Release Date: January 14th, 1959 (San Francisco premiere)
Directed by: William Castle
Written by: Robb White
Music by: Richard Kayne, Richard Loring, Von Dexter
Cast: Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Elisha Cook Jr., Carolyn Craig, Alan Marshal, Julie Mitchum, Richard Long
William Castle Productions, Allied Artists, 75 Minutes
“If I were gonna haunt somebody, this would certainly be the house I’d do it in.” – Lance Schroeder
House On Haunted Hill is one of Vincent Price’s most highly regarded films. Granted, it’s not my favorite and barely cracks my top twenty (see here) but it’s still an entertaining affair that’s full of the great gimmickry that director William Castle was known for.
I also love the fact that the exterior of the mansion was actually the Ennis House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and was also used in Blade Runner, The Karate Kid Part III, Black Rain and a slew of other films due to it’s odd and iconic look.
The majority of the film takes place indoors and was shot on a sound stage made to look like an opulent mansion but it didn’t feel like it had a cohesive look with the exterior shots, even though the set designers sprinkled in replicas of the Ennis House’s famous building blocks.
The story is kind of hokey, even for 1959 and so are the frights. Still, this movie is kind of cool because of its hokiness and charm.
Overall, the acting is pretty over the top in a lot of scenes but Vincent Price and character actor Elisha Cook Jr. keep things fairly grounded for the most part.
It’s probably a controversial take but even though I enjoy this and love Price in it, I actually prefer the 1999 remake, as it took this concept and gave us something far more frightening and more complex.
Pairs well with: other William Castle pictures, as well as the 1953 version of House of Wax.