Combustible Celluloid
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With: Vincent Price, Carolyn Craig, Richard Long, Elisha Cook Jr., Carol Ohmart, Alan Marshal, Julie Mitchum, Leona Anderson, Howard Hoffman
Written by: Robb White
Directed by: William Castle
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 75
Date: 03/18/2013

Rifftrax: House on Haunted Hill (1960)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Skeleton Crew

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Following the demise of the beloved "Mystery Science Theater 3000" TV show, its stars Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett continued on by creating "Rifftrax," which were downloadable audio files that could be played along with your favorite movies. Now the crew has assembled a series of ten new "Rifftrax" DVDs, released by Legend Films and including funny audio commentary tracks (no silhouettes or robot heads) as well as an option to view the movie with its original audio track. The downside is that all of these titles are in the public domain, are widely available elsewhere, and are not in the best of quality. In the case of House on Haunted Hill, Legend Films has already released a restored DVD with an optional colorized version and a Mike Nelson solo commentary track. I haven't seen that disc, but it's likely that the transfer is the same, and the new Rifftrax version is cheaper (though it's not letterboxed, and the film should be mastered for its 1:1.85 ratio). I like this film, and I think it actually has some neat, scary moments, but I will contend that the Rifftrax version is pretty spot-on. The following is my review from 2008:

William Castle was better known for his gimmicks than for his films, but this haunted house chiller is actually very good, with a few genuinely spooky scenes. A man (Vincent Price) invites five guests to a haunted house, where they will earn $10,000 if they can last the night. Castle opts for a clean, evenly-lit look, but uses shadows and off-camera noises to brilliant effect (not to mention the vat of acid in the basement!). The gimmick here was called "Emergo." During the appropriate moment, a skeleton would emerge from below the screen and "fly" out into the audience. The film works fine without it. The great Elisha Cook Jr. co-stars.

The ten Rifftrax DVDs are: RiffTrax: Night of the Living Dead, RiffTrax: The Little Shop of Horrors, RiffTrax: Reefer Madness, RiffTrax: Carnival of Souls, RiffTrax: House on Haunted Hill, RiffTrax: Missile to the Moon, RiffTrax: Plan 9 from Outer Space, RiffTrax: Swing Parade, RiffTrax: The Best Of RiffTrax Shorts, Vol. 1 andRiffTrax: The Best Of RiffTrax Shorts, Vol. 2.

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