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Eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren and his 4th wife, Annabelle, have invited 5 people to the house on Haunted Hill for a "haunted House" party. Whoever will stay in the house for one night will earn ten thousand dollars each. As the night progresses, all the guests are trapped inside the house with ghosts, murderers, and other terrors. Written by
Tony Mayer <email@example.com>
The popular theme music originally had haunting lyrics by Richard Kayne, but only the orchestral version was used in the final film. For the record, the lyrics went as follows: There's a house on Haunted Hill / Where ev'rything's lonely and still / Lonely and still / And the ghost of a sigh / When we whispered good-bye / Lingers on / And each night gives a heart broken cry / There's a house on Haunted Hill / Where love walked there's a strange silent chill / Strange silent chill / There are mem'ries that yearn / For our hearts to return / And a promise we failed to fulfill / But we'll never go back / No, we'll never go back / To the house on Haunted Hill! See more »
Mr. Loren shakes an unopened bottle of "champagne" and points it menacingly at his wife, yet when the bottle is opened there is no effervescent "fountain" nor bubbles visible in their glasses when poured. See more »
William Castle liked to promote his films with gimmicks, and the gimmick for THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL was Emerg-O: at the peak of the action, a glowing skeleton "emerged from the screen" and flew out over the audience on a wire. By most accounts Emerg-O caused more laughter than chills, but fortunately Castle never relied on gimmicks alone: he also liked bona fide stars, and for HAUNTED HILL his star of choice was none other than the legendary horror star Vincent Price.
Like most Castle films, HAUNTED HILL's plot reworks a well-worn theme. Millionaire Price and his wife Carol Ohmart give a "haunted house party" for five strangers chosen at random and promised ten thousand dollars if they last the night. The catch: the doors lock at midnight, after which there is no escape until the caretakers return in the morning. While the story itself doesn't hold many surprises, the script is unexpectedly witty, and Price plays it in a slightly prissy, very high-camp manner with a tremendous dose of the black humor for which he was so famous--and the little-known Carol Ohmart is every bit his match, snapping out memorable lines ("Darling, the only ghoul in the house is you!") in every scene. Together they elevate the film well above what you might otherwise expect, and when combined with the largely wooden supporting cast and some of the silliest this-is-supposed-to-scare-you effects imaginable the result is a cult classic with plenty of camp appeal.
In addition to Price and Ohmart, the film is also surprisingly atmospheric. Shot in and around one of Frank Lloyd Wright's more famous structures, the grainy "late show" look of the film (due more to accident and age than deliberate intent) is very entertaining, the cinematic devices (everything from disembodied heads, irises, and jump-cuts) are very appealing, and the sound track (which sounds like a mix of piano bass keyes, synthesizer, and soprano vocals) is exactly what you'd want for this obvious but extremely entertaining flick. Of all the Castle films, THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is my personal favorite, and it should rate very high with fans of cult, camp, and Vincent Price. And I'll go further than that: of all his memorable appearances, I do believe this was among Price's best. A great choice for both family movie night or a sophisticated Halloween howl--very recommended! Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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