One thing is certain about John Hough’s 1973 take on Richard Matheson’s novel and screenplay, it is visually stunning. Hough clearly wanted to experiment with camera angles and lighting techniques, which makes looking that the film truly enjoyable. Unfortunately, the interest stops there. It doesn’t happen often, but I literally could not get through this film, and I’ve watched Salo from start to finish.
There a lot of problems with this film, but I think the most damaging one is that the plot simply doesn’t make much sense. Matheson left something to be desired in his this adaptation of his own writing. I usually like Matheson’s work, so seeing his name in the credits made me hopeful. Of course, this didn’t last long once I got past the without a doubt unnerving opening music and cast font. Four psychic investigators/mediums go into Hell House in an attempt to either determine if the house truly produces supernatural phenomenon, or to cleanse it of its evil misgivings. I couldn’t tell why these people were traipsing around the house, to be honest. On top of that, one minute the entities of the home were warning the tenants to get out, and the next minute they were sexually molesting them, which doesn’t seem much like an invitation to leave. The women of the house did give the ghosts mixed signals, to be fair. I still don’t get why Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) crawled under the sheets naked after she’d already been attacked by spooky ectoplasm, flying platters, and a stuffed black cat. Between all of this, which I know sounds like a lot of action, the yawns are plentiful.
While the cast of this film looks delightfully BBC, there is a sickening amount of overacting happening. Roddy McDowall far outreaches the other actors in melodramtic delivery, particularly when he is answering the questions of the other house guests. His character, Ben Fisher, has been in the house before, and if it is as terrible as he lets on, I can’t comprehend why he would be back there. At any rate, it’s literally laughable whenever one of the women in the group asks him what happened in the house while its millionaire owner was still living, and McDowall raises a bushy eyebrow to dramatically say, face first into the camera
Drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, beastiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies. Shall I go on?
So, let me just save you some time with this flop of a feature. Here are some of the pretty screen shots that show off the awesome set design and lighting. Cinematographer Alan Hume and set designer Robert Jones are the real stars of this feature.