Tuesday, 23 January 2018

A Tingle In A Haunted House High On A Hill.

What A double-bill, both starring vincent Price, both directed by William Castle, both released in 1959. Oddly, or perhaps not so,in both films Vincent  Price is married to a no good vamp who is either trying to murder him or is destined to be murdered by him. Since both films sprang from the imagination of Mister Castle one might imagine he had some serious trust issues when it came to relationships with women, as most of his femme fatales slinked around in treacherous hues.
            Actually William Castle puts in an appearance as himself, providing a wonderful introduction to The Tingler. He is signposting one of his extraordinary gimmicks; "Perceptol!", which involved a device hooked to some movie theater chairs, that would activate in time to on screen events causing more than a few unexpected tingles of terror. The Tingler of the title is a spine dwelling millipede like creature produced from the darkest recesses of the Id and held at bay only by our ability to scream when terrified. The warning is well woven into the script and vincent Price gives it his all. I love that quality Vincent Price has, the ability to simply don a white lab coat in order to become a great humanitarian doctor in search of answers to better mankind and benefit all.Yet in the same movie he threatens his wife with a pistol at close range, prolonging her agony and fear as he smiles and twists his head amusingly in order to wring every ounce of fear that he can from the situation. it is so in keeping with this odd gem of horror movie making which deals with some uncomfortable themes. It has an odd looking cast too. The married couple especially, the mute lady and her homocidely polite husband. The whole film has an odd disjointed from reality feel about even when watching with thoroughly modern eyes, how it must have felt in 1959 can only be speculated at now. it must have felt like sleep walking into William Castle's dream world. yet despite the terrors it also has a cosy fifties Americana feel to it, even with this nightmarish millipede creeping around beneath the actors and the viewers chairs, with the sound of a thumping heart beat acting as a signature tune for it.
           House On Haunted Hill was a huge hit in its day and one of the movies that Vincent Price is best remembered by the general Joes for. In it half a dozen people are invited for an overnight stay in a haunted house for which they will each receive $10,000 dollars. If by the next morning they are still alive or sane enough to collect. The exteriors of the haunted house were shot at an actual location, one Ennis House which was designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which is slightly at odds with the baroque nature of the various furnishings and indoor decor used on the sound stages for interior shooting. It also has a fantastic opening musical theme ,written by Richard Kayne and Richard Loring, which plays as those invited to spend the night at the haunted house wander around the grounds, perhaps wondering if the money they will be paid is enough to risk their very soul for.
It has a classic jump scare pretty early on as one of the guests explores the basement area of the house. Completely oblivious to the idea it is probably not a good idea to wander around the darkened basement of a house with a fiendish reputation.
            Then again, they may not know they are a character in a haunted house movie.
            I suppose none of us are sure which genre of movie we are stumbling through as we stare at the cracked mirror of our subjective realities.