Saturday, June 1, 2013
WHAT SCARED ME
You won't get any argument from me if you have included William Castle's 1959 spookhouse thriller HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL on your list of Top Ten favorite B-Monster movies. With Vincent Price acting as sinister and smarmy as ever, Elisha Cook Jr. chewing up the scenery as only he can, the luscious and naughty Carol Ohmart, and the rest of the principle players putting on their melodramatic best, how can you go wrong?
Castle was no slouch at throwing together a low-budget quickie packed with thrills, chills and jump-scares, and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is one of his best. From the mini-coffin party favors filled with .45's to the vat of flesh melting acid in the cellar, it's easy to look back on this little scream gem with a nod and a wink of fondness.
But what really scared me as a young Monster Kid who had only just recently cut his little werewolf's teeth on the gothic-style Universal monster movies was this modern day Thing That Came Out of the Dark. You know what I'm talking about -- the scene where the pert and oh-so-vulnerable Carolyn Craig has been lured into the basement, and the bug-eyed, crab-clawed . . . witch-thing creeps out at her from a dark corner.
Nora Manning's ensuing scream is nothing short of ear-splitting and of the kind that raises the hair on the back of your neck from the sheer volume. Fay Wray had a bit of throatiness and -- dare I say, sexy -- tone to her Kong-induced scream, but Miss Craig's screech owl imitation could shatter glass.
That you saw the witch was actually little ol' Leona Anderson as housekeeper Mrs. Slydes at the end of the movie didn't make this impressionable youg lad feel any better. After seeing a slimy, disembodied head and poor Carol Ohmart being reduced to a skeleton in the acid vat, how could I?
And, here's a little MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD EXTRA -- the William Castle article from FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND #33 (May 1965):