Since this vintage late-night classic is mercifully available on DVD, one can only presume that some dedicated fan must have won a poker game from the suits at Warner Home Video's merchandising department. This must have been his request for settlement of Warner's debt; there is no other explanation for the studio tossing this succulent crumb to true horror movie fans. Well, then again, it is probably more likely that Warner caved in to capitalize off the recent "remake" (and I use that term ever so loosely) of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. Why they didn't release a sterling edition of Hammer's 1959 MUMMY to likewise take advantage of the awful yet popular new Brendan Fraser film is...OH, WHAT'S THE USE!!??!!
The original HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL stars a true actor, and a seasoned horror veteran: Vincent Price. He plays a wonderfully gentile millionaire who offers $10,000 to a small group of guests who dare to spend the entire night in a creepy mansion where seven murders had been committed.
Meanwhile, Price's sultry but bitchy wife has an agenda of her own. Soon, frightful incidents begin to occur as ghosts float across the rooms, blood drips from the ceilings, a severed head makes its way into an unseemly place, and the brave band of money-hungry visitors fear for their lives. What is it all about?
Director William Castle (famous for his knack of producing cheesy "gimmick" horror movies) does a first-class job in what just might be his best film. When the film was released in theaters, Castle provided a spooky process known as "Emergo," which basically featured a skeleton strung up on wires that was reeled in front of moviegoers to coincide with similar action on the big screen.
The DVD quality on this release is simply beautiful. The black and white image is well contrasted and very sharp. It is much nicer than the recent Roan disc (which co-featured THE BAT, another Vincent Price flick). This Warner disc is double-sided, offering the viewer a choice of full screen or letterbox. For me, I much preferred the full screen version for this particular movie; it has more information than the matted rendition (which masks off information at the top and bottom of the image) and it reminds me of the nostalgic days in the early 70s when I used to watch the film on late-night television.
A pristine trailer is also included on the disc, but that's about all in the bonus department.
Warner has recently released all the old SHAFT films to coincide with the brand new Samuel L. Jackson remake. If this pattern continues, it may be the only way in which we fans will get to see our favorite nostalgic DVDs on the store shelves. If that's the case, I hope that some major studio will remake Bela Lugosi's MARK OF THE VAMPIRE or produce a 21st century update of DRACULA A.D. 1972 real soon! (Joe Lozowsky)
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