Monday, October 28, 2013

Vincent Price double feature

House on Haunted Hill
(1959) ***
Vincent Price stars as millionaire Frederick Loren, who on a whim, anonymously invites five guests to spend the night in a haunted house for $10K each, provided that they survive and stay the entire night. Along the way, scandal, mystery, and terror ensue. A secretary who is the sole breadwinner of her household is constantly terrorized by ghosts and two other guests, driving her nearly to the brink of madness. VP's wife Annabelle is noticeably the most miserable person of them all but their mutual hatred of each other is played out well and didn't bore me for a minute.

Eight years ago JPX reviewed this and I more or less agree with him on the plot: it's a guaranteed entertaining film to throw on from time to time and the ensemble are all believable characters with an ulterior motive. I found it especially amusing at their different reactions at seeing dead bodies: Nora, the secretary, sees a floating ghost and shrieks. Test pilot Lance, a man's man, sees a decapitated head and promptly grabs it by the hair and walks with purpose out of the room to show other people.

The Last Man on Earth 
(1964) ****1/2
The first of three films based upon Richard Matheson's novel, I Am Legend, the last man is portrayed here by VP in the perfect role: a miserable sole survivor of a bacteria outbreak that left many dead and then re-animated as "zombies." I watched the most recent incarnation of this film starring Big Willie himself (Will Smith), but the two can hardly be compared save for the fact that they are the last men on earth and every day consists of surviving. Because each version takes place in the present day it has its own flavor, which makes for a successful adaptation in each case. Anyway, here VP goes through several phases of emotional being each day: complacence, duty (doing what has to be done), and the occasional dozing off in the middle of a graveyard.

It all caused me to wonder, who would survive as the last person on earth? What type of profession would they have had to give them all the necessary skills? What reasons to live would motivate them to awaken every morning and to continue the struggle? Wouldn't most have already given up by now?
 The past reviews of this film are surprisingly thorough: JPX, Octopunk, and 50PageMcGee all delineated the plot better than I can at this point in the month (I swear I can squeeze in ten more before Thursday!).

There were some surprising things that came out of this movie and it's "zombies," but I don't want to spoil them. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen for a moment until the very end, when I had to backtrack the final minutes because I couldn't believe the ending. If you enjoy post-apocalyptic, dreadfully depressing and hopeless features, you'll dig The Last Man on Earth.


Octopunk said...

I'm not as charmed by House on Haunted Hill as other people I know, but it does have at least two genuine yikes moments.

And I this adaptation of the Matheson story is by far the best. So nuanced and bleak.

I dig that dino card.

Catfreeek said...

That's a Dino book Octo, I actually got it for Tony.

Great choices Crystal and loved your reviews. VP is on of my all time favorites and both of these movies are up there as some of his best for me.

JPX said...

"If you enjoy post-apocalyptic, dreadfully depressing and hopeless features, you'll dig The Last Man on Earth."

I do!

What a perfect double feature! I'm happy you're enjoying Mr. Price's work. For most of my life I associated Vincent Price with The Brady Bunch and little else. Horrorthon has really helped me to appreciate his huge catalog.

AC said...

last man on earth sounds fantastic.

Trevor said...

This is the version of last man on earth I haven't seen yet - glad to hear it's a success.

DCD said...

I love VP. Maybe one year I'll focus on him. That would be a good trend for a biddy like me.