House on Haunted Hill


1h 15m 1958
House on Haunted Hill

Brief Synopsis

A millionaire offers total strangers a fortune to spend the night in a haunted house.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Thriller
Release Date
Dec 1958
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Susina Productions
Distribution Company
Allied Artists Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 15m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

Wealthy former playboy Frederick Loren rents the haunted mansion of Watson Pritchard for one night and invites five strangers on the pretense that he is throwing his wife Annabelle a party. Frederick bribes the guests, test pilot Lance Schroeder, newspaper columnist Ruth Bridges, physician David Trent, secretary Nora Manning and Watson, by promising ten thousand dollars to each if he or she spends the entire night at the mansion. Although puzzled by the invitations, the guests are in need of the money and agree to participate. Shortly after their arrival, Lance prevents Nora from being struck by a falling chandelier. Watson then reveals that there have been seven inexplicable, brutal murders in the house, including that of his brother, and he believes the victims' ghosts continue to haunt the premises. In private, Frederick and Annabelle argue about the party, which Frederick admits is a ploy to force Annabelle into revealing that she only wants access to his fortune. Later, Frederick introduces himself to the others and explains that at midnight the servants will lock them into the mansion for twelve hours and that all communication with the outside will be cut off. Watson gives the guests a tour of the house, detailing the gruesome deaths that occurred in several rooms, including the wine cellar where a jealous husband murdered his wife by pushing her into a vat of acid that still exists beneath a large trap door. When the others leave the cellar, Lance and Nora linger behind to explore. After Lance abruptly disappears into a small room, Nora is frightened by the vision of a wild-haired old woman. Lance is discovered knocked out but unharmed in a small room and David treats a cut on his head. Determined to learn what happened in the cellar, Lance returns to the basement later with Nora, where she sees the woman again, who disappears before Lance can see her. Frustrated that Lance does not believe her, Nora returns upstairs where she meets Annabelle, who cautions Nora and Lance that she believes Frederick may be trying to harm her. Moments later, Nora returns to her room and is horrified to find a severed head in her suitcase. When she runs into the hall panicked, a dark figure grabs her and cautions her to leave before she is murdered. Nora hastens to the living room where Frederick introduces the others to the servants, Jonas Styles and his wife, who Nora recognizes as the man in the hallway and the woman in the cellar. Nora refuses to remain in the house and as it is a few moments before midnight, Frederick agrees that she may depart. Abruptly, however, Jonas and his wife bolt, locking the group into the house. Annabelle enters the room and apologizes to her guests, then asks Frederick to pay them and allow them to depart. Instead, Frederick gives each guest a party favor of a miniature casket with a pistol inside. Nora demands that Watson and the others see the severed head, but when they arrive in her room it is gone. David offers Nora a sedative, but she angrily refuses. Later, Lance visits Nora only to find her room empty, but he discovers the severed head in her closet. Lance hurries to show the object to Watson, but the men are interrupted by a scream and discover a woman's body hanging in the hallway. Lance believes it is Nora, but upon lowering the body, the men realize it is Annabelle. Later, Lance discovers Nora hiding in his room and gives her his gun, advising her to remain hidden there. The others meet in the living room and Frederick asks David if Annabelle committed suicide or was murdered. David insists that they contact the police immediately, but is reminded the phone lines have been cut. Lance suggests one of the group is a murderer and advises that they return to their rooms and remain there until morning. Lance does so and tells Nora that he believes Frederick murdered Annabelle and that he intends to break out and bring the police. After Lance departs, a thunderstorm begins and Nora is terrified when a large rope slithers into the room through the window and she sees Annabelle's figure outside at the end of the rope. Nora bolts and runs down the hall where she discovers Annabelle's body hanging from the rafters. Thoroughly frightened, Nora flees downstairs as David, suspicious of the noise, visits Frederick to suggest they search the house. After Frederick departs, David goes to his room and rouses Annabelle, who has been shamming death in a plot with David to drive the edgy Nora to murder Frederick. Meanwhile, searching for Lance, Nora returns to the cellar and when Frederick appears moments later, the terrified Nora shoots him and flees. Hearing the disturbance, David appears and prepares to dump Frederick into the acid vat, when Frederick revives and pushes David into the acid. Moments later, Annabelle arrives searching for David and is horrified when a skeleton rises out of the acid, approaches her, and in Frederick's voice accuses her of murder. After the skeleton pushes the terrified Annabelle into the vat, Frederick steps out of the darkness revealing a complex set of wiring with which he controlled the skeleton. Meanwhile, Nora seeks out Ruth and Watson and they discover Lance trapped in a hidden passageway. Nora confesses that she has shot Frederick but when the group returns to the cellar, the wounded Frederick admits his actions and surrenders, prepared for the law to judge him.

