HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)

CAST

Vincent Price (The Fly)
Carol Ohmart (Wild Youth)
Richard Long (The Big Valley)
Alan Marshal (After The Thin Man)
Carolyn Craig (Giant)
Elisa Cook Jr. (Rosemary’s Baby)

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Eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) invites five people to a “party” he is throwing for his fourth wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), in an allegedly haunted house he has rented, promising to give them each $10,000 with the stipulation that they must stay the entire night in the house after the doors are locked at midnight. The five guests are test pilot Lance Schroeder (Richard Long); newspaper columnist Ruth Bridges (Julie Mitchum); psychiatrist Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal), who specializes in hysteria; Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), who works for one of Loren’s companies; and the house’s owner Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook). Pritchard disapproves of Loren’s use of the house for his “party,” making it unclear how Loren acquired access to the house in the first place.

Still from House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Arriving late at night in separate funeral cars with a hearse leading the procession, Loren’s guests are told the rules of the party, and each is given a .45 caliber pistol for protection. Forced to attend the party, Loren’s wife tries to warn the guests that her husband is psychotic, causing them to be very suspicious of him. Nora becomes convinced that he’s trying to kill her when she keeps seeing frightening ghosts, including the ghost of Annabelle, who had apparently hanged herself some time during the night.
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Almost as frightened as Nora is Watson Pritchard. He is convinced that the house is genuinely haunted by the ghosts of those killed there in the past, including his own brother, and that those ghosts have the power to “come for” (kill) anyone in the house. Schroeder is attacked in a basement room, but is convinced his attacker was real, and tries to calm Nora’s fears. It is eventually revealed that Annabelle, in league with her lover, Dr. Trent, faked her death in an attempt to frighten Nora so badly that she will be compelled to shoot Loren. After being driven into a fit of hysteria by the repeated frights she has experienced during the night, Nora, seeing Loren walking toward her in the basement with a gun in his hand, does indeed shoot Loren. After she flees the room, Dr. Trent slips in and tries to get rid of Loren’s body by pushing it into a vat of acid there (which had been used by a previous resident named Norton to kill his own wife), but the lights go out, and the sounds of a struggle and splash are heard followed by hissing and rapid bubbling.
Carol Ohmart stars as the beautiful but dangerous Annabel Loren
Hearing the gunshot, Annabelle rushes down to the basement to confirm that her husband is dead, but finds the room empty. Suddenly, a skeleton rises from the acid accompanied by Loren’s disembodied voice. As the animated specter approaches, Annabelle recoils and screams in horror, accidentally falling into the acid herself. The real Loren then emerges from the shadows, holding the contraption that he used to manipulate the skeleton which is now revealed to be Dr. Trent’s. Triumphant, he states that when Annabelle and Trent were starting their “little game of murder” and planning to kill him that he was “playing too.” He then tosses Trent’s skeleton in the vat to dissolve in the acid. Nora tells the other guests that she has shot Loren in the basement, but when they all arrive there they find him alive. He tells Nora that the gun she fired at him had been loaded with blanks, and explains to his guests that his wife and Dr. Trent had been trying to kill him and that they have each met their end in the vat of acid, adding solemnly that he is “ready for justice to decide” his guilt or innocence.

Watson Pritchard, still an avid believer in the supernatural, looks into the acid and declares that Annabelle and Dr. Trent have now joined the ranks of the house’s many ghosts. With a terrified expression on his face, he announces that the ghosts are now coming for him, then, he turns toward the audience and adds, “And then they’ll come for you.”

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Vincent Price is definitely the star here — creepy, intelligent, debonair, and he has an acid comment for every occasion (“Don’t stay up thinking of ways to get rid of me. It makes wrinkles”). Ohmart runs a close second with her seductive, devious trophy wife who openly admits that she wants to be a “lovely widow”. The assorted other actors do solid jobs as well, although Craig doesn’t do much except shriek periodically. House on Haunted Hill is a deserving vintage horror movie — a twisty plot, and Price at his finest. A must-see.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: ROSEMARY’S BABY

 

CAST

Mia Farrow (Supergirl)
John Cassavetes (Husbands)
Ruth Gordon (The Big Bus)
Maurice Evans (Planet of The Apes)
Ralph Bellamy (The Awful Truth)
Sidney Blackmer (Heidi)
Charles Grodin (Midnight Run)
Elisha Cook Jr. (House on Haunted Hill)
Tony Curtis (Flesh and Fury)

