The House on Haunted Hill (1958) starring Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook Jr., Julie Mitchum, Leona Anderson, Howard Hoffman
The House on Haunted Hill is, simply, a delight. The basic premise has millionaire (Vincent Price) invite a group of individuals to spend the night in a haunted house. A house where numerous murders occurred. All to amuse the millionaire”s bored wife (Carol Olmart). Each invitee is being offered a small fortune … if they survive the night.
In short, The House on Haunted Hill is delightful. It’s probably my favorite haunted house movie. First of all, it’s well-cast, well-acted, with good cinematography and direction. The pace is just right. It takes time to introduce us to the various cast members, and let the audience know what makes each one tick. And they’re all worth watching.
Are the effects cheesy? Yes; but not bad for a movie from 1958. If you think about the mechanics of the very ending, you’ll chuckle. But the idea is solid, and the acting keeps you in the suspension of disbelief.
Cast of characters
Vincent Price (The Raven 1963) as Frederick Loren.
The very wealthy man, who puts on the haunted house party at his wife’s request. He’s cold and aloof — with good reason. This is his fourth marriage, and he suspects that his wife isn’t above murder …
Carol Ohmart (The Scarlet Hour) as Annabelle Loren
Annabelle is Frederick’s young, beautiful wife. His fourth wife. And the two of them tend to fight like cats and dogs. The haunted house party is her idea. And she appears to be the first victim of the ghosts …
Richard Long (Cult of the Cobra) as Lance Schroeder
Lance is, if not the protagonist, at least the central character. Annabelle confides in him that she suspects that Frederick has murdered two of his previous wives. He’s locked in an empty room and struck on the head, while Nora is confronted by a menacing ghost. He’s confronted by Nora, who tells him an unseen assailant strangled her and left her for dead. He and David discover the first corpse, etc.
Alan Marshal as Dr. David Trent.
David is a psychiatrist who specializes in hysteria. He and Lance find the corpse of Annabelle, who seemingly hung herself. Although it seems suspicious … He tends to fan the flames of paranoia among the other party participants. Frankly, kind of odd for a psychiatrist …
Carolyn Craig as Nora Manning
One of Frederick’s employees, who’s more desperate for money than most. She becomes a love interest for Lance, despite being nervous and high-stung. She is frightened and/or attacked by someone … or something … in the house. Although several of the others don’t necessarily believe her.
Elisha Cook Jr. (The Maltese Falcon) as Watson Pritchard.
Watson is the actual owner of the haunted house. He is clearly an alcoholic, who’s been driven to drink by the house. And, he is totally convinced that the ghosts are real. And, homicidal. He serves as narrator at the beginning and end of the film.
Julie Mitchum as Ruth Bridgers
Ruth is a newspaper columnist. Toward the end of the film, she Nora, and Watson release Lance from the secret room. And Nora confesses that she’s shot Frederick. Hasn’t she?
Editorial review of The House on Haunted Hill courtesy of Amazon.com
William Castle”s gimmick-laden comic thriller is not so much a horror movie as a fairground fun-house come to life. Vincent Price stars as a deliciously silky millionaire married to a greedy gold digger (Carol Ohmart) who refuses to divorce him. When he turns his wife”s idea for a haunted-house party into a contest–$10,000 to whoever will spend the night in “the only truly haunted house in the world”–it seems he may have found an alternative to divorce. Five strangers gather to test their stamina, Price hands each of them delightfully twisted party favors (loaded handguns, delivered in their own tiny coffins), and the spook show begins.
Blood drips from the ceiling, zombielike apparitions float through rooms, severed heads and skeletons suddenly appear, and then a guest is found hanging in the stairwell. Full of screams and things that go bump in the night, House on Haunted Hill isn’t particularly scary and often makes little sense, but, like a Halloween haunted house, the spectacle of spook-show clichés is quite entertaining, and Price makes a sardonic master of ceremonies. The original theatrical presentations featured a typically outrageous Castle-engineered gimmick: Emergo, which was nothing more than a skeleton that appeared to fly out of the screen and over the audience on a guide wire. —Sean Axmaker