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Film Details

Genre
Horror
Thriller
Release Date
Dec 1958
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Susina Productions
Distribution Company
Allied Artists Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 15m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Articles

House on Haunted Hill


Our candidate for the most entertaining haunted house thriller of all time? House on Haunted Hill (1958). You know the premise (it was recently remade in 1999 with Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen): An eccentric millionaire (Vincent Price) offers a $10,000 reward to anyone who dares to spend one night in a tomblike mansion that was once the site of multiple murders. The greedy participants are soon subjected to skeletal apparitions, blood dripping from the ceiling, a severed head, and a vat of acid in the cellar.

Produced and directed by William Castle, the king of gimmick horror films, House on Haunted Hill is the infamous one released in "Emergo" - a process where a giant plastic skeleton would sail over the audience at an appropriate moment in the film. In Attack of the Monster Movie Makers by Tom Weaver, Vincent Price recalled this unique effect: "The opening night of House on Haunted Hill, I was in a little theatre in Baltimore. In the movie, I reeled this skeleton in using a winch, and then there'd be a real skeleton in the theatre that would shoot over the audience. Well, I was in this theatre with a great many young people in it - and they panicked! And they knocked all the seats out of the theatre! They just took down the first five rows. I loved it!" Unfortunately, Turner Classic Movies won't be able to duplicate that effect on television but you won't miss it with all the other creepy things occurring at the title location.

According to producer-director William Castle in his autobiography, I'm Gonna Scare the Pants Off America, he convinced Vincent Price to accept the role over coffee and some slices of pie at a small diner near the Samuel Goldwyn Studio one rainy evening. With Price confirmed as the gleefully malevolent host, production proceeded smoothly until the first sneak preview, which was attended by a middle-aged audience. Quickly realizing his mistake by the blase response of the audience, Castle made sure the next sneak preview was targeted for younger viewers. His instincts proved correct as their reaction to the film was wildly enthusiastic and most of his future efforts were geared toward the teenage market; 13 Ghosts (1960), 13 Frightened Girls (1963), and I Saw What You Did (1965) being prime examples.

Screenwriter Robb White recalled the making of House on Haunted Hill in Science Fiction Stars and Horror Heroes by Tom Weaver: "House on Haunted Hill was shot mostly at Allied Artists. The exteriors were shot at Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House on Los Feliz, built during his Egyptian period. We were not allowed in there, but the guy who owned it let us look inside. And it was a weird house - the ceilings were 22 feet high! In one room there was a closet door that was 22 feet high and two feet wide with nothing in the closet to hold up clothes or anything else. The man who owned the house had furnished only one of the many rooms with a bed, a chair, a nightstand and, in the kitchen, a card table. He complained that the famous glass walls, which joined each other at the corner with only edges of the glass panes meeting, leaked when it rained and made a weird screaming noise when the wind blew. And there was nothing you could do about it! The swimming pool was three feet deep; ten feet wide; a hundred feet long; and in the middle was a statue of a horse! It was just god-damned ridiculous!" White, however, had a higher opinion of House on Haunted Hill: "I liked the whole thing, liked it right from the beginning. I like Carol Ohmart, I was the one that insisted on having her....I loved Vincent Price....I remember that I objected to hiring the guy who played the hero, Richard Long, because he had a scar on his mouth which made him look like he was smiling all the time, even in the grimmest parts. But he turned out to be a good actor and I liked him very much."

Producer/Director: William Castle
Screenplay: Robb White
Cinematography: Carl E. Guthrie
Art Direction: Dave Milton
Music: Von Dexter
Principal Cast: Vincent Price (Frederick Loren), Carol Ohmart (Annabelle Loren), Richard Long (Lance Schroeder), Alan Marshal (Dr. David Trent), Carolyn Craig (Nora Manning), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Watson Pritchard), Julie Mitchum (Ruth Bridgers).
BW-76m. Letterboxed.

