Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook, Julie Mitchum
Budget $200,000 Box Office $1.5M
IMDb 6.9/10 Rotten Tomatoes 92% Metacritic NO DATA
This is an old classic horror film from the late 50s. The one and only Vincent Price graces us with a chilling and stellar performance as a cold and calculating husband and host. But let me not get ahead of myself. Let me introduce you to everyone.
Meet Frederick Loren. An interesting fellow and the host of tonight’s little gathering. He’s married to a beautiful woman, has more money than he knows what to do with, he has his health and friends and yet he seems consumed with contempt and displeasure, perhaps even hate.
Annabelle Loren. Frederick’s beloved, although you wouldn’t know it by the way they talk to each other. They have a cold and distasteful yet witty banter between them that makes it clear they are not in love anymore. She is sure he is trying to get rid of her in one way or another.
Together they are to be hosting a dinner party at a haunted house that Frederick has rented for the night. Inviting a specific group of carefully selected guests, Mr. Loren offers $10,000 to whoever can stay the whole night in the house. It’s just that simple. $10,000 for one night in a haunted house. So, let’s meet the special guests, yes?
Mr. Loren thought it a novel and fitting idea to have the guests arrive in funeral cars in funeral procession, an irony lost on all those attending the party I guess.
First, we have Lance Schroeder. Lance is a handsome and strapping test pilot and well, he says he needs the money.
Then there’s Ruth Bridges. Ruth is a columnist at a popular newspaper and she’s a very successful one. She’s also a compulsive gambler. She’s not so successful at that. She needs this money to no doubt pay gambling debts.
Then there's Mr. Watson Pritchard. Pritchard is actually the owner of the so-called haunted house. He’s terrified of this house. But he too is in desperate need for money. He claims a number of people have been murdered there including his own brother.
Next, we have Dr. David Trent. A pompous and greedy psychiatrist, he claims he is staying the night in the house as part of an ongoing study he is conducting on the subject of hysteria. He’s really just there for the money, like the rest of them.
And last, sweet and innocent little Nora Manning. Nora works for one of Mr. Loren’s companies. He hand-selected her specifically because of her home situation, she is the only one that is supporting a large family and needs the $10,000 more than any of the other people invited.
Loren explains that they are all there to spend the night. If they do so, they will receive $10,000. Once the housekeeping staff leaves for the night the doors will be locked from the outside. They will not be able to be opened again until 8am the next morning. They will not be forced to stay; they can leave anytime they choose up until the doors are locked. There are bars on the windows. The only way out is through the front door in the morning.
So, while they are letting this all marinate in their brains they have dinner. (I don’t know that I would eat food that came from someone who just told me all that but okay, whatever.) Then, strange things start to happen and Nora starts to get scared. She decides she wants to leave.
And as Frederick is telling everyone the time is drawing near and their decision needs to be made, they hear the slam of the front door and the haunting final sound of the lock. Now, the choice has been made for ALL of them.
So, now it’s just a matter of time, a matter of waiting and staying alive until dawn.
I loved this movie. I would have loved it in the 50s and I love it now. I can definitely see why it was such a hit at the time. I mean, how can you not love Vincent Price? The man is just awesome!! That voice, that stoic face. Perfect!
Throughout the whole film you know the house isn’t haunted but you also know something is amiss. They do a great job of leading you in and in the 50s, there would have been some very good jump scares. I even noticed things in the film that were used in the movie Clue. There were definitely similarities. It’s like Clue “sampled” this film for some of its ideas.
Carolyn Craig, the gal that played Nora, has a great horror scream too. She really belts it out and lets it go just like Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis. In old movies like this, I think the scream is so important. They didn’t have all the CGI and special effects we have now. So, that scream had to be blood curdling, absolutely chilling. And she has it down pat in this film.
One of the more interesting and fun facts about this film is that while it was being played in theaters, some theaters participated in something called “Emergo”. This was a little idea that the director Castle cooked up.
In the theater they rigged a very intense and elaborate pulley system so that at a certain point in the film, a skeleton could swoop down and fly over the heads of the audience, scaring the crap out of them. It ended up being a mechanical and logistical nightmare BUT, it did help make the movie a box office success, which was the whole point. The $1.5 million it made at the box office in 1959 would be almost $9 million today. In today’s terms it cost $1.7 million to make. So, they profited about $7 million. That’s not bad for the 1950s.
In 1999 there was a remake done that was ultimately successful. I haven’t seen it yet. I also read that there was a sequel to THAT remake make in 2007 and I saw online that another remake is in development as of 2017. (You’d think Hollywood could maybe come up with a new idea on their own instead of just remaking every movie that’s ever been made.)
If you get a chance I really would recommend any horror fan watching this if you haven’t already. If you are absolutely opposed to black and white, I believe they even have an “in-color” version out there.