Remake or Not to Remake -“House on Haunted Hill”

I usually hate remakes, check out a previous post on this very subject – “To Remake or Not to Remake, That is the Question” – especially when the original says it all, you can’t imagine any other actors (think Casablanca) and is iconic.

Or, the movie is just horrible, to begin with, and we don’t need to be put through that torture again. WHY??!!!

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule and I’m going to put the remake of the 1959 classic “House on Haunted Hill” by legendary film director, William Castle on the EXCEPTION list.

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William Castle April 24, 1914 – May 31, 1977

The film was written by Robb White and stars the incomparable Vincent Price as eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren and (Carol Ohmart) as his wife Annabelle, who have invited five people to the house for a “haunted house” party. (Wikipedia)

Whoever stays in the house for one night will earn $10,000. As the night progresses, all the guests are trapped inside the house with ghosts, murderers, and other terrors.

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Elisha Cook – Watson Pritchard

The owner of the house, Watson Pritchard’s vivid descriptions of all the deaths and heads in the house is awesome! The more he drinks the more colorful the tales become.

Vincent Price’s disembodied head narrating during the opening credits is (sorry, had to do it) Priceless! 😁

I’m a huge fan of the B-Movie Director because he personifies the “show” in show business. His movie gimmicks are legendary! In my favorite, “House on Haunted Hill”, it was Emergo (A skeleton with red lighted eye sockets that floated over the audience in the final moments of the film)

Once word spread about the skeleton, kids had to get in on the act by trying to knock it down with candy boxes, soda cups, or any other objects at hand.

I saw the film at a Halloween special performance and the skeleton floating across overhead was Fantastic! Classic Castle!

If it weren’t for my kids, I probably wouldn’t have sought out the remake but, when I walked into the family room and caught a glimpse of the action on the big screen, I was immediately drawn into the atmospheric effects.

Didn’t think I’d ever say this because William Castle films are sacred but, the remake is awesome, ratchets up the effects, and is creepy as HELL!!

Geoffrey Rush was fantastic as the sinister Steven Price (I believe the name change is an homage to Vincent), an amusement park mogul with a wicked sense of humor.  As in the original, his spoiled trophy wife, Evelyn Stockard-Price (Famke Janssen), in a disintegrating marriage with Steven insists on a haunted house themed birthday party. Capitulating to his wife, Price leases the house from the owner, Watson Pritchett (Chris Kattan).

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Geoffrey Rush

Evelyn gives Price a lengthy guest list which he promptly shreds to spite her and then creates one of his own. Five guests arrive for the party – Jennifer Jenzen (Ali Larter), Eddie Baker (super-fine Taye Diggs), Melissa Margaret Marr (Bridgette Wilson), Dr. Donald Blackburn (Peter Gallagher), and Pritchett himself. The guests are not those Price invited and neither Evelyn nor Price know who they are. (Wikipedia)

Despite this, Price continues the party’s theme, offering $1 million to each guest who stays in the house and survives until morning. Those who die forfeit the $1 million to the survivors.

Setting the house as a former insane asylum with a totally twisted Dr. at the helm, manifested a disturbing backdrop. Nothing worse than psycho ghosts trying to make you one of them.

With the remake of the 1963 haunted house classic, “The Haunting”, the 1999 version starring Liam Neeson, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, this updated “House on Haunted Hill” needed to insert a lot more horror and gore.

Produced by Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver, it features special effects by famed make-up artists Gregory Nicotero and Dick Smith. Terry Castle (William Castle’s daughter) was also a co-producer on the project.

In keeping with the spirit of William Castle‘s tradition of releasing each of his films with a marketing gimmick, Warner Bros, and Dark Castle supplied movie theatres with scratch-off tickets that would be given to anyone who paid to see the film. The scratch-off ticket would give each movie patron a chance to win money much like the characters in the film. (Wikipedia)

Although not my beloved original, I found this remake to be a creepy fun time.

 

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13 Ghosts❗️ 👻👻👻👻👻👻👻👻👻👻👻👻👻

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Let me start by saying, I absolutely love William Castle! His “effects”, and his campy, “spooky” movies made him the “Master of the Movie Gimmick”! He financed his first movie, Macabre (1958), by mortgaging his house and came up with the brilliant idea to give every movie-goer a certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd’s of London in case they should die of fright during the film. He also stationed nurses in the lobbies with parked hearses outside the theaters. Macabre was a hit!

 

Each of his films featured an “effect” or gimmick. With “House on Haunted Hill,” it was “Emergo”, the “flying skeleton.” It didn’t always work, but the kids in the audience had a good time anyway trying to knock it down. (kids will be kids:) Trivia Fact: William Castle produced the Roman Polanski horror hit “Rosemary’s Baby.”

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“House on Haunted Hill” Skelton

 

  “13 Ghosts” is jammed packed with “effects” and filmed in “Illusion-O”. Knife-wielding ghosts, headless ghosts, and murderous ghost Emilio, who has a thing for totally destroying the kitchen. As Buck Zorba (Charles Herbert) tells the story, seems Emilio killed not only his wife but his mother-in-law as well. Whack, whack! (nice sound effect Buck)

The “13 Ghosts'” storyline begins with Dr. Plato Zorba dying and leaving his broke nephew, Professor Cyrus Zorba (Donald Woods), an old, rundown LA mansion. The catch is Cyrus, his wife Hilda,(Rosemary DeCamp), daughter Madea (Jo Morrow) and son Buck can’t sell the house so are forced to share the joint with the 13 ghosts. “They come with the house.”

Ghosts or not the family is so broke that it’s common place for their furniture to be repossessed on a regular basis. In fact, the night they receive a telegram (from a little person in the dark) to meet with Uncle Zorba’s attorney Benjamin Rush (Martin Milner), they’re sitting on the floor exchanging gifts and slicing birthday cake for their youngest son, Buck – Once again, the furniture’s been repossessed.

Move-in day at their new digs includes meeting their Uncle’s housekeeper who turns out to be the green one herself, the Wicked Witch of the West! (Margaret Hamilton)

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Margaret Hamilton (Elaine the housekeeper)

The best is yet to come as attorney Benjamin Rush goes to extremes trying to find the supposed fortune in cash Uncle Zorba stashed somewhere in the house. Ghosts run wild and the ghost viewer lets you catch all the action. Here’s where Illusion-O comes in:

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“Aahhhhh!”

Audiences received viewers with red and blue cellophane filters. Choosing to look through the red filter intensified the images of the ghosts while the blue filter “removed” them. Being brave or coward, the choice was up to you.

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“13 Ghosts” is the fourth collaboration from director William Castle and writer Robb White and lives up to the Castle touch. Two of his films were remade by his daughter Terry Ann Castle, who co-produced House on Haunted Hill in 1999, and Thirteen Ghosts in 2001 (the latter retitled Thir13en Ghosts).

A documentary focusing on Castle’s life, Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story, directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, had its premiere at AFI FEST 2007 in Los Angeles on November 8, 2007. It won the Audience Award for Best Documentary.

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