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The Legend Of Hell House (1972)

What do you do when someone offers you £100,000 to stay for a week in "The mount Everest of haunted houses"?

Number one, you tell him it's a stupid way to describe it. Is it the tallest haunted house in the world? I don't think so. Is it in Tibet? No, it's in the home counties.

Number two, you take the money, say you've stayed there, tell the person nothing happened and book a holiday in the Caribbean. Unless you're scientist Lionel Barratt, that is…

Jokes about Barratt Homes could abound on this page, if I was so minded. But I'm better than that. This could be seen as an updated, coloured version of The Haunting, but quite frankly it's not in the same league.

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 (which is always a good thing for a horror movie).

It starts off in true Gothic style, with spooky music, fog shrouded moors, hearse-like cars and the truly terrifying Peter "To The Manor Born" Bowles.

There follows several murmurings of things like "The house… it knows we're here" and somesuch, before medium Florence Tanner sits down for her first spooky séance.

That one's such a hit that she agrees to do another one under "scientific conditions" - which involves Dr Barratt speaking into a tape recorder and demanding that ectoplasm "leaves a sample in the jar, please".

As the furniture gets angry and Dr Barratt's wife becomes a sex crazed harlot, he decides to bring in the big guns - or in other words, part of the set from Space 1999. Apparently, the house is "a giant battery… full of mindless, directionless power" and the enormous box he's brought in will suck it all out, leaving the place un-haunted. Will it work? What do you think?

A couple of other things (don't read if you're going to watch it):

1 Considering what happened to Roddy McDowell the first time round, it seems surprising he'd return to the house - even for a slice of the £100,000.

2 The ending - which explains that the house was haunted because it's owner, Belasco the "Roaring Giant", was actually a short-arse, is quite possibly the lamest ever, just spared by the overblown nature of McDowell's performance.

3 Michael Gough makes an appearance at the end as Belasco, totally redeeming the previous 90 minutes, in my view.

I dunno, I preferred it when there wasn't a scientific explanation for ghosts and ghoulies and things that go "help me" in the night… Ah, well…

Director: John Hough Writer(s): Richard Matheson (also novel Hell House)

Cast: Pamela Franklin - Florence Tanner, Roddy McDowall - Benjamin Franklin Fischer, Clive Revill - Mr. (Lionel) Barrett, Gayle Hunnicutt - Ann Barrett, Roland Culver - Mr. (Rudolph) Deutsch, Peter Bowles - Hanley, Michael Gough - Emeric Belasco


Last updated: February 23, 2010

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