Gavin A Go Go’s Vault Of Horror: House On Haunted Hill


House_on_Haunted_HillThe 3rd post in our series of classic horror movie worship by our pal Gavin A Go Go. This is House On Haunted Hill. Released in 1959.

I thought as I mentioned William Castel in my review of The Screaming Skull that it would be fitting to do another of his films and what better than The House On Haunted Hill staring the brilliant Vincent Price.

Eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Price) invites five apparent strangers to a haunted house for a “ghost party” (not too sure what that is, but I really want to go to one) for his wife. Each of the guests have been informed they will receive ten thousand dollars in return for their attendance. They each arrive by funeral cars and at this point Loren narrates the reasons for them attending (they desperately need the money mainly). One of the guests, Watson Pritchard is also the owner of the house. He inherited it from his brother, who was murdered (along with several others) at said house. Watson had stayed in the house once before and claims that he only just survived, but doesn’t go into much detail of his ordeal.

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As soon as they arrive at the mansion, strange things start to happen. A door slams, a chandelier swings and falls, narrowly missing young Nora Manning. One of the guests who works for one of Loren’s company’s and needs the money as she is the sole earner for her family.

After the guests have calmed down with a drink, the host finally makes an appearance and goes into more detail about the evenings events. They soon learn that in order to claim their ten grand they are required to be locked in overnight with no chance of leaving until 8am the next day. Each have until midnight to make their decision. While all of this is going on Pritchard is telling everyone how unsafe the house is, the ghosts have been awoken and that everyone should leave immediately. It becomes apparent that the man likes his booze, so very little notice is taken.

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The strangers take a tour lead by Pritchard, as he is familiar with the house and it’s history. He shows the locations of where the murders took place and the grizzly stories behind them. The group is lead to the cellar where they are shown a trap door. The lid is lifted and a vat of acid is revealed. We are told that this is where one of the murders took place.
(The acid seems to dissolve only the flesh leaving the bones and we are given a demonstration of this by use of a dead rat ha ha ha)

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As Midnight approaches more and more strange things happen, particularly to Nora, who pretty much gets the brunt of it. Miss Manning is determined that she is going to leave, but before she has a chance…. its too late! The care takers have left and locked up 5 minutes early. There is no way out and with no electricity or phones, communication with the outside world is futile.

Once the party goers have come to terms with the situation, Loren thinks this would be a good time to hand out guns to everyone awesomely presented in tiny coffins. (I want one). This just raises tension and doesn’t bode well for the rest of the evening.

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This is how early black and white low budget horrors should be made. Great story, high camp factor and perfect cast. Right from the get-go you pretty much know what you are in for and it doesn’t stop. It’s a great story, very original at the time, totally engrossing and a lot of fun. It has some pretty good jump moments too. My personal favourite being the first time we are introduced to the female care taker (You’ll see).

1999 produced a re-make of this classic and although it was thrown in with the post Scream MTV horror overload such as the likes of Urban Legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer and 13 Ghosts (another Castle re-make), it wasn’t that bad.

I really wish I could have seen this at the pictures when it was first released. William Castle is well known for his great in theatre promotional gimmicks, such as under seat buzzers for The Tingler and had (fake) nurses in the lobby checking peoples blood pressure to make sure they were well enough to watch the features. For this one he used Emergo, where he installed an elaborate pulley system in the theatre which allowed a plastic skeleton to be flown over the audience at the right time. It would have been a blast. The film Matinee staring John Goodman is based on Castle’s career and well worth checking out too.

This House On Haunted Hill T-Shirt really nails the awesome camp factor from the film and some of the classic moments from the film, even the trap door of acid.

house-on-haunted-hill_tshirtPost written by Gavin A Go Go

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Gavin A Go Go’s Vault Of Horror: Asylum


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The 2nd post in our series of classic horror movie worship by our pal Gavin A Go Go. This is Asylum. Released in 1972

Asylum (AKA House Of Crazies, which I prefer) is a British anthology horror film and one of many made by Amicus Productions. Others include Tales From The Crypt, The Vault Of Horror, From Beyond The Grave and The House that Dripped Blood. It was directed by Roy Wood Baker who is no stranger to horror having also directed Scars of Dracula & Quatermass And The Pit. Scripted by Robert Bloch who’s own short stories were adapted for the screenplay, he was also the writer of the novel Psycho which went on to become the film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

A young Dr Martin (I Know, right?)  has arrived at Dunsmoor Asylum to interview for a position. When he arrives he is expecting to be greeted by a Dr B. Starr, the head of the institution, but instead meets a wheelchair bound (he turned his back on a patient. Idiot) Dr Lionel Rutherford who’s now in charge.

