House on Haunted Hill will be taken down on March 15. It's your last chance to stream it on Netflix. This is the 1959 version starring the late great scary Vincent Price. Aside from Vincent Price, you don't want to miss some terrifying blood-curdling screams and campy low-budget props including a corset-like device used for a fake hanging, a furry claw glove, a manikin apparently on wheels, a walking skeleton and more.
In one scene where the furry claw glove curls around a door frame in an attempt to entrap the pretty young victim of the movie, Nora, (Carolyn Craig) I was reminded of a Three Stooges episode where thieves pretend to haunt a house to scare the stooges away from their lair, especially after the victim slips out of its grip leaving the fake-furred hand hanging empty in failure.
The story was pretty well written in a now common plot where several mysteriously chosen strangers are invited or challenged to stay and survive a full night in a haunted house in order to win some sort of reward, usually monetary. In this case, $10,000. That amount of money went a lot farther back in 1959 when the movie was released! I thought of Dr. Evil's "One million dollars" demand in Austen Powers.
Certain characters were strategically placed to set the scene and the tone like Mr. Pritchard (Elisha Cook, Jr.) who described in detail the history of murders taken place in the house and his belief that evil spirits were lurking around planning to murder them all. The private conversations between the host, Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) and his young beautiful fourth wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) show the audience their loveless marriage, distrust for each other and lust for money as they stay married only to keep from losing or having to divide their millions in a divorce. Being 1959, it was implied that divorce wasn't an option and only death dissolved a marriage.Or maybe death just made the movie more fun!
The story had some pretty good twists and surprises which were the movie's focus rather than the premise of the strangers surviving the night without being scared out of their wits. At the end I wondered just how did his previous wives die and did he actually pay out that $10,000 to the survivors?