House on Haunted Hill (1959)

I am Frederick Loren, and I have rented the house on Haunted Hill tonight so that my wife can give a party. She’s so amusing. There’ll be food and drink and ghosts, and perhaps even a few murders. You’re all invited. If any of you will spend the next twelve hours in this house, I will give you each ten thousand dollars, or your next of kin in case you don’t survive. Ah, but here come our other guests.

I want to take this opportunity to give a shoutout to my kids. Let’s face it, it’s not easy being the offspring of a cinephile. The constant parade of black and white movies, the subtitles and the endless trivia while watching. It can get annoying at times. My kids roll with the punches though. They know dad can’t help himself.

Don’t get me wrong, as a family we subsist on a balanced diet of filmdom. The Golden Age of Hollywood, cult classics, the latest and greatest superhero flicks and an endless supply of Godzilla movies. We mix things up. But there comes a moment in every cinephile parent’s life where one of their wide-eyed little wonders catches you off guard.

“Dad, can we watch House on Haunted Hill? It wouldn’t be Halloween without it.”

Be still my beating heart.

Of course, the answer was yes. When it comes to House on Haunted Hill, the answer is always yes. Be it Halloween, Christmas, Arbor Day or two hours past bedtime on a school night, it’s a resounding yes.

For the uninitiated, there are some things you should know about House on Haunted Hill. First, this is a William Castle film. Which means despite all efforts to the contrary, it’s a bit on the silly side. It also happens to be brilliant. Without William Castle there would be no John Waters, no Robert Zemeckis or Joe Dante.  For my money, House on Haunted Hill represents the birth of the sweet spot in Castle’s career, quickly followed by The Tingler (Ladies and gentlemen, please do not panic! But SCREAM! Scream for your lives!), 13 Ghosts and Mr. Sardonicus.

House on Haunted Hill stars Vincent Price as Frederick Loren whose opening dialogue you see a the top of this post. Honestly, I debated even writing this, the entire articles can be summed up succinctly with two sentences containing but four words.

William Castle. Vincent Price.

That’s all the hook you need. It says it all.

Speaking of Vincent Price, I blew my daughter’s mind by informing her Vincent Price is the voice at the end of Thriller. Parenting win.

House on Haunted Hill is in the public domain so there’s about a thousand versions out there to choose from. Stay away from the colorized version. Sure, it’s the exact same movie, but something is lost in the presentation. House on Haunted Hill is a black and white film and should forever remain that way. Of course, there’s a remake out there. (See also: 13 Ghosts) I haven’t watched it yet, and likely never will. Why mess with perfection?

(See also: Matinee)

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M. Ruin

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