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House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Unrated | | Horror | 17 February 1959 (USA)
A millionaire offers ten thousand dollars to five people who agree to be locked in a large, spooky, rented house overnight with him and his wife.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Carol Ohmart ...
...
Alan Marshal ...
Carolyn Craig ...
...
Watson Pritchard (as Elisha Cook)
Julie Mitchum ...
Leona Anderson ...
Howard Hoffman ...
Skeleton ...
Himself
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Storyline

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 <tones120c@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Consult your doctor! Bring your seat belts! See more »

Genres:

Horror

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

17 February 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The House on Haunted Hill  »

Box Office

Budget:

$200,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The story was loosely based on/inspired by the Agatha Christie novel And Then There None; aka 10 little Indians, and novel The Haunting Of Hill House. See more »

Goofs

After Nora brings everyone to the cellar when Lance gets locked in the room you see Mr. Loren light a candle when he goes to enter, but the room itself lights up before he even enters the room. See more »

Quotes

Frederick Loren: Pritchard, I've had enough of your spook talk.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The end title credits list "Skeleton - By Himself" See more »

Connections

Featured in American Grindhouse (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

House on Haunted Hill
Theme
by Richard Kayne and Richard Loring
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Price is right
19 November 2001 | by See all my reviews

I have watched my share of horror movies, altho I am not an expert on the genre, and I have seen different settings. Of course, there can be mixed settings: a film about Dracula may take you to the Transylvanian outdoors, to streets or graveyards, as well as into the castle or mansion or whatever. But one way horror movies can be categorized is by whether most or all of the film is within a residence, or not. Bearing this in mind, I think something special about horror films is having the victim(s) enclosed inside a mansion or home, with escape difficult or impossible, and terrorized by anything one can imagine -- moving furniture, metamorphosing paintings, spooks in the attic, odd remnants, lights on and off -- as part of the buildup for a real or expected attack, by a person or whatever. The terror, suspense, is believing someone or something is or may be there, but where, and when, will it strike? "The Shining," "Die! Die! My Darling," "Beyond the Door," Behind Locked Doors," "The Haunting." Although claustrophobia might generally be a negative for me in a movie, such as "Rear Window" (unlike most people, I do not really like it), in horror movies it is great, it makes the day. If one looks at things this way, "House on Haunted Hill" can be seen as the quintessential horror film.

Start with having Vincent Price in it, hopefully no arguments there. He plays Frederick Loren, the affluent host of a "party" in which he invites five people, not including himself and his wife, to a haunted mansion on a hill in a challenge for each person to win $10,000 (at today's value, about $100,000) if that person stays in the mansion all night. Among the five are Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.), an alcoholic, whose endemically spooked countenance sets the tone for what everyone is getting into. Frightface or not, he bears an (eerie?) resemblance to evangelist Pat Robertson, whether or not he is actually as scary. Altho Pritchard owns the house, he has spent little time in it, but he is nevertheless the expert on the circumstances surrounding seven deaths, including that of his brother, on the premises over many years. Quickly, the other four get the message: they may be facing trouble. And trouble begins quickly. Part of the idea is that there is no escape out of the mansion after midnight, when the caretakers leave, and barricades ensure this.

Price's wife, Annabelle, is played by Carol Ohmart. She is striking blond, gorgeous, with very fair skin. In several scenes that I will not specify, her lightness is artfully contrasted against surrounding darkness by Director William Castle -- very beautiful, no special effects needed. Price has a jealous rage toward her and she in turn wants to get rid of him, as she has tried to do in the past. What will happen tonight?

Of the other four characters, the two with the stronger presences in the first half are Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), a handsome pilot, and Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), a pretty typist for one of Loren's companies and the early lead screamer. The other two are newspaper writer Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum), who has a gambling problem, and Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal), a psychiatrist interested in the subject of scared people. A plot twist brings one of these latter two to greater prominence in the second half.

The creaky doors, the body parts, the unexplained incidents all do their part in a movie in which black & white is such an essential. The black & white cements the atmosphere we need for the "house" (mansion): from a distance, from a close-up at the start of the movie, and then inside the mansion, everywhere. For those who profess love for "Casablanca" and cry "sacrilege" when they see the colored version, I say, OK, the true version to me is the original, but the colorized version is just the colorized version, what's wrong with watching it too? The movie still works in color, doesn't it, even if it is preferable in black & white? To me, anyway. But as to "House on Haunted Hill" -- even if I similarly would not cry "sacrilege" to a colorized version, I ask, can you think of any other movie in which black & while is so essential, in which a colorized version would lose so much? Maybe you can, but I can't.

Loren, with his ulterior motives, has a smug, rather commanding aura, knowing that each of the five needs the $10,000. There can be skeletons in people's closets, yes. And as Loren's plans are threatened with derailment, keep this in mind.


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