Horror On The Lens: The House On Haunted Hill (dir by William Castle)


The original The House on Haunted Hill is a classic and one that we make it a point to share every Halloween.  And since October is halfway over, now seems like the perfect time to do so!

Be sure to check out Gary’s review by clicking here!

Enjoy Vincent Price at his best!

Apache Territory (1958, directed by Ray Nazarro)


In this B-western, Rory Calhoun plays Logan Cates, an old west drifter, while traveling through the desert, comes across a young woman named Junie Hatchett (Carolyn Craig).  Junie’s parents were settlers who were captured and killed by a group of Apaches.  Knowing that the Apaches will still be looking Junie, Logan takes her to a nearby canyon where there’s water and shelter.  Soon, other victims of the Apaches start to show up at the canyon.  With their supplies dwindling and the Apaches surrounding them, Logan has to keep everyone alive and lead them to safety.

Complicating matters is that one of the people who shows up at the canyon is Logan’s ex-girlfriend, Jennifer (Barbara Bates).  Jennifer is traveling with her new husband, the wealthy (and therefore cowardly) Grant Kimbrough (John Dehner).  Also seeking shelter at the canyon are a group of Calvary officers, a Pima Indian named Lugo (Frank DeKova), and a naive teenage cowboy named Lonnie (Tom Pittman).

Based on a novel by Louis L’Amour, Apache Territory is a pretty standard western.  Some of the battle scenes are surprisingly brutal — particularly when one of the Calvary officers gets hit by a flaming arrow — but otherwise, this is a typical B-western, the type of movie that would have been the second part of a double bill at a Saturday matinee.  Logan Cates is able to survive because, unlike Grant Kimbrough, he knows and respects the land and, unlike the Calvary officers, he respects his enemy.  He’s a typical western hero, though well-played by Rory Calhoun.

The main problem with the film is that, for a film about a group of people trapped in one location, it never achieves any sense of claustrophobia.  The size of the canyon seems to change from shot to shot.  The film’s finale involves a well-realized dust storm but it still never reaches the type of action-packed conclusion that most western fans will be hoping for.  It ends with a whimper instead of a bang.  It feels more like an extended episode of Gunsmoke or The Virginian than a feature film.

This one will be best appreciated by undemanding fans of the genre.

Horror On The Lens: The House On Haunted Hill (dir by William Castle)


The original The House on Haunted Hill is a classic and one that we make it a point to share every Halloween.  And since October is nearly halfway over, now seems like the perfect time to do so!

Be sure to check out Gary’s review by clicking here!

Enjoy Vincent Price at his best!

Horror on the Lens: The House on Haunted Hill (dir by William Castle)


The original The House on Haunted Hill is a classic and one that we make it a point to share every Halloween.  And since Erin shared the film’s poster earlier today, now seems like the perfect time to do so!

Be sure to check out Gary’s review by clicking here!

Enjoy Vincent Price at his best!

Horror on the Lens: The House on Haunted Hill (dir by William Castle)


The original  The House on Haunted Hill is a classic and one that we make it a point to share every Halloween.

Be sure to check out Gary’s review by clicking here!

Enjoy Vincent Price at his best!

Horror On The Lens: House On Haunted Hill (dir by William Castle)


I was actually planning on waiting until closer to Halloween before I posted this film but … well, why save the best for last?  Seriously, it’s always a good time watch the original House on Haunted Hill.  Be sure to check out Gary’s review by clicking here!

Now, I will admit that I previously shared this film two Halloweens ago.  However, the YouTube video that I embedded in that post no longer exists.  So, I figured, why not post it again?

Below is what I wrote the previous time that I shared this movie:

“Released in 1959, House On Haunted Hill tells the story of how an eccentric millionaire (played by Vincent Price, of course) rented out a “haunted” mansion for a party. invited over five guests, and offered each of them $10,000 on the condition that they manage to spend the entire night in the house.  Along for the ride is Price’s unhappy wife (Carol Ohmart) and the house’s wonderfully neurotic caretaker (played by Elisha Cook, Jr, who played a lot of neurotic caretakers over the course of his long career).

