Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Legend Of Hell House

The Skeletal Spotlight shines this time on:
"The Legend of Hell House" poster
(Click for hi rez)

Synopsis: "A team consisting of a physicist, his wife, a young female psychic and the only survivor of the previous visit are sent to the notorious Hell House to prove or disprove survival after death. Previous visitors have either been killed or gone mad, and it is up to the team to survive a full week in isolation, and solve the mystery of the Hell House."

Once again, I am fooled by misleading poster art. Just FYI, there is no scene wherein a woman's bloody hand holds a miniature model of the Hell House, and there is certainly no giant skull with one green eye floating over it. And I waited the whole movie to see that scene! Skunked again.

Seriously, though, that's an awesomely iconic image that really sends a chill down one's spine. Since it's so well-remembered by the public, can you tell me why, oh, why the DVD cover designer turned up his or her nose at using it? And why they substituted a seemingly random screen-grab that (A.) not only tells you nothing of the film and does not make one want to see it, but (B.) is hard to even tell what it is.

Come on, people; use the famous poster art for the DVDs of horror movies like this and stop thinking you know better, 'cause you don't. Your college degree in art and design taught you nothing. Get your nose out of your Starbucks and realise that the movie poster artists of the past put you to shame, and then get over yourself and use their stuff.

On Christmas at Hell House, it's more likely a demon walking on the roof than Santa and his reindeer.

Anyway, the 1973 release by Academy pictures, starring Pamela Franklin and Roddy McDowell, does a good job of walking the tightrope between physical and psychological causes for the haunting versus the supernatural. The near-documentary feel of the film actually adds to the dread and fear, rather then detracting from it as one might suspect.

"How much are they paying us for this again?"

"I've got a bad feeling about this."

And although the events in the film take place over the Christmas holidays, this is not a film to put on in December to cheer one up, but rather at Halloween or days thereabout. The spirit of peace and goodwill usually prevelent during the holidays doesn't penetrate these walls to the slightest degree. The atmospheric photography really bring an aura of foreboding fear that few other haunted house movies can match, much less surpass.

Being perpetually fog-shrouded should have been warning enough.

"Of course I'm not gay, where did you ever hear that rumor? By the way, that is a simply horrid outfit you're sporting. Who dressed you, the dog?"

For a great review of the movie, check out the typically-insightful post at John Morehead's typically-insightful "Theofantastique" site. With stuff like that out there, I won't even embarrass myself with doing one.

"Oh, no... how did the FBI find out about my pirated film collection?"

In case the above reference leaves you stumped, here's the story. It's quite an interesting read! Makes you appreciate the availability and low prices of films for the individual now. Poor Roddy just lived at a bad time for movie collectors.

The cat knows something, but he ain't telling. Cats are notorious for not volunteering information, and for leaping on your back when you are least expecting it.

"I'm sensing something... Flicka? Is that you?"

Below are pictures of the actual location used for filming; Wykehurst Park, near the village of Bolney, East Sussex, in England. Not exactly a place to vacation to recover from depression.

Image source

Wikipedia entry:
Wykehurst Park is an elegant 130 room 150 year old mansion located near the village of Bolney, East Sussex, in England. The house came into prominence in the early seventies when the external shots of the house were used to film the horror film, "The Legend of Hell House," a psychological horror film, where the house lends its image to the horrifying nature of the story. It is a gothic mansion with turrets and arches and conical roofs, and many architectural devices to give it the appearance of a fairytale mansion from bygone days. The large black gates are fashioned in wrought iron. Alongside these gates, massive griffins with spread wings, perch on either side, and guard the entrance to the property which leads through a pebble drive to a grassed patio surrounding it, descending to a garden laid to lawn at the back. If you are able to get right up to the French windows you will just be able to view a grand, wide, polished wood staircase beginning the passage to the numerous rooms and accommodation upstairs.

Wykehurst Place, Bolney, West Sussex, England, UK

Also featured in "Hammer's House of Horrors" TV series, as well as other movies.
P.S. Don't forget to check out my other blog: "Monster Memories!" The latest post recalls those scary "Lost In Space" monsters.


Anonymous said...

The movie and book are both great - love the movie poster. It's funny that the castle is one of my photos in my screen saver - it's all gloomy old mansions and castles! Perfect vacation spot for me! :)

John W. Morehead said...

Thanks so much for mentioning this great but often neglected horror film. Thanks too for the kind words about my post on it and my website which can now be found archived at my new location of www.theofantastique.com.

Keep up the good work on your great blog.

Patrick said...

Legend of Hell House has long been one of my favorites. I can remember speculating to my friends how scary the film must be long before I had even seen it. It's been a while since I watched it last, gonna have to break it out and give it another whirl soon!! I totally agree with you Fred about these idiot designers that try to make better covers... Stick with the classic original artwork, cause it just dosen't get any better!!

Karswell said...

I agree, a true horror classic of film and lit, (I've read the book easily a dozen times, more times than I've watched the film in fact) and though often overshadowed by The Haunting, both are tremendous in each their own way.

Anonymous said...

ways wondered where this mansion was, first seen it on Toyah's The Blue Meaning album [1980]


Jimmi said...

How I adore this little gem of a horror movie! Scared me shitless as a child and I still enjoy it to this day. Of course, the final denouncement is a little silly but the scares it serves is worth the ride.

Anonymous said...

Wykehurst Place is situated just outside the village of Bolney in West Sussex, England. The gate house is situated off the old London to Brighton road.