The original 1958 version of "House on Haunted Hill" may not exactly cry out for the RiffTrax treatment, but, I have to say, after watching Nelson, Murphy and Corbett do their thing, it probably had it coming. The William Castle-directed Vincent Price vehicle has lost a good deal of its original shock-value over the decades--let's face it, we're just not as easily scared as we used to be--but it does have its potentially funny moments, mainly because it tends to take itself just a wee bit too seriously. None of the actors are outstamdingly bad; they're just stuck with a stilted and rather cheesy script, and are doing what they can to make the best of a thankless gig. Vincent Price is watchable in whatever he's in, and while I wouldn't go so far as to say that he brings "dignity" to his role, he nonetheless plays it with such oily charm and schmaltzy menace that we can almost imagine him winking at us, letting us know he really does get how silly this stuff is. (Heck! Given Price's legendary sense of humor, you can almost imagine his ghost joining in on the riffing.) Elisha Cook, Richard Long, and Carol Ohmart aren't too terrible either, but, like the characters they portray, are simply trapped for the duration.
"House on Haunted Hill" has been a perennial Halloween favorite of mine, so I was delighted to find out about this RiffTrax send-up. I've been a huge MST3K fan since its early Comedy Central days; so much of a fan, in fact, that I've actually caught myself riffing on Shakespeare. (Help! Is there a twelve-step program for this???) This 2009 riff was done in a studio, and isn't quite as sharp or manically off-the-wall as the 2010 live version, filmed before a theater full of roaring fans. It seems as if the guys had time to tweak the jokes a bit in the interim between the two versions. The stuido session certainly has its moments, but no real belly laughs or coffee-up-the-nose situations.
I ended up getting both DVDs. This, the original 2009 studio production, has no special features or extras, but it does have a complete, un-cut and un-riffed black-and-white copy of "House on Haunted Hill", which looks like a fairly decent print. The live 2010 production features a colorized version of the film. That disc has a few bare-bones extras, additional material including two typically weird short films, and the added spontaneity of a live performance; it does not, however, include a separate, un-riffed version of the movie. If I was forced to choose only one DVD, I'd probably go with the live version. But if you want a decent print of the original movie, and can afford both discs, by all means, go for it.