[Podcast] House on Haunted Hill (1959) – Episode 17 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era


“Whatever got her wasn’t human.” That is not what you want to hear while locked overnight in a haunted house. Join the Decades of Horror: The Classic Era crew – Erin Miskell, Chad Hunt, Joseph Perry, and Jeff Mohr – as we brave an overnight in the House on Haunted Hill (1959). William Castle, Robb White, and Vincent Price? What’s not to like.

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 17 – House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Directed by legendary gimmick-meister William Castle, House on Haunted Hill is a standard story about folks challenged to stay the night in a haunted house, but with a few twists provided by writer Robb White. Millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) carefully chooses five guests for his invitation only event — Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal), Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum), and Watson Prichard (Elisha Cook Jr.) — and offers them each $10,000 if they survive the night. Also in attendance are Frederick’s wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), caretaker Jonas Slydes (Howard Hoffman), and his wife (Leona Anderson).

House on Haunted Hill is great fun and has some legitimate scares, but don’t spend too much time thinking about the plot. If you do, you might become obsessed with its holes and miss all the fun. The music by Von Dexter is suitably chill-inducing and is as good at setting the atmosphere as it is at setting the standard for horror films of its period.

Chad Hunt recounts his experience watching this in a theater that tried to duplicate Castle’s gimmick for this picture, which he called “Emergo.” Erin Miskell’s first memories of watching House on Haunted Hill are during a sleepover as a 10-year-old. Imagine the shrieks!

House on Haunted Hill treats its guests to the usual haunted house fare, including floating apparitions, mysteriously slamming doors, a hanging body, an unattached head, secret passages, a seriously scary old woman, an animated skeleton, blood dripping from the ceiling, and a conveniently placed vat of acid in the basement.

We also send out a hearty handclasp to our steadfast listener, saltyessentials for calling Decades of Horror: The Classic Era a podcast “you can’t do without.” Check out salty’s blog, which he calls Dead Man’s Brain or, what I watched last night.

We plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule is The Univited (1944), hosted by Chad Hunt.

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era and what films you’d like to hear us cover! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email  (chadhunt@gruesomemagazine.com, erinmiskell@gruesomemagazine.com, jeffmohr@gruesomemagazine.com, or josephperry@gruesomemagazine.com) or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, the Horror News Radio App, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you for listening!

Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an “Old Boy.” Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for Horrornews.net and SQ Horror Magazine and co-hosted the SQ Bloodlines podcast. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is co-host of the Decades of Horror The Classic Era and 1970s podcasts.
  • Hi folks! I listened to the podcast and then gave this movie a rewatch for good measure. It’d been years (and years!) since I last saw it–probably on a vhs tape–but the movie still held up for me today. There’s just nothing to hate, here, amiright? Good, clean, creepy, schmaltzy fun all around. And Vincent Price delivers a *fantastic* performance. Heck, I think the whole cast is solid. I enjoyed all the trivia and back story stuff, as usual. Never would have put William Castle and Perry Mason in the same sentence, so that was a surprise.

    And I’m with you, Erin, ten grand would get me movin’ today every bit as much as it would have in 1959.

    Oh, and I’m a fellow cold hand sufferer–both my brother and I usually had ice cold hands and feet as kids, poor circulation to the point our hands and feet would go all blotchy purple and white. Much embarrassment and angst ensued as we went through out teens that way. Seems to have eased off as I’ve gotten older, although I’m still known to warm my hands under a faucet from time to time.

    Loved your first time seeing this movie, too, with the sleeping in shifts. Reminded me of watching 1990s IT with Tim Curry’s horrifying clown. My sister and I watched this in a creepy (in broad DAYLIGHT this place was creepy) basement apartment, late at night, just the two of us at home. We had separate bedrooms, of course, but ended up (not) sleeping all night in my little twin size bed, huddled together like a couple of wee schoolgirls to scared to even get up and pee–she was fifteen and I was 23!

    And Joseph, I thought that was a GREAT voice you did at the top of the podcast–very effective and creepy. (It just didn’t sound anything like Vincent Price.) Even so, well done.

    I liked Carol Ohmart’s performance here, and she didn’t particularly remind me of Marilyn Monroe. I’d be hard pressed to say I’ve seen her in anything else, but liked what she did in this movie and agree that IMDB bio was a little skewed.

    As far as was the house actually haunted? I’m going to go with no, it was all various hi-jinks we were seeing from the Lorens, Dr. Trent and the caretakers. I don’t think you guys mentioned the 90s remake of this movie, did you? I don’t remember much about it except that it was fairly uninspired and didn’t have the verve this one does, but I do seem to remember we got definite malevolent spirits in that one.

    At any rate, keep up the great work!

    Cheers.