“There will be food, and drink, and ghosts for all — and perhaps a few murders.”
With the original House On Haunted Hill having been released on VHS and DVD for a total of umpteen million times in the past 20 years or so, the arrival of yet another DVD release may leave some of you banging your head up against the wall in frustration. Fear not, though; Johnny Legend and his Raunchy Tonk label have bypassed the whole greed angle that many get-rich-quick DVD distributors commonly rely upon and has produced this new 50th Anniversary Special Edition with an entirely different motive in mind — an actual love for the movie.
For those of you who, for some bizarre reason, have never seen or heard of House On Haunted Hill (and it would be pretty hard to have not heard of it considering it spawned a remake — which in turn spawned a sequel), allow me to elucidate. It’s the epitome of late-'50s “fun” horror movies that parents and kiddies alike flocked to see. In it, an eccentric millionaire (the always hammy but never disappointing Vincent Price) and his bored wife (Carol Ohmart a few years away of reaching B horror queen status in Jack Hill’s immortal Spider Baby) invites five people (Richard Long, Carolyn Craig, Alan Marshall, Elisha Cook, Jr., and Julie Mitchum) to spend the night in the titular mansion. Should they survive through the night, they will each earn $10,000. It sounds easy — but there’s always more going on than meets the eye… especially when Vincent Price is hanging around.
Aside from being a hoot (both intentionally and unintentionally if you can believe it), House On Haunted Hill is also one of several films produced and directed by William Castle, a motion picture pioneer who was a true showman in every sense of the word. Castle was the type of feller who always had a clever way of luring audiences in to see his latest masterpieces: gimmicks. Take his epic 1958 classic Macabre for instance — your admission to the movie included a special insurance policy issued by Lloyd’s of London should you die of fright during the movie. Another highlight in Castle’s gimmick days was 1959’s The Tingler — a process known as “Percepto” featured hidden speakers that would let out blood-curdling shrieks; rolling bean bags were employed to race down the theater floor; and, most notable of all, a few theater seats were rigged to vibrate when the action on screen was taking place.