I spent the weekend wallowing in horror–channel surfing through classic camp to SyFy CGI. One of the most painful was House on Haunted Hill (1959)–supposedly the film that cemented Vincent Price’s career. I am not enough of an aficionado to know how accurate that claim is. I ended the weekend with Thirteen Ghosts (a remake). Both are ghost stories–but they are not in the same genre. They are not the same type of movie.
Haunted Hill and its genre (1950 ghost horror flicks) parallels the dystopian films–like Terminator. It is as if the directors and more importantly the audiences (money) return to some genres as if they are therapy patients working through an issue.
Priice was doing quite a bit of horror films before then though, but House on Haunted Hill was the breakout role of Vincent Price’s career acting in the horror genre.Frame watching that film in a 1959 world instead of a 2014 world. Horror didn’t really work the same way in the ’50s than it does now or even in the ’70s and ’80s. It was in a way the Blair Witch of it’s time. It was supposed to get you hyped up without showing you too much.
The Fall of the House of Usher was probably my favorite of his ’60s horror films. We watched The Raven (1960) this weekend as well and we were all laughing through the whole thing. It’s really Price and his voice that made his career. I believe his work with Hammer adapting the Edgar Allan Poe library (and I’m using the word adapting very loosely) to film began in 1960 with The Raven. My understanding is that he was truly impressive on the stage.
The Mask of the Red Death was another of the Hammer/Poe/Price films I enjoyed.
The Last Man on Earth is still a great horror film even today. It was based on the novel I Am Legend.
My kids know Vincent Price primarily from Thriller. They picked up that it was his voice in The Raven pretty much immediately. I think they may have seen a few episodes of 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo on one of the CN channels.
Was that Thirteen Ghosts with Tony Shaloub of Monk fame you were watching? What did you think? Have you seen The Purge?
You are right. The point of watching these films historically has been a cathartic process. I’m not sure that’s the case any more though. It’s about adrenaline highs and thrills. It takes more and more every generation to get those highs and thrills. My daughter has been riding roller coasters since she was 3 and got really mad at me when I wouldn’t let her ride Everest in Animal Kingdom when she was 3.
On second thought, I thought House of Wax was Vincent Price’s big breakout role and that was only after The Fly. House of Wax / House on Haunted Hill. I got confused. House of Wax was a great horror film.
It was the later version with Monk. I like and dislike the movie in the same moment. Several times, I have started watching the film only to be put off by the gratuitous violence–they seem to rely on it to tease the viewer along. Usually, that sort of thing does not kill a movie for me. But in this film, they have some interesting characters–the emotionally uncertain detached father. The repentant rogue. The gory gore for the sake of gore comes across as a lack of confidence–the director does not think his story will carry without the shock.
Is the cleansing still there? It is just a different sort of cleansing?
I have not seen the The Purge–I am not sure I could take it. Some of the tense horror that builds in tension makes me antsy, anxiety ridden. Have movies like Gone Girl replaced the 1950s ghost stories?
On Thirteen Ghosts, I can’t say I’ve made it all the way through. That was filmed before they realized how great Tony Shaloub is. They didn’t take full advantage of his talents. It was definitely over the top. It’s been on SyFy a number of times.
I don’t even think most Americans even understand catharsis any more. It’s all about the rush.
The Purge gets close to making the viewer ask questions about society and our place in it. It’s bizarre and definitely likely to cause anxiety when you realize how numb we and our neighbors have become to the people in the world around us.
I haven’t seen Gone Girl yet.
Robert W is a software consultant who has graciously set aside plans of world domination to focus on comic book multi-verses. You can follow his thoughts at http://superherogarage.com.