Sunday, 29 July 2007

The Legend of Hell House (1973)

The Legend of Hell House is arguably the last of the classic haunted house movies. A team of psychics, scientists and paranormal investigators are paid a fortune to investigate the “Mt Everest of haunted houses”, the infamous Belasco House. Belasco, who built the house, and mysteriously disappeared, was notorious for his cruelty and depravity. Dr Lionel Barrett has with him a machine of his own invention, which he claims can clear the house of the residue of psychic energies which are really a form of electro-magnetic radiation. .

The Legend of Hell House boasts high production values and (by 1973 standards) good special effects. It also benefits from a script by Richard Matheson, from his on novel. Matheson has probably written more good horror scripts for TV and movie than just about anyone else you can name. It also boasts stylish direction, and lots of gothic atmosphere. The result should be a sensational film, but somehow it doesn’t quite work out that way. Roddy McDowall overacts outrageously. The rest of the cast do a reasonably good job, including Gayle Hunnicut as Dr Barratt’s ex-obsessed wife. It’s still a good movie, though, and solid entertainment. The combination of spooks and science fiction-style gizmos is amusing.

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