The Legend of Hell House (1973)

Article 2335 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-17-2007
Posting Date: 1-3-2008
Directed by John Hough
Featuring Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall, Clive Revill

A physicist, his wife, a mental medium and a physical medium are hired to enter a haunted house and find proof of life after death. They find themselves at the mercy of a truly frightening menace.

I’d heard about this movie for years, and I have vivid memories of seeing the ads for it on television in the early seventies. I’m quite happy to finally be watching it, and I’m also happy to discover that it is not a disappointment. In fact, I’m adding it to my list of favorite haunted house movies, along with THE HAUNTING , HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and THE UNINVITED . It starts out conventionally enough, with four people setting out to spend a week in the haunted house, with Roddy McDowall in what amounts to the Watson Pritchard role; he’s the sole survivor of another party that stayed in the house, and much of his early dialogue centers around how they’re all doomed. However, as the movie progresses, the exact nature of the haunting becomes more complex, as do the characters themselves, and the movie is full of fascinating and intriguing revelations. The performances are all fine, with McDowall giving one of his very best ones here. The use of sound is simply outstanding; silent is used to good effect, and the music and sound effects that do show up actually seem to lurk around the edges of the movie rather than coming out front and center, giving a truly eerie air to the proceedings. Not everyone will survive, but the movie is set up in such a way that you simply don’t know who will live and who will die. And, to top it all off, the movie has a great uncredited cameo appearance, and for those who haven’t seen the movie, I won’t give away who it is; I didn’t know, and I was surprised and delighted when the moment came. This is one I definitely recommend.


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