Release Date(s)1973 (August 26, 2014)
Studio(s)Academy Pictures Corporation/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
One of the strongest and most effective haunted house movies ever made, The Legend of Hell House examines what role psychic and electromagnetic energy play in such hauntings. Based upon the novel Hell House, written for the screen by Richard Matheson, and directed by John Hough, the film tells the tale of the infamous Belasco house, nicknamed “Hell House” due to all the murder and mayhem that’s taken place there. Physicist Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill) and his wife (Gayle Hunnicut) are sent to the house with two mediums, Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) and Ben Fischer (Roddy McDowall), to investigate.
Even though it’s similar to The Haunting, this film’s predecessor, The Legend of Hell House manages to carve out its own identity with interesting camera work, thick and effective levels of atmosphere, and top-notch performances by all involved, including the radiant Pamela Franklin. Though a bit dated now, and not thoroughly well-received during its initial release in 1973, the film holds up remarkably well and has come to be considered a classic in recent years. It even garnered the attention of directors such as Edgar Wright, who used the movie, particularly the opening credits scene at the wrought iron gates, as inspiration for his faux trailer Don’t in the film Grindhouse.
For Scream Factory’s Blu-ray debut, a transfer has been utilized that, while not perfect, definitely has points of appreciation. The source is in good, but not great condition, with healthy levels of grain. Detail is generally fine, especially in close-ups, although wide shots tend to reveal more softness (some of which are due to the diffusions used during the original cinematography). The color palette is lacking at times, especially during transitions, but has some positive qualities, especially skin tones. Black levels are decent, although they can be a tad noisy, while brightness and contrast levels are merely good with occasional washed-out whites. It’s a fairly stable presentation but some fading is evident, and leftover damage includes minor tears, dirt, and scratches. However, as a whole, it’s a film-like presentation that is perfectly watchable. The audio, an English mono 2.0 DTS-HD track, is flat in nature, even narrow in spots, but represents the film well enough. All things considered, this is actually a film that might have benefited from a 5.1 remix. As is, there are discernable dialogue levels, with decent score and sound effects mixed in, as well as some obvious hiss. Subtitles are included in English if needed.
There’s a nice bit of extra material here that’s worth digging into if you’re a fan of the film. There’s an audio interview with actress Pamela Franklin that acts as an audio commentary, the movie’s theatrical trailer, The Story of Hell House: An Interview with Director John Hough, a photo gallery, 3 radio spots, and additional trailers for The Vampire Lovers and The Amityville Horror.
One of producer James H. Nicholson’s final productions before his untimely death, The Legend of Hell House tends to get better with multiple viewings, as some of the movie’s more impenetrable aspects reveal themselves with time. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray probably could have used a fresh film transfer, but as is, it’s still a fine release worth checking out for the movie alone.
- Tim Salmons