Review Date: August 19, 2001
Released by: Fox
Release date: 9/4/2001
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Dr. Barrett (Clive Revill) is one of the top specialists in the field of physics. He is offered 100,000 pounds to prove or disprove survival after death. When Dr. Barrett asks how he can possibly prove this, he's told he must go to the Belasco House, also known as Hell House, the "Mount Everest" of haunted houses. The last attempt to investigate the house resulted in several deaths. Accompanying Dr. Barrett and his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt) to Hell House will be psychic Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) and Benjamin Franklin Fischer (Roddy McDowall), the only survivor from the last investigation of Hell House.
This latest group of investigators gathers together and heads to Hell House. Shortly after arrival, Florence begins having psychic episodes. First she discovers a recorded greeting from Mr. Belasco, who is presumed dead even though his body was never found. The greeing welcomes the visitors and ensures them that they'll "find what they're looking for." Next, Florence has a sitting - a psychic gathering to communicate with the dead - in which Belasco himself appears to possess her body and tells the group to leave or be killed.
Being a man of science, Dr. Barrett believes that all of Florence's psychic episodes are merely an act, even when those episodes become violent. Meanwhile, lurking silently in the background is Benjamin, whose only effort thus far is to try and convince each of the ladies to leave. Benjamin admits he is resisting putting any effort into the house in hopes of surviving this latest investigation. Dr. Barrett believes there is no real danger however, and begins planning his own scientific method to exorcise the house of any possible ghosts. What Dr. Barrett doesn't know is that this house is prepared to fight back, and that it has a lot of deadly surprises in store for the group of investigators.
I've always enjoyed haunted house movies, and The Legend of Hell House is exactly that. Good performances from the entire cast, especially Roddy McDowall as the mysterious and quiet Benjamin, the lone survivor from the first investigation. You just know he's going to come out of that shell of his and do something major. The story and character development are decent enough. Haunted house stories are never oscar winners to begin with, though. Obviously the writers need to come up with some sort of decent story, or legend in this case, as to why the house is haunted, and then concoct a reason why a group of people need to spend X amount of nights in the haunted house. From there all they really need to worry about is building up the characters and coming up with good scares. The Legend of Hell House succeeds fairly well in these areas. The beginning moves along very quick, and before you know it the group is in the house. The back story as to why the house is haunted, or possibly haunted, is well explained, easy to follow, and isn't overdone in my opinion.
If there's one complaint about The Legend of Hell House, it would be the same complaint I have with all haunted house movies - they don't age well. All of the scares are so typical and so overdone, especially now that so many have been made. Yes, The Legend of Hell House does provide some good atmosphere to help with scares, and even manages to not rely solely on the what-you-see type of scares, but also the what-you-don't see type. That only goes so far, however.
Fans of haunted house films will definitely enjoy The Legend of Hell House, and even those that don't like them may up enjoying it, since it has some originality that helps separate it from the rest.
The Legend of Hell House is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Overall a great transfer too. There are print blemishes that appears, the usual specks of dirt and a few scratches, but not nearly the amount that I had expected. I only noticed a few scenes with grain, and it was quite light. The transfer is just a bit on the dark side I thought, but this is my first time seeing it so I have nothing to compare it to. Colors are fairly strong and vibrant, and flesh tones appear accurate. Image is consistently sharp with no signs of soft spots. Rating it with a B.
The sound on The Legend of Hell House DVD is presented in Dolby 4.0 Surround. There isn't much activity from the surrounds, but there aren't many scenes that call for it. Dialogue is clear and no distortion of any sort was heard. In addition to this surround track, both an english and french mono track is available as well.
Not much in terms of extras. There's a theatrical trailer for The Legend of Hell House, and a section called "Fox Flix" that consists of theatrical trailers for Batman: The Movie, Bedazzled, Big Trouble in Little China, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Good haunted house movie that many horror fans will enjoy. The a/v presentation on this DVD is quite good; I was definitely impressed for such an obscure film from 1973. Extras consist of a trailer only, but at a price of $20 there's really nothing to complain about here. Excellent DVD from Fox.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B
Sound - B
Supplements - C
- Running Time - 1 hour 35 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- English 4.0 Surround sound
- English/French Mono sound
- English/Spanish subtitles
- Theatrical trailer
- Fox Flix: Batman: The Movie, Bedazzled, Big Trouble in Little China, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.