In 1965, Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), a bright but somewhat naive young housewife, and Guy (John Cassavetes), her husband, a struggling actor, move into the Bramford, an opulent but antiquated New York City apartment building. The couple learns from the building’s manager, Mr. Nicklas (Elisha Cook, Jr.), that their new residence was previously inhabited by Mrs. Gardenia, an elderly woman who had seemingly gone senile. Guy also discovers a dresser concealing a simple closet which contains nothing except a vacuum cleaner and a stack of folded towels. Their friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) tries to dissuade them from taking the apartment, informing them of some of the Bramford’s rather unseemly history but, undeterred, Rosemary and Guy move into the building.Rosemary meets a young woman, Terry Gionoffrio (Angela Dorian), a recovering drug addict whom an elderly, eccentric couple in the building, the Castevets, took in from the street. As Rosemary admires a pendant necklace the Castevets gave to Terry, she notices its strange smell. Returning home one night, Guy and Rosemary find that Terry has thrown herself to her death from the window of the Castevets’ seventh-floor apartment.Rosemary and Guy are quickly befriended by the Castevets, Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman (Sidney Blackmer), whom they’d first met on the street the night of Terry’s suicide. Minnie invites the Woodhouses to dinner and they reluctantly accept. Guy forms a bond with the Castevets. Minnie gives Terry’s pendant to Rosemary, telling her it is a good luck charm and the odd smell is from a plant called “tannis root”. Later, Guy lands a role in a play when the actor who was originally cast suddenly and inexplicably goes blind. Guy suggests that he and Rosemary have a baby.

On the night they plan to conceive, Minnie brings them individual cups of chocolate mousse. Rosemary finds hers has a chalky undertaste and surreptitiously throws it away after a few mouthfuls. Rosemary passes out and experiences what she perceives to be a strange dream in which she is raped by a demonic presence in front of Guy, the Castevets, and other Bramford tenants. When she wakes, she finds scratches on her body. Guy tells her that he had sex with her while she was unconscious because he did not want to pass up the moment for her to conceive.

Rosemary learns that she is pregnant and is due on June 28, 1966. She plans to receive obstetric care from Dr. Hill (Charles Grodin), who is recommended to her by her friend Elise (Emmaline Henry). However, the Castevets insist she see their good friend, Dr. Abraham Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), who says that Minnie will make Rosemary a daily drink which is more healthful than the usual vitamin pills. For the first three months of her pregnancy, Rosemary suffers severe abdominal pains, loses weight, becomes unusually pale, and craves raw meat and chicken liver. Dr. Sapirstein insists the pain will subside soon, and assures her she has nothing to worry about. When Hutch sees Rosemary’s gaunt appearance and hears that she is being fed the mysterious tannis root, he is disturbed enough to do some research. Before he can tell Rosemary his findings, he mysteriously falls into a coma. Rosemary holds a party for some friends, some of whom advise her to have herself checked by Dr. Hill, because the pain she is feeling could be a warning that something is wrong. Rosemary tells Guy her plan to see Dr. Hill, which angers Guy. However, the abdominal pain suddenly disappears. Rosemary’s health and appearance also improve quickly, and she and Guy are finally happy once again.

Three months later, Hutch dies. He leaves Rosemary a book about witchcraft and it is delivered to her at his funeral along with the cryptic message: “The name is an anagram”. Rosemary deduces that Roman Castevet is really Steven Marcato, the son of a former resident of the Bramford who was accused of being a Satanist. Rosemary suspects her neighbors and Dr. Sapirstein are part of a cult with sinister designs for her baby, and that Guy is cooperating with them in exchange for help in advancing his acting career.

Image result for rosemarys babyRosemary becomes increasingly disturbed and shares her fears and suspicions with Dr. Hill, who, assuming she is delusional, calls Dr. Sapirstein and Guy. They tell her that if she cooperates, neither she nor the baby will be harmed. The two men bring Rosemary home, where she briefly escapes them. Despite Rosemary locking them out, they enter the bedroom. Rosemary goes into labor and is sedated by Dr. Sapirstein. When she wakes, she is told the baby died.Image result for rosemarys babyIn the hall closet, Rosemary discovers a secret door leading into the Castevet apartment and hears a baby’s cries, revealing that her child is alive. She then finds a congregation made up of the building’s tenants, as well as Dr. Sapirstein, gathered around her newborn son. When Rosemary pulls back the curtains of the crib, she is horrified and asks what they’ve done to its eyes. It is remarked upon that the baby, a boy, has “his father’s eyes,” to which Rosemary protests that the baby’s eyes are nothing like those of Guy. It is then explained to Rosemary that Guy is actually not the child’s real father; her newborn child, named Adrian, is actually the spawn of Satan, a fact which Rosemary is horrified to learn. Guy attempts to calm Rosemary by explaining to her that they will be generously rewarded with possible wealth and fame in exchange for having produced the Devil’s offspring, and that they can conceive a second child that will truly be theirs. Rosemary takes no solace in Guy’s words, instead responding by spitting in his face. Minnie tells Rosemary that she should be honored to be the “lucky” woman chosen to bear a child for Satan. Roman urges her to become a mother to her son, and assures her that she does not have to join the cult if she does not want to. She adjusts her son’s blankets and gently rocks his cradle with a small smile on her face.Image result for rosemarys babyRosemary’s Baby is regarded by many as Roman Polanski’s finest achievement. Although it is now 32 years since Poland’s enfant terrible brought his adapation of Ira Levin’s 1967 novel to the screen, it stands up well to the test of time. Starring Mia Farrow, Ruth Gordon, and John Cassavetes, Rosemary’s Baby is a stylish and brilliantly executed set piece, accurately reflecting the New York of the late 1960’s.