House on Haunted Hill remains one of the classic B-movies.  This is largely because of Price’s wonderfully over-the-top lead performance and William Castle’s equally over-the-top direction.

Back in 1959, theaters were equipped so that a plastic skeleton would appear to fly over the heads of the audience during some of the film’s more shocking moments.  So, grab yourself a skeleton, take a seat, and enjoy House on Haunted Hill!”

 

Embracing The Melodrama #12: Giant (dir by George Stevens)


Giant

Let’s continue to embrace the melodrama by taking a look at the 1956 best picture nominee, Giant.

Giant is a film about my home state of Texas.  Texas rancher Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) goes to Maryland to buy a horse and ends up returning to Texas with a bride, socialite Lesley Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor).  At first, Lesley struggles to adapt to the harsh and hot Texas landscape.  Bick’s sister, Luz (Mercedes McCambridge) takes an instant dislike to Lesley and Bick is annoyed by Lesley’s concern over the living conditions of the Mexicans that work on Bick’s ranch.  It sometimes seems like the only person who appreciates Lesley is Jett Rink (James Dean), an ambitious ranch hand who secretly loves her and who is planning on becoming a rich man.  That’s exactly what happens when oil is found on the land around Bick’s ranch.  While Bick stubbornly clings to the past, oilman Jett represents both the future of Texas and the nation.  Meanwhile, Bick and Lesley’s son (played by a very young Dennis Hopper) challenges his father’s casual bigotry when he falls in love with a Mexican girl.

Taylor and Hudson

Giant is appropriately named because it is a huge film.  Clocking in at 201 minutes, Giant tells a story that spans several decades and features a big cast that is full of familiar faces, all struggling for their chance to somehow stand out from everyone else around them.  Even the film’s wonderful panoramic shots of the empty Texas landscape only serve to remind us of how big the entire film is.  To a certain extent, the size of Giant‘s production is to be understood.  In the 1950s, Hollywood was having to compete with television and they did this by trying to make every film into a major event.  You watch a movie like Giant and you practically hear the old Hollywood moguls shouting at America, “See!?  You can’t get that on your precious TV, can you!?”

For those of us watching Giant today, the length is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s a curse because the movie really is too damn long.  The opening scenes drag and many of them really do feel superfluous.  It’s hard not to feel that the real story doesn’t really start until about 90 minutes into the movie.  And once the story really does get started,  there’s still way too much of it for it all to be crammed into one sitting.  Oddly enough, you end up feeling as if this extremely long film is still not telling you everything that you need to know.  If Giant were made today, it would probably be a two-part movie on either HBO or Lifetime and it would definitely feature a lot more sex.

However, to be honest, one of the reasons that I did enjoy Giant was because it was as big as it was.  I mean, the film is about Texas so of course it should be a little excessive!  Everything’s bigger in Texas and that includes our movies.  Add to that, Giant may be too long but it uses that length to deals with issues that are still relevant today — oil, immigration, and racial prejudice.  Rock Hudson may not have been a great actor but he is at least convincing as he transitions from bigotry to tolerance.

But really, when it comes to Giant, most people are only interested in James Dean.  And they definitely should be because Dean gives a great and compelling performance here.  Dean brings all of the emotional intensity of the method to material that one would not naturally associate with method acting and the end result is amazing to watch.  Giant was released after Dean had been killed in that infamous car wreck.  I can only imagine what it must have been like to be sitting in a theater in 1956 and to see this compelling and charismatic actor towering above the world on the big screen while aware, all the time, that his life had already been cut short and he would never been seen in another film.

James Dean

Even better, Dean’s new style of acting clashes perfectly with Hudson’s old style of acting, making the conflict between Bick and Jett feel all the more real and intense.  Much as Bick represents old Texas and Jett represents the new Texas, Hudon and Dean represented the two sides of Hollywood: the celebrity and the artist.  Needless to say, Dean wins the battle but, surprisingly, Hudson occasionally manages to hold his own.

I can’t necessarily say that Giant is an essential film.  A lot of people are going to be bored by the excessive length.  But if you’re a fan of James Dean or if you’re from Texas, Giant is a film that you need to see at least once.

elizabeth_taylor_giant_swedish_movie_poster_2a