REVISITING FAVORITES AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND...
The Legend Of Hell House (1973) UK
One can only absorb and try to spit out so much garbage before one cracks and begs for something, anything good. Since I can't trust newer movies even if they're touted to be great creations, I decided on a couple of favorites. I've seen this movie many times and still enjoy it. It's proof that you CAN take a good story (this is based on the novel Hell House by Richard Matheson, one of my fave authors), use good actors, and without much in the way of special effects make a very spooky and enjoyable film. They did very well with this - their biggest expense probably being the huge mansion they used as a set. Excuse me, I mean the sets they built to look as if they were inside the huge mansion they show. And they adapted it for England very well - the book was actually set in the US.
We have Lionel Barrett, who is hired by a millionaire to prove if there is life after death. He sends him and a team to the infamous Belasco House, aka Hell House. Now if this movie were made recently you'd roll your eyes knowing exactly what's going to happen - the endless setting up of equipment, not finding anything just to have everything kill them in the end. This is NOT that kind of story.
Mr. Barrett's team includes his wife, who just wants to observe, a 'mental medium' Florence (Played very well by Pamela Franklin who somewhat regretted the role, as it typecast her into the horror genre.), and a 'physical medium' Ben (The always excellent and over-the-top acting of Roddy McDowall.). Lionel doesn't believe in their abilities but as they all have been hired they must work together.
This movie starts with a bang and keeps going, building the tension clear through the picture. Richard Matheson, instead of trying to push a boogeyman type of mansion with ghosts and beasties, we get a house of negative energy, with the explanation that residual human energies can be stored.
This house has more than its share, therefore its reputation. Seems Mr. Belasco, as well as being very rich, was very evil - the house was host to every perversity known to man - and murders were believed to have taken place there. So the place is saturated with what they call Electromagnetic Radiation - the residue of all those who suffered there. A big machine is created by Lionel to 'drain' the house of all the EMR, therefore 'exorcising' the house.
Horrid things happen to them in the meantime - again the special effects are extremely basic but very effective and the stories of the different characters keep the flow going. Especially the story of Ben (Roddy McDowall), who was the only survivor of a previous attempt to 'cleanse' the house - the others either dying, going insane, or becoming paralyzed. Because of this, he has decided to 'shut himself off', just to wait out the week and collect his money.
Unfortunately before Lionel can work his machine the forces of the house murder Florence. But they then turn it on, going outside to wait several hours for it to work. When they go back inside the house, Ben finally allows his senses to open and realizes that there's absolutely nothing and no one there. As Lionel checks his final settings before they leave, things start happening again - the whole dining room is destroyed. He is led to the chapel (An ironic addition to a house dedicated to wickedness.) where Florence was murdered and he himself is also killed.
Ben and Lionel's wife go into the chapel and finally Ben gets what's been going on all along - according to this movie's theory anyway. Belasco knew he would be 'haunting' the place and sealed his mummified body in a leaden room. Okay, plot hole - if the lead protects him, how did he project evil past it? Oh well, it was still a pretty damn good story and in the end, good prevails, the two survivors turn the machine on again now that the lead room has been opened and hopefully all now is well.
Oh and make sure if you watch the movie to pay attention to Mr. Belasco (shown as a corpse at the end). In case you don't recognize him, he was Alfred in Tim Burton's Batman.
Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.