REVIEW: ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN – SEASON 2

Starring

George Reaves (Gone With The Wind)
Noel Neill (Campus Sleuth)
Jack Larson (Flighter Squadron)
John Hamilton (Captain Ameirca 1944)
Robert Shayne (The Flash 90s)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Aline Towne (Highway 301)
Vera Marshe (The Crimson Key)
Jonathan Hale (The Saint Strikes Back)
Sterling Holloway (Alice In Wonderland 1951)
Yvette Duguay (Domino Kid)
Ruta Lee (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers)
Leonard Penn (Mysterious Island)
Elisha Cook Jr. (Rosemary’s Baby)
Pierre Watkin (Bill Cracks Down)
Judy Nugent (There’s Always Tomorrow)
Allene Roberts (The Red House)

the-adventures-of-superman-george-reevesA warm nostalgia drives the enduring popularity felt by an aging generation of Baby Boomers for Adventures of Superman, the 1952-57 series that ended only with the tragic and still-mysterious death of its star, George Reeves. Cheaply-produced and generally unambitious, the program never lived up to its full potential, even taking into account its budgetary and technical limitations. By the end of its run Adventures of Superman (there’s no “The” in the title) had further de-evolved into a silly, trivial children’s show; it ran out of steam and Reeves had aged noticeably.adventures-of-superman-five-minutes-to-doom-john-hamilton-george-reeves-noel-neill-jack-larsonBut for children growing up in the 1950s (and several generations thereafter, who caught up with the program in reruns), Adventures of Superman was a 30-minute tonic of thrills and adventure. The audio commentary supplied by Gary Grossman on the First Season DVD set is more fannish than informative, but he nails precisely the excitement children felt watching the show when it was new. (You can read DVD Savant’s first season review here.) Like the first season, episodes play like single-chapter serials, crammed with action, mystery and intrigue. Superman (Reeves) “fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American Way” with the help of his alter-ego, “mild-mannered” reporter Clark Kent (also Reeves), who works for gruff Daily Planet editor Perry White (John Hamilton) and alongside perky Lois Lane (Noel Neill) and cub reporter Jimmy Olson (Jack Larson).the-adventures-of-superman-e2809cthe-man-who-could-read-mindse2809d-jack-larson-noel-neillAdventures of Superman – The Complete Second Season is much like the first. Compared with those that followed, Year Two is in black and white (the next season would be in color), and is slightly more adult in terms of content. The big difference from the first season is the series’ single major cast change: Noel Neill replaced Phyllis Coates in the pivotal role of Lois Lane. Neill had played Lois before, in two 15-chapter Superman serials produced by Columbia: Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950). Unlike Coates, Neill has remained very actively involved in Superman fandom after the show ended, appearing at comic book conventions and making cameos in the 1978 Superman movie, and again this year in Superman Returns.MV5BOWI3NDljZjUtNTQ0My00OTAwLTljNjktZTAyMjU2N2Y5NmE2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjcxMDczNTU@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1333,1000_AL_Considering how little Reeves’ appearance changes from Clark Kent to Superman, why Lois and Jimmy don’t instantly recognize Clark as Superman is one of television’s great mysteries. Season two shows, however, broach this subject now and then. In one episode Clark and Lois are involved in a car accident; his suit is torn, revealing his Superman costume underneath, requiring some fast-thinking on the superhero’s part. In another good show a criminal tries to blackmail Superman with a photograph showing Clark changing into Superman in an alley. How this is resolved is cleverly handled. Season two boasts an incredible line-up of great character actors in guest parts, including Dabbs Greer, Hugh Beaumont, Lawrence Dobkin, Billy Gray, Leon Askin, Philip Van Zandt, George Chandler, Percy Helton, Sterling Holloway, Peter Brocco, Roy Barcroft, Leonard Penn, Elisha Cook, Jr., Paul Fix, Robert Wilke, Denver Pyle, Virginia Christine, and John Doucette.capture51Adventures of Superman can be a very entertaining show if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and watch it from an early-1950s perspective. It’s a show of its time, from a simpler era, but still loads of fun.