Bluray Review: THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE

While the gang at Scream Factory does an excellent job giving genre fans updated collector’s editions of forgotten or long lost ’80s-era fan favorites, the output of films from the 1970’s aren’t focused on as much as some fans would want(a release here and there). The great part is, that when the Scream Factory crew DO get their hands on a 70’s horror film, it usually means that horror fans will be getting a nice looking HD versions of some beloved titles that haven’t seen the Bluray glory so far. This is definitely the case with SF’s Bluray release of John Hough’s 1973 classic, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE.  While the disc isn’t packed to the brim with the amount of special features one would expect, the film itself is worth the price, as it has never looked better.


image002
THE FILM

It’s obvious that Scream Factory spent their time making sure the HD transfer of the film was a good one, it just looks absolutely beautiful. It doesn’t look like a lot of HD transfers of ’70s films that come out today with every cleaned up to the point of it not looking like a film from that era, the transfer on this one keeps some of the grain, and really focuses on the colors. The reds pop out in a great way, and the combination of the colors and clarity really help push that ominous tone that runs throughout THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE. The scene in which the group of mediums perform the trance to call out the spirits looks radiant, giving a creepy yet gorgeous look to the film. It helps to be so enthralled by the color palette during that scene, it’s really successful at keeping your eyes glued to the lighting while the tension builds and builds. The use of red really makes the film stand out from other haunting films, it gives off that great giallo-like feeling and keeps the sense of dread and foreboding terror constantly in your mind.

The story of the film, dealing with a group of psychic investigators hired to solve the mystery of the “Hell House”, a place filled with supposed evil spirits. While three of members of the team aren’t as skeptical, the group’s leader (played by Clive Revill, the original voice of Emperor Palpatine in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, before Lucas replaced the voice in his much-updated version), a physicist named Dr. Barrett, believes the haintings can be explained with science, and that spirits do not live after the body dies. His blatant attitude of trying to discredit everything piece of evidence the group experiences, causing him the be the outcast of the group, with the rest of them (played FRIGHT NIGHT‘s Roddy McDowall, THE FOOD OF THE GODS‘ Pamela Franklin and SCORPIO‘s Gayle Hunnicutt) all on board with the belief that not only is the place haunted, but that they’re all in danger as well.

Written by I Am Legend author Richard Matheson (who also wrote the book in which the film was based on), THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE does an excellent job giving off that foreboding feeling right from the beginning, with one awesome looking title card, and a series of dates sprinkled throughout the film. The look of the smoke looming behind the gates in those shots really helps in keeping the tone of the film an eerie one, with a lack of playful scenes and a constant tension-filled presence to it all.  As the spirits grow increasingly vicious and put the group in danger, you almost want to reach into your TV and strangle the hell out of Revill’s character for not opening his eyes to the growing danger that all of their lives are in.

While Revill’s character of Dr. Barrett is a frustrating one (and rightfully so, the character was written that way for a reason), the contrast between that type of character and that of Roddy McDowall’s Fischer character leads to a really unique dynamic between the group, one being a headstrong skeptic, and the other being a nervous, almost shaky firm believer in spirits and ghosts. The scene in which Pamela Franklin’s Florence Tanner confronts Barrett about his skeptical attitude plays out perfectly, with Revill’s approach being a fire back, sticking up for his lack of belief, and McDowall’s just watching and observing attitude really being a very interesting scene, which goes from an argument to a full on attack against Revill’s Barrett, complete with glasses broken and his face getting cut. It’s one of the best scenes in the film and really shows how vicious the spirit gets as the film goes on.

The time that Scream Factory put into giving fans of the excellent film a clear yet faithful appearance of the film in its HD premiere really shows, as it’s a gorgeous looking film that definitely looks its best with this release.


SPECIAL FEATURES:

The disc is somewhat bare in the special features area, with the exception of a pretty lengthy interview with director John Hough, regarding the film and his approach to making it. It’s somewhere in the 25-30 minute range and is actually very interesting to watch, as Hough details how it was his goal to make a film that would make its viewers ask “wait..how did they do that?”.

Also included, is a brand new commentary from Pamela Franklin, which should give fans of the film reason enough to check it out, as Franklin is definitely one of the best parts of the film.
 

Leave A Comment