The Legend of Hell House

The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Shout! Factory
Cast: Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall, Clive Revill, Gayle Honeycutt
Extras: Interview, Radio Interview, Theatrical Trailer

Here is another classic horror movies that Shout! Factory took under its wings, this time licensing the 1973 flick “The Legend of Hell House” from Twentieth Century Fox for release on Blu-Ray. No way, I would pass up the opportunity to take a look for you.

At first glance, “The Legend of Hell House” may look like a rip-off of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel, “The Haunting of Hill House” and the subsequent 1963 film based on the book or the 1999 remake. But while similarities do exist, “The Legend of Hell House” is much more oriented at the modern horror genre.

A physicist, Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill), is recruited by a millionaire to spend a week in the Belasco House (otherwise known as ’Hell House’, the Mount Everest of haunted houses, to prove that there is life after death. Barrett is accompanied by his wife (Gayle Honeycutt) and two mediums, Florence and Benjamin (Pamela Franklin and Roddy McDowall). As soon as the group arrives, odd occurrences begin to take place. Florence insists that she is in contact with one of the ghosts, and Mrs. Barrett begins to act very strangely. Benjamin, the only sane survivor from a previous visit to the house, refuses to get involved in the investigation. Throughout all of this, Dr. Barrett refuses to believe in ghosts and insists that science will rid the house of his power. This attitude only makes the ghosts angrier, and the bloodshed has only just begun.

While it is true that “The Legend of Hell House,” based on a novel by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay, shares some common threads with Jackson’s classic book and Robert Wise’s 1963 film, “The Legend of Hell House” ups the action considerably. In “The Haunting of Hill House,” we mostly got the suggestion that the ghosts were there, whereas in. In “The Legend of Hell House,” the ghosts interact with the visitors—and they aren’t afraid to get nasty.

“The Legend of Hell House” fully delivers on the red herrings offered by many other haunted house films and dishes out a mixture of science and the supernatural that works rather well. Clearly, the last reel of the film was obviously influential on “Poltergeist.” (Incidentally, Matheson also wrote the Spielberg film “Duel.”)

If I had one complaint, it would be, perhaps, that the film starts out very slowly, taking its time to establish the premise and getting the narrative going. Fortunately, it get’s going after that and other than that, “The Legend of Hell House” is an excellent haunted house film, which somehow manages to be classy and very nasty at the same time.

Shout! Factory and their Scream Factory label bring “The Legend of Hell House” to high definition video for the first time on the Blu-Ray Disc and clear,y I was eager to see how it turned out. Presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, the transfer does not disappoint. The image is offering up a decent amount of detail, but is grainy on the whole, and sadly shows the film’s age quite substantially. On the whole, it is a good transfer, however, that makes sure to bring the gloomy and gothic atmosphere of the film to full live. The film is very dark and the transfer ensures proper contrast with deep, solid blacks and clean highlights. Colors are also well reproduced with natural flesh tones and an overall color palette that faithfully restores the muted 70s look of the production. You will notice occasional specks in the film, an issues stemming form the source materials this transfer was taken from, but overall, this is a wonderful presentation of such an underdog movie that should please all fans of the film.

The release features a stereo audio track in DTS HD Master Audio quality. Sadly, the surround track that was part of the DVD version is no longer available here, but it may be just as well, as that track was horribly flawed. This stereo track, on the other hand, reproduces the film in its proper format the way it was intended with the original mix. The track has a bit of a harsh-sounding quality at times, due to its limited frequency response, but like the grainy transfer it somehow adds to the film’s overall atmosphere.

“The Legend of Hell House” contains a few selected extras, such as an interview with director John Hough and an audio interview with actress Pamela Franklin. In addition you will find the movie’s trailer and previous for some other Scream Factory titles on the disc.

“The Legend of Hell House” is one of the most iconic haunted house movies coming out of the 70s and to see it here in full 1080p high definition is making it all the more entertaining. Make sure to check it out!