Movies From the Black Lagoon


THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE - 1973, Rated PG

By Tom Doty



A small group is tasked with determining if an infamous home is haunted by the ghost of a prohibition era psychopath in this chiller from the swinging seventies.

The story begins with a team being assembled to test ‘The Belasco House.” The house has a sordid history that reads like the late night programming on “Cinemax.” During the roaring twenties Emeric Belasco entertained there and never made public appearances. He imported his swinging times by bringing in party goers, various drugs, and prostitutes for one long party. He was also a bit of a carnal explorer who tried every vice known to man and invented a few of his own.

it is to this home that our band comes forty years after the party ended. The group includes: Dr. Barrett ,a noted physicist; his repressed wife, Anna; a medium ,Florence Tanner; and the only survivor of a previous attempt, Fischer. Their job is to stay in the house for seven days and deliver a report. For this they will each get $100,000. The problem is ,who will be alive to spend it after the week passes.

My money was not on Barrett. By the second night the house tries to kill him . It nearly succeeds too as trays, household objects, a chandelier, and even a roaring fireplace all have a go at him. Turns out the house doesn’t like unbelievers who hypothesize that spirits are merely trapped energy.

Tanner looks short for the world too. Her ability to feel the presence of spooks is not helpful when the house appears to contain 27 such beings who are all vying for her attention. The main specter is Emeric Belasco who appears to have dominion over the others. He also seems to be able to force them to do his bidding and this deviate had plenty of bad ideas when he was alive so you can imagine how warped he is now.

Mrs. Barrett is in bad shape too. Her feelings of running second to her husband’s work make her perfect fodder for the perverse Belasco. Before you know it she is rocking see through clothes and chasing Fischer around like he was a “Chippendale’s ” dancer.

Fischer seems to have the best chance of surviving. He opts to not open up his ESP gift to the house as he remembers how that worked out the first time. You may wonder why he would even come back but one hundred grand is powerful bait. Especially for a guy with terminal anxiety who hasn’t been able to hold down a steady job since he first investigated the house twenty years before.

This one has it all . Groaning voices, moving objects, nasty tempered black cats, and a ghost who delights in playing with his victims before moving in for the kill. Belasco is a true uber-creep with a sordid history of nasty conduct in just about every taboo region under the sun.

It all comes down to a pitched battle between Fischer and Belasco that reveals just how stunted Belasco was and will leave you with an underlying fear of vertically challenged people with bad attitudes.

This works thanks to a tight script by Richard Matheson(Stir of Echoes and The Incredible Shrinking Man) who also wrote the novel. The book is even more graphic and highly recommended. the director ,John Hough, worked for ‘Hammer Films’ and knows how to pitch a scare or two. The actors are top notch with Pamela Franklin at her saucer eyed best as the fragile Tanner and Roddy McDowall(Fright Night) stealing the film as the weary but ultimately heroic Fischer.

Cheap on DVD and free for Netflix subscribers.

Best Lines: “Sadism, bestiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism. Not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies, Shall I go on?”

“It’s the Mount Everest of haunted houses.”

“That is his second wife. She committed suicide in this room in 1927.”

THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE – 1973, Rated PG

By Tom Doty

Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.

Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.

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