Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Vincent Price and The Blade Runner Mansion, or Thoughts on House on Haunted Hill

A psychological thriller hiding in a carnival spook show, William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill (1959) is closer to Les Diaboliques (1955) than Dracula (1931).  And if you are familiar with Georges Clouzot’s Hitchcockian masterpiece, I’ve pretty much revealed the entire plot.  But for those of you who haven't seen either of these movies, rest assured that House on Haunted Hill is one of the classiest B-movies that rewards patient viewers with clever twists and some of the most charmingly analog special effects including skeleton marionettes, rubber fright masks and copious amounts of thunder and lightning.
Vincent Price is Frederick Loren, a bored millionaire in a loveless marriage, and invites five random strangers to help celebrate his wife’s birthday in a haunted house.  If they can survive the night, he’s willing to give them $10,000, and that’s about all you get for a plot, and really, that’s about all you need.  What follows is a night full of suicides, kidnappings, floating skeletons, and did I mention the convenient acid bath trapdoor in the wine cellar?  Because there’s that.
The movie is elevated above its humble B-level origins because of the filmmaking; William Castle’s use of shadows, sound, and composition transcends the material, and the histrionic dialogue.  The exterior of the House on Haunted Hill is actually the 1924 Ennis House by Frank Lloyd Wright, which you may remember as Deckard’s apartment in Blade Runner (1982), or Spike and Drusilla’s mansion in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in addition to inspiring set designs ranging from Star Trek the Next Generation and Predator 2 (1990) to The Rocketeer (1991).
Watch out for Elisha Cook Jr., Wilmer, the cheap gunsel from The Maltese Falcon (1941) my number one favorite movie OF ALL TIME, as Watson Prichard, (Chris Kattan’s role in the 1999 remake).

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).