Tag Archives: Vincent Price

Saturday is Horror Day #41 – Messiah of Evil, House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Messiah of Evil

Arletty (Marianna Hill) is concerned about her father, Joseph Lang (Royal Dano). The artist kept in touch with her ever since he moved away, but his letters have become fewer and fewer and now they’ve stopped altogether. Arletty travels to the small seaside town of Pointe Dune to find him. But when she goes to his house, there is no sign of him. 

 

 

The next day she goes to a local art shop, but they know nothing of his whereabouts. However, a group of people have also been asking about him. Arletty meets the group, which consists of Thom (Michael Greer), Laura (Anitra Ford), and Toni (Joy Bang). Arletty is a little taken aback by their obvious arrangement, but when she questions them, they know nothing of her father. Later, they show up at her father’s house, claiming she is the reason why they were kicked out of their hotel and can’t find a place to stay. She reluctantly agrees to allow them to stay with her.

 

The town of Pointe Dune is… odd… to say the least, and the inhabitants are not particularly friendly. Arletty finds her father’s journal and begins to read. But nothing is making sense. Laura decides to leave Thom and Toni and heads out. She is offered a ride by a strange man in a pickup truck. In the bed, a group of people sit, necks craned toward the sky. She quickly regrets her decision and tries to get away, but to no avail.

A bored Toni decides to go to the movies. Thom and Arletty begin to compare notes and realize, too 

late, that maybe Toni shouldn’t be alone. Later, Arletty is taken to the beach, where a body has been discovered. They say her father had an accident while creating a work of art. But Arletty knows better.  Did she imagine someone breaking into her dad’s house? What in the world is going on and how can she and Thom get to safety before it overtakes them?

This film was made in 1973, and it certainly looks like it, with minimalist sets, horrible fake blood, and off-screen violence. Although the filmmakers weren’t shy about a certain amount of nudity (at least what they could get away with back then). I get the feeling whoever wrote this was on drugs, and not particularly good ones. It has the look and feel of a psychedelic trip. Also, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. 

If you look on IMDB.com, this film was tagged as vampire, vampire cult, and vampire messiage. But these are not vampires in any sense of the word, rather they are zombies. One reviewer called it a “macabre little gem”. I would disagree with that. Surrealistic? Quite possibly. Dread? Not really. So don’t expect too much. Do look for Royal Dano and Elisha Cook Jr. You might remember the latter from House on Haunted Hill, with Vincent Price. Or The Maltese Falcon, with Humphrey Bogart.

Reading the review on IMDB, I almost thought we watched two different films. I am giving this film 2 Stars. Watch at your own risk.

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) is a millionaire with too much money and time to indulge his macabre sense of humor. To celebrate the birthday of his fourth wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), he rents out the House on Haunted Hill, but she is less than pleased when he makes up the guest list himself, and not a one of them is a friend of either one. The guests have all been chosen by him and made the same offer – spend the night in the haunted house and receive $10,000 in the morning! That’s an offer few people could refuse. To add to the spirit of the occasion, Loren has them arrive in hearses.

Lance Schroeder (Richard Long) is a young, handsome pilot. Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal) is a psychiatrist. Ruth Bridges (Julie Mitchum) is an older woman who has become jaded with her life. Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig) is a typist at one of Loren’s companies, but has never met the man. Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr) is the realtor who rented Loren the house. They are all strangers to one another and unsure why they’ve been invited to the party.

 

Annabelle instantly shows herself as petulant and demanding, insisting she will not come to the party. 

Relations between husband and wife are obviously strained. But Loren insists she make an appearance, and makes his point rather handily. Pritchard is a doom-and-gloom sort of fellow, warning everyone about the murders that have taken place in this house, and the ghosts that inhabit it, helping to create an atmosphere rife with terror. Loren doesn’t help allay their fears with his choice of party favors  pistols inside of small coffins.

Mild-mannered stenographer Nora is very sensitive and quick to pick up on strange things. When she and Lance explore the basement, Lance disappears and Nora sees a ghost. But no one will believe her. Again, later, when she finds a human head in her suitcase, the evidence disappears before anyone else can see it. She wants to leave but the unexpected departure of the servants, who have locked down the house in their wake, handily puts an end to that. They are all stuck there until the following morning!

Tensions begin to build as more and more eerie things happen, and Nora is just about at her breaking point. Armed and hysterical is no way to go through life, and may just lead to someone getting hurt. The question is, will it be by one of the trapped people inside the mansion, or by one of its ghostly inhabitants?

 

I’ve seen House on Haunted Hill many times and I never tire of it. Vincent Price is in his element as Frederick Loren, the millionaire with bad taste in wives. Annabelle is number Four. And yet, there is something mysterious about the deaths of the first three and the possibility that he had something to do with their deaths.  I love Vincent Price in everything he does. The film was directed by William Castle, who also brought us 13 Ghosts, both black-and-white films. Known for his gimmicks, for this film he used “Emergo” in theaters, which involved a skeleton on a wire that would swoop over the heads of the audience.

This film is still eerie and fascinating, even after all these years, and is definitely worth watching. I give it a sold 4.5 Stars.