Friday, October 14, 2016

Cornelius and The Emperor Fighting 70’s Brit Spooks, or Thoughts on The Legend of Hell House

From the 1971 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, the author of I Am Legend (1954), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1958), A Stir of Echoes (1958) and of course, the classic Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963), The Legend of Hell House (1973) was a modern update on the traditional haunted house movie, with a new generation of more dangerous and adult-themed ghosts.
Two psychics and a parapsychologist explore the “Everest of haunted houses,” the Belasco house, commonly, (or affectionately for the purposes of this review) known as “Hell House”, an atmospheric country estates with bricked up windows and a satanic chapel.  Roddy McDowall, Cornelius from Planet of The Apes, (1968), Fright Night (1985, I still haven’t watched the remake) and an IMDb page of 264 credits that goes back to 1938 portrays Benjamin Franklin Fischer, psychic and only survivor of the previous investigation while Pamela Franklin, Flora from The Innocents (1961) and Satan’s School For Girls (1973) as psychic medium Florence Tanner.
British actor Clive Revill, the voice of The Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) stars as Dr. Lionel Barrett while Gayle Hunnicutt, Irene Adler to Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes (1984), his wife and assistant, Ann.  Dr. Barrett is eager to test out his latest invention, an analog de-ghosting machine bristling with dials and levers straight out of a mad scientist’s lab.  The more permanent residents of Hell House of course, have different plans.
The Legend of Hell House was quite explicit for the time period, including a ghostly sexual assault and allusions to the “unspeakable” perversions inflicted by the host when he was alive, but the underlying theme was that ghosts in this house could actually kill you.  There was a physical danger not present in traditional ghost stories, something modern audiences readily accept.  70’s audiences had an expectation of ghostly apparitions, but having them throwing knives and dropping chandeliers on you was completely unexpected.
Watch out for the Michael Gough cameo, who you may remember as Alfred in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) as the original ghost with the most, Emeric Belasco.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).