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!

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!

30 Days of Noir #30: The Stranger (dir by Orson Welles)


“No, you must not miss the newsreels. They make a point this week no man can miss: The war has strewn the world with corpses, none of them very nice to look at. The thought of death is never pretty but the newsreels testify to the fact of quite another sort of death, quite another level of decay. This is a putrefaction of the soul, a perfect spiritual garbage. For some years now we have been calling it Fascism. The stench is unendurable.”

Those words were written in 1945 by director Orson Welles.  He was writing about the footage that had been filmed at the Nazi concentration camps during the final days of World War II.  These films not only revealed the crimes of the Third Reich but they also proved the existence of evil.  With World War II finally ended and Hitler dead, many people were eager to move on and forget about the conflict.  Many even claimed (and some continue to do to this very day) that the reports of the Nazi death camps were exaggerated.  Writing in his syndicated column for the New York Post, Welles told those doubters that the reports of the Nazi death camps were not exaggerated and that, unless people confronted the horrors of the Nazi regime by watching the newsreels and seeing for themselves, history would repeat itself.

A year later, Welles would use that documentary footage in a key scene of his 1946 film, The Stranger.  A government agent named Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) shows the footage to Mary Longstreet Rankin (Loretta Young), the daughter of a Supreme Court justice.  Wilson is hoping that, by showing her the footage, he’ll be able to convince her to help him bring a Nazi war criminal to justice.  Complicating things is that Wilson believe that the Nazi war criminal is Mary’s new husband, Professor Charles Rankin (played by Orson Welles, himself).

In this shot, the horrors of the Holocaust are literally projected onto Edward G. Robinson’s face, a reminder that is on us to prevent it from ever happening again.

Rankin’s real name is Franz Kindler.  One of the architects of the Holocaust, he escaped from Germany at the end of World War II and, after making his way through Latin America, he ended up in a small town in Connecticut.  He got a job at the local prep school, where he instructs impressionable young minds.  He also found the time to work on the town’s 300 year-old clock.

When we first see Kindler/Rankin, he’s walking out of the school and it’s obvious that all of his students love him.  Rankin has a quick smile, which he uses whenever he has to talk to Mary or any of the other townspeople.  However, that smile disappears as soon as he’s approached by another Nazi fugitive, Konrad Meinike (Konstantin Shayne).  Rankin assures Meinike that he’s merely biding his time until he can establish a Fourth Reich.  Meinike, meanwhile, announces that he’s found God and he suggests that Rankin should turn himself in.  Correctly deducing the Meinike is being followed by Wilson, Rankin promptly strangles his former collaborator and spends the rest of the movie trying to cover up his crimes.

Welles was best known for playing characters who had the potential for greatness in them but who were ultimately brought down by their own flaws.  Think about Charles Foster Kane or Harry Lime or the detective in Touch of Evil or even Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight.  The Stranger is unique as one of the few instances in which Welles played an outright villain.  Unlike Kane or Falstaff, there’s no greatness to be found in Rankin/Kindler.  He’s fooled the town into thinking that he’s a good man but, instead, he’s a soulless sociopath who is even willing to murder his wife if that’s what he has to do to protect his secret.  Franz Kindler is the Third Reich and, by having him thrive under a new name in America, Welles argues that the Nazi threat didn’t end just because Hitler killed himself in Berlin.

And that’s an important message.  It was an important message in 1946 and, I would argue, it’s an even more important message today.  Anti-Semitism is on the rise in both America and Europe, with activists on both the Left and the Right embracing the type of bigotry and conspiracy-mongering that previously allowed madmen like Adolf Hitler to come to power.  Just today, I read a story about a Jewish professor at Columbia who arrived at work on Wednesday, just to discover that someone had vandalized her office with anti-Semitic graffiti.  Watching The Stranger today, it’s important to remember that the Franz Kindlers of the world are still out there and many of them are just as good at disguising themselves as Charles Rankin as Kindler was.

The Stranger was Welles’s third completed film as a director.  It was a film that he reportedly agreed to direct in order to prove that he was capable of bring in a film on budget and ahead-of-schedule.  Because Welles was largely acting as a director-for-hire on this film, there’s a tendency to overlook The Stranger when discussing Welles’s films.  While that’s understandable, The Stranger is clearly a Welles film.  From the use of shadow to the skewed camera angles, the film has all of Welles’s visual trademarks.  Thematically, this is another one of Welles’s films about a man who is hiding a secret underneath his ordinary facade.

It’s a good film, with Welles giving an appropriately evil performance as Kindler and Loretta Young providing strong support as Mary.  That said, the film’s soul is to be found in Edward G. Robinson’s performance.  Robinson was born Emmanuel Goldenberg in Romania.  In 1904, his family fled to America after one of his brothers was attacked by an anti-Semitic mob.  As someone who had experienced anti-Semitism firsthand, Robinson brought a righteous fury to the role of Mr. Wilson.  Wilson isn’t just pursuing a fugitive in The Stranger.  Instead, he’s seeking justice for the six million Jews who were murdered by men like Franz Kindler.

The Stranger is an important film and it seems like the right film with which to end my 30 Days of Noir.  Noirvember is ending and so ends our 30-day walk through the shadowy streets of noir cinema.

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!

A Bout De Souffle: Robert Siodmak’s CRISS CROSS (Universal-International 1949)


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CRISS CROSS hits you like a sucker punch to the gut, delivered hard and swift, followed by a non-stop pummeling that doesn’t let up until the final, fatal shot. Things kick right in as we find clandestine lovers Steve Thompson and Anna Dundee going at it hot’n’heavy in a nightclub parking lot. They go inside, and Steve gets into it with Anna’s husband, the gangster Slim Dundee, who pulls a knife, but the fight’s interrupted by Lt. Pete Rameriz, Steve’s boyhood pal. What Pete doesn’t know is the fight was staged for his benefit: Steve is the inside man on a planned armored car heist Dundee’s gang is pulling off.

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Flashbacks tell us how Steve got here: he was once married to Anna, and after the volatile couple divorced left L.A., drifting across country picking up odd jobs along the way. Returning to the City of Angels, he finds himself…

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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!”

 

Horror on TV: Twilight Zone 5.17 “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”


 

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Tonight’s horror on TV comes to us from The Twilight Zone. At first glance, Number 12 Looks Just Like You may not seem like a horror story but, by the end of it, it clearly is. Number 12 deals with the horror of being an individual living in a society of conformists.

This episode was originally broadcast on January 24th, 1964.