The Legend of Hell House (1973 film)
The Legend of Hell House, AKA Hell House, (1973)
"For the sake of your sanity, pray it isn't true!" Physicist Lionel Barrett and his wife lead a team of mediums into the Belasco House, which is supposedly haunted by the victims of its late owner, a six-foot-five libertine and serial killer.
- Release Date: 1973
- Country/Language: UK, English
- Genres/Technical: Horror
- Runtime: 1 hr 35 min
- Starring: Clive Revill, Gayle Hunnicutt, Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall
- Director: John Hough
- Writer: Richard Matheson
- Producer/Production Co: Academy Pictures Corporation
- View Trailer: (link)
- Rated: PG (perhaps more like the equivalent of a modern PG-13 for mild Violence, Profanity, brief Nudity, and Adult Content)
Somehow only rated PG in the US, but X in the UK, this film's rating is perhaps more accurately somewhere between the two.
A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:
- S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)
Not particularly "Lovecraftian", except perhaps for the blurred lines between the supernatural and scientific; can be compared loosely to the the supernatural detective stories featuring Carnacki, the "ghost-finder", by William Hope Hodgson (an influence on Lovecraft's work), and similar material in screenplays by Nigel Kneale. The novel was set somewhere in or near "Lovecraft Country" with a team of American investigators, though the film was set in England with British characters. The Call of Cthulhu RPG scenario "The Haunting" was likely at least partly inspired by this story.
Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.
- Graeme Clark at The Spinning Image (6/10) (link) - "Hell House manages a chilly ambience and some good fright episodes, but it too easily falls into the old cliché of science being no match for the otherworldly... On the other hand, it does tie things up with a genuinely odd explanation, the performances show real conviction, and as haunted houses go, it's one of the most formidable."
- Steve Langton at The Spinning Image (7/10) (link) - "Whether or not the Belasco place really was haunted is very much open to interpretation, but even the sternest disbeliever will surely agree that John Hough's direction realises many flesh-crawling moments, with every shadow, each creaking door bringing an icy chill that seems to reach out beyond the screen."
- Richard Scheib at the Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (4/5 Stars) (link) - "Richard Matheson ... constructs a fascinating parapsychological detective story and heads into some interesting areas concerning the scientific study of the haunted house phenomena."
- Chris Wood at British Horror Films (link) - "Hell House requires on shocks and gore to get its point across, something that The Haunting never had to lower itself to. The later movie is quite frightening the first time you watch it, but on a second viewing the cracks start to appear. The Haunting remains genuinely unsettling. ... However, Legend… isn't a bad film - it's certainly more terrifying than most of the films on this site..."
Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)
Scientist Lionel Barrett and his wife, Ann, lead a team into the infamous Belasco House, supposedly haunted by the victims of its late owner, a notorious serial killer. Though the rational Barrett does not believe in ghosts, the other members of his group do, include devout spiritualist Florence Tanner and psychic medium Benjamin Fischer, who has been in Belasco House before and seen what horrors can befall those who enter it.
Comments, Trivia, Dedication
- The unsettling tales of Emeric Belasco's acts of debauchery and evil at Hell House ("drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, bestiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies...") were loosely based on stories involving occultist Aleister Crowley.
- The film's creators use the Lovecraftian device of stocking the cultist's house with a collection of books of forbidden lore, chosen to fit the story's theme of repressed sexuality and corruption. Early in the film, in her and her husband's bedroom, Ann Barrett is seen holding the erotic novel Sentimental Education by 19th century French author Gustave Flaubert. The old books that Ann Barrett sees lined up in the cabinet are titled, from left to right; Obsessive Acts And Religious Practices by Sigmund Freud, The Worship of Priapus by Richard Payne Knight, The Psychology of Sex by H. H. Elliot, Sin And Sex, Conation Volition, Sex And Celibacy by T. Long, The Anatomy of Abuses by Phillip Stubs, Phallic Worship and Auto Erotic Phenomena In Adolescence by K. Menzies.
Associated Mythos Elements
- fiction: Richard Matheson's novel Hell House
- fiction: compare the scientific exploration of the supernatural to similar themes in the Carnacki supernatural detective stories by William Hope Hodgson
- scenario: one of the inspirations for "The Haunting"
- film: compare the scientific exploration of the supernatural to similar themes in The Stone Tape (1972 film), and other films created by Nigel Kneale
- character: Emeric Belasco, born on March the 23rd, 1879, the illegitimate son of an American munitions maker, called "The Roaring Giant"; "His was a frightening visage, like the face of a demon that had taken on some human aspect...."
- TO DO