by Jeff Stafford

House On Haunted Hill

House on Haunted Hill

Our candidate for the most entertaining haunted house thriller of all time? House on Haunted Hill (1958). You know the premise (it was recently remade in 1999 with Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen): An eccentric millionaire (Vincent Price) offers a $10,000 reward to anyone who dares to spend one night in a tomblike mansion that was once the site of multiple murders. The greedy participants are soon subjected to skeletal apparitions, blood dripping from the ceiling, a severed head, and a vat of acid in the cellar. Produced and directed by William Castle, the king of gimmick horror films, House on Haunted Hill is the infamous one released in "Emergo" - a process where a giant plastic skeleton would sail over the audience at an appropriate moment in the film. In Attack of the Monster Movie Makers by Tom Weaver, Vincent Price recalled this unique effect: "The opening night of House on Haunted Hill, I was in a little theatre in Baltimore. In the movie, I reeled this skeleton in using a winch, and then there'd be a real skeleton in the theatre that would shoot over the audience. Well, I was in this theatre with a great many young people in it - and they panicked! And they knocked all the seats out of the theatre! They just took down the first five rows. I loved it!" Unfortunately, Turner Classic Movies won't be able to duplicate that effect on television but you won't miss it with all the other creepy things occurring at the title location. According to producer-director William Castle in his autobiography, I'm Gonna Scare the Pants Off America, he convinced Vincent Price to accept the role over coffee and some slices of pie at a small diner near the Samuel Goldwyn Studio one rainy evening. With Price confirmed as the gleefully malevolent host, production proceeded smoothly until the first sneak preview, which was attended by a middle-aged audience. Quickly realizing his mistake by the blase response of the audience, Castle made sure the next sneak preview was targeted for younger viewers. His instincts proved correct as their reaction to the film was wildly enthusiastic and most of his future efforts were geared toward the teenage market; 13 Ghosts (1960), 13 Frightened Girls (1963), and I Saw What You Did (1965) being prime examples. Screenwriter Robb White recalled the making of House on Haunted Hill in Science Fiction Stars and Horror Heroes by Tom Weaver: "House on Haunted Hill was shot mostly at Allied Artists. The exteriors were shot at Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House on Los Feliz, built during his Egyptian period. We were not allowed in there, but the guy who owned it let us look inside. And it was a weird house - the ceilings were 22 feet high! In one room there was a closet door that was 22 feet high and two feet wide with nothing in the closet to hold up clothes or anything else. The man who owned the house had furnished only one of the many rooms with a bed, a chair, a nightstand and, in the kitchen, a card table. He complained that the famous glass walls, which joined each other at the corner with only edges of the glass panes meeting, leaked when it rained and made a weird screaming noise when the wind blew. And there was nothing you could do about it! The swimming pool was three feet deep; ten feet wide; a hundred feet long; and in the middle was a statue of a horse! It was just god-damned ridiculous!" White, however, had a higher opinion of House on Haunted Hill: "I liked the whole thing, liked it right from the beginning. I like Carol Ohmart, I was the one that insisted on having her....I loved Vincent Price....I remember that I objected to hiring the guy who played the hero, Richard Long, because he had a scar on his mouth which made him look like he was smiling all the time, even in the grimmest parts. But he turned out to be a good actor and I liked him very much." Producer/Director: William Castle Screenplay: Robb White Cinematography: Carl E. Guthrie Art Direction: Dave Milton Music: Von Dexter Principal Cast: Vincent Price (Frederick Loren), Carol Ohmart (Annabelle Loren), Richard Long (Lance Schroeder), Alan Marshal (Dr. David Trent), Carolyn Craig (Nora Manning), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Watson Pritchard), Julie Mitchum (Ruth Bridgers). BW-76m. Letterboxed. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Once, the door is locked, there is no way out. The windows have bars the jail would be proud of and the only door to the outside locks like a vault.
- Frederick Loren
Only the ghosts in this house are glad we're here.
- Watson Pritchard
If I were gonna haunt somebody, this would certainly be the house I'd do it in.
- Lance Schroeder
Don't let the ghosts and the ghouls disturb you, love.
- Frederick Loren
Darling, the only ghoul in the house is you!
- Annabelle Loren
Who would want to haunt me?
- Ruth
I would say any self-respecting male ghost.
- Frederick Loren

Trivia

Used a gimmick in the theatres. At a certain key moment in the movie, a glow-in-the-dark skeleton appeared from behind the screen to swoop over the heads of the audience.

The Samuel Freeman House in Los Angeles, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1924, and now listed on the National Historic Register, was used for the exterior shots of the haunted house during the film's opening sequence.

Notes

Although several contemporary reviews list the servants' surname as"Slykes," the onscreen credit reads "Styles." Closing credits differ slightly from the opening credits, listing actress Carol Craig as "Carolyn Craig." The closing credits also list "Skeleton by Himself." Modern sources, including the autobiography of producer-director William Castle, describe a gimmick used in several of House on Haunted Hill's first-run screenings, in which a phony skeleton was rigged to "fly" over the audience at a key moment in the film. Castle claimed that he named the skelton and the complicated wiring necessary for its appearance "Emergo." In 1999 Warner Bros. remade House on Haunted Hill, starring Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen, directed by William Malone.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter December 1958

Released in United States August 11, 1995

Released in USA on video.

Released in United States Winter December 1958

Film used Emergo, a gimmick in which an illuminated skeleton, mounted on two wires, floates over the audience during the climax of the film.

Released in United States August 11, 1995