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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 6 November 2003
I think what makes this film so effective is it's claustrophobic atmosphere. Four psychic investigators spend a week in a Gothic house that not only appears to be permanently swathed in fog, but has had all it's windows bricked up (to stop outsiders looking in, or the inmates looking out, is entirely up to you to decide). From the moment they arrive there the film never leaves the confines of the house and the immediate fog-choked garden. We get the whole works: ghostly wails, chill breezes wafting through cobwebbed furniture, even a homicidal cat! The Atmosphere is helped no end by Delia Derbyshire's (she helped to create the famous Dr Who theme tune) electronic background music. The Belasco house is described as "the Mount
Everest of haunted houses", built as it was by a strange, reclusive tycoon, who had an Aleister Crowley-style obsession with exploring all the darker side of life, and manipulating his guests for his own amusement.
The four main players are Clive Revill, Gayle Hunnicutt, Roddy McDowell and Pamela Franklin, and they are all first-rate, most particularly McDowell as the somewhat eerie Mr Fisher, and Pamela Franklin as the engagingly eccentric medium, Florence Tanner. I fully agree with another reviewer on these pages that she was a gifted and unique actress. Appearing in a brief role at the beginning is veteran t.v comedy actor, Peter Bowles.
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on 27 March 2006
Three occult experts are hired by an aging millionaire to get proof that balasco house is haunted. The three are a physical medium, a psychic medium and a paranormal scientist. The house setting is eerie and ominus from the moment the experts arrive. No expensive special effects in this film, just genuine frights and some uncomfortable moments. (daniels ghost in the bedroom anyone?) I disagree with the last reviewers opinion on roddy mcdowell taking on the "roaring giant" I thought his performance was brilliant. All in all you get value for money with this dvd unlike some recent expensive dvds. Try session 9 as well for another cheap dvd gem.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 November 2012
The Legend of Hell House is directed by John Hough and adapted to screenplay by Richard Matheson from his own novel Hell House. It stars Roddy McDowall, Pamela Franklin, Clive Revill and Gayle Hunnicutt. Music is by Electrophon Ltd and cinematography by Alan Hume.

The Belasco Mansion, the Mount Everest of Haunted Houses, a place where many have stayed and never made it out alive or escaped with sanity in tact. Now four more people are challenged to enter it and investigate if survival after death exists...

In many ways it is a film that has been unlucky over the years, for it has consistently been dogged with association with Robert Wise's similar themed, and excellent, The Haunting from 1963. Not only that but it was also released in the same year as The Exorcist, William Friedkin's behemoth that continues to cast a shadow over many a supernatural based horror movie. While the fact that it was "toned down sexually" from the book has proved to be irksome to some fans of Matheson's page turner. Oh definitely John Hough's film has a sturdy fan base and reputation, but it still comes under fire from first time viewers who will not judge it on its own terms. A shame because although it may indeed not be in the same league as The Haunting, or as sexually charged as the book, it does sit worthily in the top draw of haunted house pictures.

The back story to the house sets the scene. It was run as a place of complete debauchery, a sort of Buck Whaley and the Hellfire Club type of place, the master of ceremonies was the owner Emeric Balasco, a man with a fearsome reputation, that of a roaring giant. When one day the sins and violence overspill, all inside are finalised from the planet, only Belasco was never found, and ever since that day the house is believed to be haunted by numerous spirits. Enter our four protagonists (a physicist and his wife, a mental medium and a physical medium who was the sole survivor of the last Hell House carnage), who under a financially dangled carrot set about unearthing the truth. They are opposites in beliefs, and for the next 90 minutes they will be haunted whilst having their respective fears, desires and repressions born out.

What unfolds is a lesson in how to get the maximum scary atmosphere with so little to hand. Following the brilliant example set by Robert Wise back in 63, special effects are kept to an absolute minimum as Hough lets our minds eye fill in the blanks. We don't need to see the horror up front, it's better when we can just feel or hear it. Little incidents help fuel the fire, a mad cat, a séance, ectoplasm (put a specimen in the jar please, ooh Matron), suspicious noises, eroticism and a little possession. The mansion itself is suitably eerie (exteriors are the wonderfully Gothic designed Wykehurst Place in Bolney, West Sussex) and drifting in and out of the story is Electrophon Ltd's rumbling sinister score. The direction is tight, the cast work exceptionally well to bear out the interpersonal conflicts before the final battle against the paranormal kills or defines them?

