|Category||Horror||Biographies - Cast and Crew
Filmographies - Cast and Crew
Note - Screen Credits
|Running Time||74:50 minutes|
Avenue One DVD
Elisha Cook Jr
|Case||Pink Dual Alpha Style|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.71:1 (measured)|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||
|Subtitles||None||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The broad story centres around the rather rocky marriage of Annabelle Loren (Carol Ohmart) and Frederick Loren (Vincent Price). Frederick wants to be rid of Annabelle (his fourth wife) but she will not go for even a million dollars, whist Annabelle really just wants the whole Frederick Loren fortune. Frederick and/or Annabelle rent the House On The Haunted Hill for a little collection of hand-picked guests, and so, one dark night, an entourage of funeral vehicles winds its way up to the House On The Haunted Hill to deposit the unsuspecting guests at the door: test pilot Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), psychiatrist David Trent (Alan Marshal), clerical worker Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), journalist Ruth Bridges (Julie Mitchum) and landlord Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr). What do they have in common? Money problems, apparently. Their mission, since they have no way of avoiding it, is to survive twelve hours in the House On The Haunted Hill. Their reward if they succeed? $10,000. The purpose to all of this? Well, you will just have to watch the film! Suffice it to say, imaginations run wild as the guests are confronted by the tangible evidence of ghosts, ghouls and other assorted things that go bump in the night.
In the light of forty-odd years, the story here is actually a lot more banal than it has ever seemed. Whilst it never really amounted to much, this really is a dreadfully telegraphed story - in other words just about exactly what we would expect from a B-grade horror flick of the fifties, especially one from William Castle! He does, however, try every trick to create and sustain the horror of the film: the opening sequence for instance was quite effective for its day. A totally black screen accompanied by assorted screams, ghoulish noises and chain rattlings. Just the stuff to get a theatre full of stoned university students to add their own improvisations on the theme. At other times, the use of the black screen to hide what is going on just adds a little to the mystery - just who did get thrown into the vat of acid?? Star of the show is the legendary and immortal Vincent Price, the doyen of horror films of the post-war period thanks to one of the most recognizable, and chilling, voices ever heard on the big screen. He carries this film from go to whoa, with it has to be admitted quite decent support form the rest of the cast. Still, it is top grade B-grade horror so why should we expect better than top grade B-grade acting? The effects work is pretty ordinary by today's standards with some especially unrealistic severed heads that border on the laughable (and go way past it to a theatre full of stoned university students). And as for continuity problems...
Sure it is B-grade schlock but at least it is definitive B-grade schlock! Worth a look to fans of the genre as this is in many ways a real gem of the 1950s B-grade horror flicks, but the post-Star Wars set should best avoid this for fear of causing physical harm as they laugh themselves to death over the effects of the day, but even B-grade schlock deserves a better transfer than what this got.
This is at best a decently sharp transfer as befits a forty-odd year old film. There is no obvious loss of focus here and the whole film stands up pretty well from that point of view. It is a pity that this was not carried over to the detail aspect of the transfer, though. This is really a darkish transfer and as a result detail is in many instances lost amongst the darkness. Whilst this is partially intended, I cannot help but feel that this should have been just a little lighter in tone in order to let a bit more detail come through. As you may have guessed, shadow detail is not especially marvellous, although it does not descend into anything really bad. Unfortunately, this is not an especially clear transfer and it is blessed with copious amounts of grain at times, especially early on. There also seems to be a rather consistent problem with what appears to be low level noise in the transfer that does become just a little tiresome to watch at times.
This is a rather unusual black and white transfer inasmuch as the blacks have quite a good solidity of tone to them but the overall transfer still lacks a lot in the way of vividness. There is certainly nothing here that descends into murky greys thankfully, but this did seem to promise a bit more vibrancy in the picture than it actually delivered.
There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer,
other than some hint of loss of resolution in pan shots on a few occasions.
The main problem with the transfer is the noticeable presence of film-to-video
artefacts. There are some consistent problems with aliasing or shimmering
in the transfer that whilst not outright ugly does just tend to draw attention
to the issue. There are some quite serious cross-colouration issues, with
one especially noticeable instance at 25:34.
The overall effect seems to be to lurch from one problem to another when
you add in the grain and noise issues: there are certainly few scenes that
are not affected by one problem or another. Film artefacts are of course
an issue here, but probably no more than we would expect in a forty year
The dialogue comes up quite well in the soundtrack, and consistently so, and there are no problems with listening to it or understanding it.
There is no real problem with audio sync in the transfer.
The music score comes from Von Dexter, and a great example of a totally clichéd 1950s B-grade horror film soundtrack it is, too! You have probably heard everything in this soundtrack many times before in any multitude of films. Sure, it does its job well enough, but it really is nothing memorable.
The big problem with the soundtrack is that it suffers
quite noticeably from high end distortion, so that every time a climax
is reached in the music and/or effects some distortion kicks in. It is
nothing really terrible but it sure is noticeable and ends up being a little
annoying: good examples are at 20:36
and 62:15. Other than that, there is
nothing much to report here. You can forget that impressive array of speakers
that you have spent a fortune on here - they get no action at all basically
and your television speakers could handle most of the work here with ease.
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
3rd November 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|