The Legend of Hell House Blu-Ray Review
Blu-Ray Review- The Legend of Hell House
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: August 26th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Runtime: 95 Minutes
“Although the story of this film is fictitious, the events depicted involving psychic phenomena are not only very much within the bounds of possibility, but could well be true.” –Tom Corbett, Clairvoyant and Psychic Consultant to European Royalty (From the opening scroll of The Legend of Hell House)
Based on the book by Richard Matheson (who also wrote the screenplay) and released into theaters in June 1973, The Legend of Hell House stars Clive Revill as Dr. Lionel Barrett, a physicist who is tasked with the challenge of proving the existence of life after death. After some hesitation, he proceeds to venture to the so-called “Mount Everest of haunted houses”: The Belasco House, which is more commonly referred to as “Hell House.”
Accompanying him on this trip into the supernatural is his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), renowned “mental” medium Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin), and the sole survivor of the last investigation into Hell Houses’ secrets; “physical” medium Benjamin Franklin Fisher (Roddy McDowall). Upon their arrival, Benjamin explains, rather vaguely, some of the monstrosities that occurred in the house throughout its years under Mr. Belasco’s ownership. A grotesque and evil man, everything from murder to séances, and torture and necrophilia were common place. On their first night in the house, Florence conducts a prayer followed by a psychic channeling of the evil spirits that remain in Hell House, causing physical and vocal phenomena to emanate from her. It’s a truly unsettling scene.
As the spirits of the house continue to terrorize the unwelcome guests, trust begins to dwindle among the group, as Dr. Barrett suspects the hostile force to be a product of Florence’s doing, not Belasco’s son as she insists. Chandeliers crash and poltergeist fingernails terrorize, promiscuous ghosts seduce and black cats attack among other mayhems, as the group morale crumbles and Hell House takes hold of its victims.
I’m not sure I would count The Legend of Hell House among my favorite “haunted house” films. It’s a little stuffy, more than a little slow, and lacking much in the way of genuine scares. That’s not to say it’s an outright disappointment in the slightest. The film is a gorgeously produced modern gothic horror entry, with impeccably framed shots, some fun special effects for the time, and a particularly energetic performance from the always magnificent Roddy McDowall. The music from Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire adds to the creepy atmosphere to boot, sounding like some sort of macabre tribal music. For many Horror fans, this is a welcome addition to the Scream Factory line, and at the end of the day, it’s a genre film you can respect, even with a few bumps along the way.
Scream Factory brings The Legend of Hell House to Blu-Ray with an overall solid transfer. Colors look authentic, bold, and retain the look of the period. Film grain is natural and plentiful as well. There are sporadic artifacts and slight damage to the print in places, ranging from minimal scratches to a few burns, but as I’ve stated many times before, I tend to look at those anomalies as an added “bonus” to films of this genre. It makes for a fun grindhouse-style experience while watching at home. There are some hazy or soft shots, particularly in wide shots, but detail in facial features and clothing looks nice and solid in nearly every close-up.
The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track balances dialogue, the creepy tribal drum score, and background effects quite well. A slight crackling noise accompanies the audio in select scenes (similar to the natural audio static you hear in early sound films), but it seems likely to be inherent to the source. There are moments of surprising power here, especially when Hell House begins to wreak havoc on its victims, making for a fine home audio experience.
Scream Factory has provided fans of The Legend of Hell House with select special features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary– This feature-length audio commentary with Actress Pamela Franklin is really laid back, fun, and informative for the viewer. Pamela reminisces about her costars, the sets, the Director, and more. Definitely a fun addition to this fine release.
- Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer runs about 2 ½ minutes and definitely gives the viewer an idea of the bizarre and terrifying experience they’re in for with the film.
- The Story of Hell House: An Interview with Director John Hough- This nearly 30 minute extended interview from Scream Factory and Calum Waddell is a wonderful addition to this Blu-Ray release. Mixing High Definition interview footage with clips from the film, Director John Hough provides some fascinating insight into the making of The Legend of Hell House, from the hauntingly beautiful shooting location to his thoughts on the cast and performances, and much more. Well done!
- Photo Gallery- Nearly 3 minutes worth of production stills and behind-the-scenes photos from The Legend of Hell House, including some really beautiful black and white photos presented in High Definition.
- Radio Spots- Exactly two minutes worth of vintage radio commercials created during the theatrical campaign for The Legend of Hell House. You have to admire the great voice-over work and background effects here, definitely would have made me run to the theater to see it back in 1973.
- Also Available from Scream Factory- Vintage trailers for two other titles in the Scream Factory line including The Vampire Lovers and The Amityville Horror.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for The Legend of Hell House. It’s a creepy and effective cover, with the one-eyed skull dripping blood over Hell House, being held in the grip of a finely manicured hand. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, technical specifications, and a list of special features that accompany this Blu-Ray release. On the interior of the case is the Blu-Ray disc as well as some reversible cover art for those that prefer it.
Though I’m not sure I would count The Legend of Hell House among my personal favorite “haunted house” films, it remains a gorgeously produced modern gothic horror entry, with impeccably framed shots, some fun special effects for the time, and a particularly energetic performance from the always magnificent Roddy McDowall. The Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features overall solid picture quality that retains authentic color reproduction and nice fine object detail in close-up shots. The DTS-HD mono track nicely balances dialogue, the creepy score, and background effects as well. The special features are once again the standout aspect on this release, with a great extended interview with the Director of the film, an audio commentary from Pamela Franklin, and select other goodies. For many Horror fans, this is a welcome addition to the Scream Factory line, and at the end of the day, it’s a genre film you can respect, even with a few bumps along the way.