Classic Video Showplace

House on Haunted Hill

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on Astound TV Network with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

It may be a cliche, but it also can be very true…

You can’t top an original.

So is the case for the original version of the supernatural horror film classic, House on Haunted Hill.

The 1959 motion picture starring Vincent Price, Richard Long and Carol Ohmart sends shivers down viewers’ spines in the first few seconds of the film (even before the conclusion of the opening credits and not a single visual picture appears on the screen.)

The characters immediately break the “fourth wall” by looking and speaking directly to the audience and details are given about their background and announce that evening’s activities.

The movie’s premise is that Frank and Annabelle Loren (Price and Ohmart) are a twisted married couple who invite five people to a rented establishment for a “haunted house” party, offering their guests $10,000 if they can stay the entire night.

All five guests who attended the party were complete strangers to each other (or were they?) and agreed to the deal.  All the attendees are from different backgrounds and were each chosen for different reasons.  At midnight, the doors were locked.  With the windows barred and no working radios or telephones available, the twists continue to evolve as Frank accuses Annabelle of trying to kill him to inherit his money and…

Well, you’ll have to watch it to experience all the turns, thrills and chills for yourselves!

The movie was based on a story of the same name by Shirley Jackson that came out a year before the film was released and was a huge success–grossing over $2.5 million at the box office and was made on an estimated budget of $200,000.

Price, of course, was already well-known as an icon in the horror industry at the time of “House’s” release after years of successful work in both radio and motion pictures.  His starring role in this film continued a steady stream of 1950s box office hits, coming after The House of Wax, The Fly and The Return of the Fly.

Price’s co-star, Richard Long, would go on to become a household face in the 1960s as the star of the popular television western, The Big Valley.

The film’s director, William Castle, was a big fan of the original novel and didn’t stray far from the book’s premise.  According to an article published on Halloween 2014 in “Architect” magazine, Castle selected one of the eerie, yet historic Gothic houses built by Frank Lloyd Wright to film the exterior shots of the movie.  Interior scenes were filmed on sound stages built to replicate Victorian styles of the late 1800s.

Castle also did a remarkable job of utilizing the key elements of black-and-white film by featuring long shadows across many scenes, and built suspense by strategically delaying character’s faces as they slowly appear in scenes due to lack of light.

Castle himself was a big fan of legendary scaremaster Alfred Hitchcock and tried to recreate many traditional dramatic elements used by the Master of Suspense.  Ironically, Hitchcock reportedly loved Castle’s horror classic and his decision to use black-and-white filmmaking.  Hitch used the exact same color process in his very next film, Psycho.

The lasting success of “House” is indicated by a 90% fresh rating on the popular film review site “Rotten Tomatoes”, and has spawned several subsequent movies following the original’s premise.

You can see the 1959 version of House on Haunted Hill, starring Vincent Price, airing Friday, June 2, at 9:30 pm, on the Astound TV Network.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.


The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.