Working well as a haunted house spooker of some considerable substance, and intelligent and interesting with its themes of paranormal psychology and investigation of such, The Legend of Hell House is a classical supernatural thriller. 8/10
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 November 2016
Solid transfer of a great little movie directed by John Hough and with a solid cast. Even if one (the group leader) is rather OTT the remainder are uniformally excellent, the direction, set, script and music score, exemplary - and the climax suitably "shocking". Recommended - particularly for older film buffs and fans of the splendid and talented Hough!
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on 20 September 2005
This is a great film, with a real 'avengers' feel to some of the production as Both John Hough (Director), Albert Fennel (Producer) and Robert Jones (Art Director) all have avengers links.
The film is an enjoyable haunted house story with low key performances from Clive Revill (always great), Gayle Hunnicut and Pamela Franklin and a barnstorming performance from Roddy McDowell.
The are are elements of over direction in the film, but then again this is part of the appeal, the wealth of wide angle lenses adding to the fun.
Only let down by a somewhat silly ending, which Roddy Mcdowell managers to bluster through.
Still great film and definately worth a watch.
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on 10 January 2014
To assist would-be Blu-ray purchasers I would disagree with the other reviewer who states that this is not superior to the dvd version of this film - it clearly is superior on my 50" plasma tv both in terms of detail and cinematic experience. It is true that the detail level varies and that a few shots appear no better than standard definition but these are in the minority and on the whole this is a significant improvement on the dvd and the best way to see this film, that is until another publisher comes up with a better Blu-ray, but given the cult appeal - read limited audience and buyers - how likely is that?
So for anyone who is considering upgrading from dvd to blu ray I'd say do it.
To clarify this is a German Blu-ray but with English language as an option and removable subtitles.
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on 2 November 2003
All roads lead to Rome--or in the case of haunted house stories to Shirley Jackson's THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. Published in 1959 and then memorably filmed by Robert Wise with Julie Harris in 1963 (nevermind the awful 1990s remake), both book and film have exerted a powerful influence over the years, and this was particularly true where author Richard Matheson was concerned: although he added a number of original ideas and created a memorable chiller, his popular novel HELL HOUSE was so similar to the Jackson blueprint that it is a wonder her estate did not contemplate legal action.
The film version of Matheson's novel, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, inevitably suffers in comparison to both the Jackson novel and its 1963 film version. But while it is not a great film, it is a very good one--and it has a number of assets that ghost story connoisseurs will relish. As in Jackson's story, the plot concerns four individuals sent to investigate a house of very unsavory reputation: two men and two women. Here the expedition is led by a skeptic, Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill), who believes that "hauntings" are manifestations of residual energy rather than of surviving personalities--and who considers the Belasco house an ideal opportunity to put his theory to a practical test.
He is accompanied by his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt) and two mediums: Benjamin Fischer (Roddy McDowall), who has the distinction of being one of the few individuals to have previously visited Belasco House and lived to tell about it, and Christian spiritualist Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin), who soon clashes with Dr. Barrett over his skepticism. And although Dr. Barrett has meticulously planned this investigation into Belasco House, from the moment the party enters the doors nothing turns out the way any of them expect.
The great thing about the film is Pamela Franklin, who was one of the most interesting actresses of the 1960s and early 1970s, first making her mark as a child in the memorable thriller THE INNOCENTS and then giving a devastating turn as one of her teacher's pets in THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE. While THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE is hardly on the same level as these other films, Franklin herself is--and she is quite extraordinary from start to finish. (It is a tremendous pity her career faltered not long after the release of this film.) McDowell also offers a memorable turn as Mr. Fischer, and Revill and Hunnicutt offer superior performances as well.
The fact that it was filmed on a low budget is actually an asset to the movie, for instead of elaborate set-ups the film emerges as visually lean and clean, relying on its performances to create a very effective mounting sense of unease. Where it falls down--and more than a little--is in the script, which was written by Matheson himself. There are too many loose ends here, and while in some hands this might result in a sense of mystery, here it gives the feeling of sloppiness. Perversely, it also suffers from a determination to explain away everything it can, and the result is often somewhat anti-climatic.
The DVD offers nothing in the way of extras beyond the original trailer, but for the most part the transfer is quite good. Some critics have noted that the soundtrack is slightly out of synch at points, but I myself did not particularly notice this to any great extent; others have commented that the version released to the home market has been slightly edited, but since I have never seen it except in this release I cannot comment. I will say, however, that edited or not, and largely due to Franklin's performance and McDowell's strong support, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE will likely satisfy viewers who prefer their ghost stories strong on atmosphere and psychology. For all its flaws it is a memorable film, and well worth having.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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on 17 March 2004
Taking into account the time this film was made, it makes excellent use of electronic tonalities to create and sustain a sinister atmosphere. One of the most engaging and intellegent horror films ever made.
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on 6 November 2016
I really like this. I saw it many years ago and just had to watch it again in the run-up to Halloween. Its a corny Hammer horror film but does have a cracking thudding electronic music score that works really well in ramping up the fear and although its quite dated without any CGI, it is very good in the fear quoitent. A small cast give great performances in a cliched setting of a haunted house and its much better than its modern remake.
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on 7 August 2005
The whole 'haunted house' theme for horror movies has been done many times, probably more than any other type of horror movie, and while this older one from the early 1970's does not have CGI special effects in every scene nor is there loads of blood and gore, it is still very scary, relying on timing and atmosphere to make it pretty creepy and eerie indeed.
An old man who has just bought an isolated mansion known to most people as Hell House, gathers a small group of three people; a scientist, a psychic medium and a man who was the only survivor of a previous experiment in the same house, and pays them to spend a couple of days inside the former mental asylum to try to discover what is going on there. Of course strange things begin to happen immediately and soon finding ou the truth is the last thing on everyone's mind - staying alive is the first prioity!
The small but well picked cast all give good performances, with Clive Revill as the rather sceptic scientist Mr Barrett and Gayle Hunnicutt as his wife, Ann Barrett who comes along for the trip. Pamela Franklin plays the psychic Florence Tanner who is used by the spirits in the house as a medium and who is also attacked by a killer cat. And Roddy McDowall plays the only survivor of the last visit to the house, Benjamin Franklin Fischer who is positively spooky himself at times.
Overall, while 'The Legend Of Hell House' may seem a little dated when you watch it now, especially in the world of CGI special effects that exists today, however it still manages to be pretty scary, creating tension and suspence through atmosphere and timing. If you are a fan of horror films then i would recommend that you give this film ago. Unfortunately though there are no extras to speak of on the DVD, other than a theatrical trailer so if you do buy it then you will only be buying it for the film. However don't let this put you off.
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