Rutherford goes on to tell the doctor that all the patients at the institution are in fact “incurably insane” and that Dr Starr is now an inmate at the asylum having suffered a mental breakdown and that it was in fact Starr that left him incapacitated. The orderly who looks after the patients reports that Starr is now perfectly rational now but has developed a new personality. (Being disabled he can not check on them himself as the patients reside on the first floor)

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Dr Martin says that this can happen from time to time, when people want to escape their current situation and cockily claims to be able to identify such a case. Rutherford calls his bluff and sets the confident doctor a test. There are several other patients with a similar condition and if Dr Martin can pick out which one is Dr Starr, then he will be “considered” for the vacancy.

Martin ascends the stairs and takes in the “art” which so happens to be drawings of past inmates of the institution acting erratically (bit inappropriate). The stairs lead to a locked door. The door is opened by Max Reynolds who welcomes Martin in to a corridor which has Max’s office and two rooms on either side, each of which is a patients confined space where, while being interviewed the residents will tell the story of how they came to be, each in turn.

Frozen Fear
First up is Bonnie (at this point I would like to point out that all the patients names begin with B so as not to give Dr Martin any clues as to who Dr B. Starr is). She tells us her tale of how she and her lover, Walter plotted to kill his wealthy, possessive wife Ruth who studies voodoo, although she claims it’s not voodoo. She returns from one of her sessions with a new bracelet charmed with teeth which apparently will protect her from evil. This just fuels Walters fire as he believes its mumbo jumbo. Walter tells Ruth he has gotten her a gift and leads his wife to the basement. While she admires her brand new freezer (Great gift mate) he give’s her the real present, which leads to terrible repercussions.

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The Weird Tailor
The next story comes from Bruno. Bruno was a tailor and recites how poverty lead him to take a tailoring job from a one Mr Smith. After learning that the suit is to be a surprise gift for his son, Smith produces the measurements and material that the suit is to be made of and strict instructions of at what times the suit can be made. These must be “to the letter” as the customer is a keen astrology enthusiast. Bruno says that it will be a lot of work, but Smith will pay him handsomely, so Bruno accepts.

Upon completion of the suit, Bruno delivers it to Smiths home where he learns that he will not be paid until his son tries on the suit as Smith has sold everything he owns to buy a book. Trying to prove his customer wrong, Bruno goes on a hunt, but what he finds is what the suit is really made for, which ends in tragic consequences.

Lucy Comes To Stay.
An agitated Barbara quickly informs us she has a history with the medical profession, she has been incarcerated before. Her yarn starts off with her initial release where she is driven to her home by her brother George. Upon their arrival they are greeted by Miss Higgins a nurse who will be caring for her. This confuses Barbara as she claims she isn’t sick and every order given is met with denial of her condition, but ultimately she complies.

Barbara is told to go to bed and rest which after some fuss she does. Once Miss Higgins is satisfied with her patient, she leaves her to rest and almost immediately receives a telephone call telling her that her elderly mother has been taken to hospital and her attendance is required. George offers to drive Miss Higgins to the train station, leaving Barbara alone, well at least she think she is until her impish and manipulative friend Lucy decides to pay a visit and brings a world of trouble with her.

Mannikins Of Horror
For his final interview Dr Martin meets with a Dr Byron. It is clear from the outset that he has a keen dislike for Dr Rutherford. We learn that he is working on an unusual project where he believes that he can willfully transfer souls into tiny robots with lifelike heads. The one he is currently working on bares a strong resemblance to himself. He goes on to explain that the insides of the toys are organic and a small version of his own viscera. Furious, Dr Martin delivers his verdict that the conditions in which the practice is being run are intolerable, particularly as no help is being offered to rid them of these “fantasies”. He is quickly reminded that Rutherford considers them “incurable” and that Byron is helplessly insane…. or is he…….

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I could go on about this flick for a long time, but I feel it would spoil it for those of you who are yet to see it. Having watched films like Creepshow at a really young age I became a huge fan of the anthology sub-genre and really happy to add this to my list as I had never seen it before. (the t-shirt inspired me to watch it). Asylum is not particularly gruesome (unfortunately) but, it is still good fun and reminds me of a The League Of Gentlemen Christmas special. The cast has some familiar faces of horror including the legend that is Peter Cushing and Britt Ekland (Wickerman) as well as a very young Robert Powell. There are so many great bits such as the body parts, climbing toys and Britt Ekland’s accent that it’s hard to pick a favourite storyline. The Asylum T-Shirt design has great depictions of each, but if I had to choose I would say Frozen Fear.Overall this is an enjoyable film and really well thought out, with a great linking story. Highly recommended.

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Post written by Gavin A Go Go