Today I watched the 1959 version of The House on Haunted Hill. When I was a child this film was shown at my middle school, and something about it scared the hell out of me. Well, okay, I know exactly what it was. There is a scene where a woman opens her closet, only to find a human head hanging by its hair from the clothes rod. It freaked me right out, and it took me years to be able to open my closet door at night, even with the lights on.
I picked up the DVD on a budget rack somewhere for a couple of bucks, as part of a Vincent Price double feature with The Last Man on Earth. I was not expecting it to scare me, and for a change I was correct. (Full disclosure, however, requires me to tell you that I did watch it during the day, just in case.) The movie is not exactly frightening, by today’s standards.
However, it is actually pretty good, in a B-movie way. Vincent Price chews the scenery like a dog worrying a bone, yet gracefully walks the tightrope between dry humor and self-parody. The plot is surprisingly intricate for a cheap movie, and the dialogue is witty, if often delivered rather stiffly by the lackluster supporting cast. I admit, I was a bit surprised at how well I was entertained by this movie. Since you can probably pick up the DVD at Walgreens for a dollar, you can’t go wrong.
Meanwhile, I will try to convince myself that the times were different then, and that it wouldn’t really take a loser of epic proportions to be scared of that obviously fake paper machÃ© head hanging in the closet.