to send chills and thrills up one’s spine when done correctly. So tonight Kristina of Speakeasy and myself turn our attentions to just that. A couple of memorable entries that are sure to raise a few goose bumps.

“It’s the Mount Everest of haunted houses.”

hell_house_1973_05

Scientist Clive Revill has been hired by an aging millionaire to take a team of mediums into the Belasco house to discern if there is life after death. Joining him are his wife, Gayle Hunnicutt, spiritualist Pamela Franklin and the only surviving medium from the ill fated 1953 expedition, Mr. Roddy McDowall.

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“This house……It knows we’re here.”

The Belasco house is a large Victorian looking mansion complete with it’s own chapel. A chapel with secrets of it’s own. Since Roddy has a history with the previous attempt at ridding the house of it’s evil spirit(s) the script calls upon him to point out just who Belasco was and what exactly he was involved in.

“Drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, beastiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies. Shall I go on? ”

Despite being present on the new expedition, Roddy is hesitant to allow his powers to work after seeing the death and mutilation of his previous venture into Hell House. Give him time.

hell house poster

Included in the script from Richard Matheson are various sittings with spiritualist Franklin who herself believes she has made contact with a Belasco off spring though Roddy has his doubts. Writer Matheson actually wrote the original source novel to the film as well. Having read the novel I must admit that the sexual nature of the story has been toned down quite a bit but the same could be said for many novels I suppose.

Doors slam shut, ectoplasm floats through the air, a mummified corpse will be discovered and our foursome set against each other when an evil entity begins to attack each one ‘s weaknesses for it’s own gain. And let’s not forget the black cat, he’s there to.

Soon Revill will bring into the house a giant computer that he is sure will de-energize the house of it’s power and spirits. The house will be sure to fight back leading to violence, blood and death.

Hell-House-1

I don’t really want to spoil too much here so I’ll let you take a journey yourself to the Belasco house to join Roddy and company in the debunking of any spirits that dwell within.

Like many films we see in our younger years if they have an effect on you then you are forever loving the movie despite coming to realize it’s not perhaps the classic you once thought it was. So I am not going to say this is the greatest haunted house flick of them all when that award usually goes to Robert Wise’s The Haunting. That said I find this thriller just that. A thrilling night at the movies curled up on the couch dealing with other worldly beings and having the added bonus of one of my movie “friends”, Roddy McDowall.

roddy in hell house

Hell House was directed by John Hough in a very distorted sense. By that I mean the camera angles are at times filmed as though through the peephole on a hotel door. It adds to the fun and makes McDowall’s eyes through his goggle sized glasses all the larger. Hough was just coming off the cult Hammer favorite Twins of Evil and would direct other ghostly tales including the Witch Mountain flicks from Disney.

Fans of cult horror should listen closely to the recording of Belasco’s voice on phonography to see if they can put the actor’s name to it. I’m not telling but if you stay till the climatic battle you may get your answer on just who the mystery voice belongs to.

franklin in hell house

Producer James H. Nicholson turned out this flick after years of being associated with AIP and Samuel Z. Arkoff. He would reteam with director Hough for another cult favorite in 1975, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. Carried over to that film as well was McDowall in an uncredited cameo.

Give this Hell House a shot should you be looking for a late night scare. For a more classical styled tale of ghosts and hauntings you should now check out the eerie tale Kristina has presented us with at Speakeasy. It stars a famed forties leading man who was on the verge of winning the 1945 Oscar for Best Actor.

The Legend of Hell House has been featured as part of the Why Horror? Why Not? fun as we head towards Halloween.

11 Comments »

  1. Good one that compares nicely to the Haunting but is nastier and more brutal. I miss not only Roddy and stars of his caliber doing this type of movie, I miss this type of movie too!

  2. I like doubling this one up with The Haunting just to see what ten years’ difference made for taking the same basic idea and running with it (with scissors!). Both films use some inspired camerawork, have great casts and seem just right for the period they were filmed in. And yep, they sure don’t make them like this anymore, that’s for sure.

  3. Just watched ‘The Haunting’ for the first time last night, and I agree, I thought it was better than this one. It just seemed a bit creepier, though ‘Hell House’ did have its moments. Maybe filming in black-and-white is the key.

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