Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Legend of Hell House

I noticed that The Legend of Hell House is on FXM Retro tomorrow morning at 11:55 AM and again Tuesday at 7:30 AM. So I made a point of watching it off my DVR today so I could do a full-length post on it.

The movie starts off with a pre-opening credits sequence. Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill) meets British millionaire Deutsch, who has recently purchased the notorious Belasco House. The house is known as "Hell House" because not only is it presumably haunted, the last time anybody tried to investigate what was haunting the place, only one member of the expedition survived. So Deutsch has hired Barrett for the princely sum of £100,000 to figure out what is really going on and rid the house of whatever is "haunting" it.

To that end, Barrett, a physicist by training and not really a believer in the paranormal, has been given leadership of a team involving a "mental" and a "physical" medium. The mental one is young Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) who, despite being just a girl in Barrett's mind, is one of the best in her field; the physical guy is Ben Fischer (Roddy McDowall), who also happens to have been the one person to survive the previous investigation. Rounding out the team is Mrs. Barrett, who has no expertise but dammit, she's not going to be left alone.

The four get into the house, and it doesn't take long before things start happening. Not only that, but it really does seem to be things that could only happen because the house is well and truly haunted; it's not one of those "I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids" things where the team is going to find a bad guy and literally unmask him. Making things particularly creepy is that Belasco ran the house as a house of debauchery, so the haunting begins to make the female members of the team do some oddly sexual things.

The Legend of Hell House is a tough one for me to grade. I have to admit that I'm not a particular fan of this genre of movies in general. I've given a positive rating to The Haunting, but I tend to prefer other types of horror to the "lock everybody inside a house for a week and see what the experience does to them" genre. So there were times when I was laughing at the ludicrousness of some of what was going on. Ultimately, however, I think The Legend of Hell House does succeed, at least for fans of the genre. If I were going to introduce people to vintage horror, I'd start with a lot of other things. But for people who like horror and want something they're likely not to have seen before, this isn't a bad one.

The Legend of Hell House does seem to be available on Blu-Ray from the TCM Shop.

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