Our Daily Trailer: THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL

BC takes on Vincent Price Week with one of William Castle's classics.

I haven't had the pleasure of seeing The House on Haunted Hill theatrically, so it's kind of fitting that this trailer doesn't mention "Emergo," the obligatory William Castle gimmick created for theatrical engagements of the film, which would send a skeleton floating above the heads of moviegoers. Other Castle trailers usually spotlight their gimmicks, such as The Tingler (the followup to Hill), which I did get to see a couple years ago thanks to the Cinefamily. Even Macabre, the first of Castle's productions to employ a gimmick (life insurance policies for every ticket buyer), mentions it in its trailer, so I'm surprised they didn't advertise one that was much more eye-catching.

Then again, unlike Macabre, Hill had a star attraction to get butts in seats: Vincent Price. This was still relatively early in Price's horror era; he had starred in a few scattered films like House of Wax and The Fly, but the Poe films and his other memorable genre roles were still ahead of him - from this point on, the dramas and comedies would be the exception, not the rule. It's not much of a surprise that he was much in demand for horror pictures after this; not only was the film a great success, but it remains one of his most delightful performances, perfectly toeing the line between villain and hero for our viewing pleasure. The plot doesn't fully make sense (how the hell did a non-ghost pull off that rope around the feet gag?), but you'll never notice or care as long as Price is onscreen, dishing out insults and charm in equal measure.

And he's backed up by a terrific supporting cast, including Elisha Cook Jr, the lovely Carolyn Craig as the heroine, and Carol Ohmart as Price's wife Annabelle, who is just as hilariously deadpan about what an awful person she is as Price, making their scenes play as a sort of precursor to something like The War of the Roses. Interestingly/sadly, Ohmart is pretty much the only surviving cast member; I don't know if I want to use the word "curse," but of the primary seven cast members, three died relatively young (Craig died of a gunshot; I can't find if it was a suicide or a murder, so I assume the former) and only one (Julie Mitchum, who played Ruth) made it to the turn of the century. Castle himself also died fairly young, as did the film's DP and editor, both of whom died in 1967 in their early 60s. Just saying, there's a stronger case than they got for Poltergeist.

"Emergo" screenings still occur from time to time, and the film is included on the new Vincent Price Volume 2 collection from Scream Factory, but chances are most folks have seen it via the internet or a budget horror pack (it's been a staple of the latter for as long as I can remember, popping up with Night of the Living Dead level frequency). I'd love to see it with a crowd, unlike Tingler it's actually a fun movie without the gimmicks and a crowd, so I can't imagine how much more enjoyable it is WITH them. Either way, it's probably one of the top 10 best movies to watch this time of the year, so I encourage you to do so.

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