Welcome to our brand new podcast dedicated to discussing well-known movies and TV shows that one of us has never seen. In this episode we’re talking about House on Haunted Hill (1959 original, not rated).
You can listen to the show by clicking here.
Here are the links to some of the things we discussed: Vincent Price was 48 when this movie was made; House on Haunted Hill IMDb page; Architecture styles of Bauhaus, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mayan Revival; No-fault divorce became legal in California in 1969; the movie Clue (1985 – based on the board game); 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill; Bechdel test pass or fail?; “Skeleton”‘s IMDb page; SWAT teams were established in 1964; Cosmic Potato Podcast Network; “Thriller” recording session with Michael Jackson and Vincent Price.
Next time, we’ll be talking about Shaun of the Dead, so stay tuned!
Transcript of Episode 04 below:
This program is part of the Cosmic Potato Podcast Network. For more shows like this, visit our website at CosmicPotato.com.
[Spooky Halloween intro music – piano ragtime with film projector sound effect and distorted monster laughs]
Shane: Hi, this is Shane.
Virginia: And this is Virginia.
Shane: And this is “Wait. You’ve Never Seen…?” A podcast dedicated to discussing well-known movies and TV shows that one of us has never seen.
Virginia: And today we’re discussing: Wait. You’ve never seen House on Haunted Hill?!
Shane: Why does that sound like you’re ashamed of me when you say it?
Virginia: I just, I just have questions, that’s all. So, um, upfront, we want to like always do our-our triggers and warnings and whatnot. So, um, just FYI, there is a fake – it’s definitely fake, just want to put that out there – but a fake suicide by hanging. You see that twice in the movie, I believe, so just be aware of that.
Shane: Also spoilers.
Virginia: Yes. And then there’s also, um, there’s also just some you know general misogyny, trying to make–send a woman into hysterics, which in itself is a loaded term, but um…
Virginia: The point of the movie is to drive this woman into such a state of mind that she murders someone, basically. So, um, yeah, that’s what I have for our little upfront warnings. Why don’t you start by telling us what three things you expected from the movie?
Shane: Well, I’m glad you asked, because I happened–this is weird because I happened to have exactly three things. [Virginia laughs in background] I expected Vincent Price to seem old even though he wasn’t exactly old when they made this movie.
Shane: I didn’t expect it to be scary and not at all gory. I’m only guessing this because of the time it was made. I really know, oh, I knew…I’ve watched it already.
Shane: I knew almost nothing about this movie at all.
Shane: I expected it to be a slow burn and build suspense. That’s-that’s it.
Virginia: Ok. Um, did you expect to like it or not like it?
Shane: I wanted to like it, but I was afraid it would be tedious. I was expecting…I was afraid that it might be one of those lesser-known…
Shane: …Less loved Twilight Zone episodes.
Virginia: Gotcha. Ok. So what-what kind of star rating were you expecting to give it before you watched it?
Shane: Out of 5, I gave it a 3.
Virginia: That’s pretty reasonable, I think. I mean, a Vincent Pri–Vincent Price horror movie. It’s a pretty fair shot, I think. And what would be your one sentence TV Guide summary?
Shane: Ok. This is very [laughs]…Again, I knew nothing about this at all. [laughs] So I basically just looked at maybe the cover art for this movie and decided, “Vincent Price’s house is the creepiest one on the block.” [Virginia laughs in background] “It happens to be in the hills…”
Shane: “…also Vincent is a ghost the whole time!” [Virginia laughs again in background] You really relish that! [Shane laughs]
Virginia: That was amazing! I would 100% watch that movie. [Shane laughs in background] Which like, which kind of leads me into, we had in the credits “Skeleton as himself.” Maybe we could have “Ghost Vincent Price as himself.” He could make a comeback!
Shane: We’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Shane: Right, but you’re right, they could with-with the magic of CGI Vincent Price could be added back in.
Virginia: True. Ok, so on IMDB, this movie…Ok, House on Haunted Hill, the original, is from 1959 with Vincent Price. It’s not rated because yeah, they didn’t really have a rating system–a standard rating system then. And the one sentence summary is, “A millionaire offers $10,000 to five people who agree to be locked in a large, spooky, rented house overnight with him and his wife.”
Shane: I didn’t get it right a little bit. [Virginia laughs in background] I only got that Vincent Price, but it doesn’t even mention Vincent Price…
Virginia: Well, um, he’s the millionaire. It just doesn’t say “Vincent Price, millionaire.”
Shane: I’m just saying that I couldn’t be more wrong. [Virginia laughs in background] There were hills…
Virginia [interrupting]: They were…were they alive with the sound of…moaning and groaning? Maybe? I don’t know.
Shane: [sighs] I’m moaning and groaning from your…[laughs]
Virginia: Well, well. So, um…so we talked a little bit about your expectations. Did they meet or not meet those expectations?
Shane: It was seriously scary from the second it started.
Virginia [loudly]: Oh it started with the screaming, right!!
Shane: Right. It’s all fade to black and you expect, ok, here’s an establishing shot of the spooky house, I guess. That’s what I was waiting for, and instead you just hear like screaming and screaming and then a disembodied head shows up?!
Virginia [regular volume]: Right, yeah, that was a little creepy.
Shane: But, yeah, it kind of–it already–it immediately exceeded my expectations for its ability to be scary, which…
Virginia: Uh-huh. Well, that’s good.
Shane: It does get, at the same time though, it is pretty silly. Well, I mean, once you start the disembodied head and then you see Vincent Price’s head, it’s…
Virginia: Well, and then Nora was running around the whole house like ok…she was the one that they were trying to get–literally drive her crazy.
Virginia: And she just kept running around the house, like upstairs and downstairs and there was just sort of like…
Shane: It – by the way, I didn’t expect–it’s essentially a game show. The movie is like a, it’s a game.
Shane: win $10,000 if you complete this task.
Shane: It’s pretty–that’s pretty weird.
Virginia: So, has your opinion changed? Has your-has your star rating changed? You gave it a 3 stars before. You were kind of neutral on it.
Shane: Yeah. I had that…I had other things to say.
Virginia: Oh, I’m sorry.
Shane: It’s ok. I mean, so yeah, after…after, I’d have to say I’m gonna give it a solid 4.
Virginia: Mm-hm. [long pause] But? I feel like there’s a but coming…
Shane: It’s not for “Oh my gosh, this is such an amazing, like, horror movie.”
Shane: Because it’s-because it’s not. It’s not really…
Shane: …a horror movie. It’s more of a…it’s a-it’s a creepy demented drama, basically.
Virginia: Right, um, IMDb lists it as “horror/mystery.”
Shane: Yeah, I mean…
Virginia: It seems more mystery and creepy rather than really horror.
Shane: So before we go any further I have to talk about the–another thing I wasn’t expecting was the-the look of the house…
Shane: And I’m very-I’m very proud of myself. You know this, Virginia.
Virginia: Yes. Yes.
Shane: I’m very proud of myself. I wrote down that I was expecting a dilapidated Victorian mansion with peeling paint and crooked towers and whatnot, like a more traditional…
Virginia [interrupting]: Well, even on the–even on the cover art that you talked about, this here on the IMDb page looks more like an old Victorian haunted house. It doesn’t look anything like what we actually saw in the movie.
Shane [speech overlapping]: That’s true. So I wrote down that I wasn’t expecting a Bauhaus meets a Frank Lloyd Wright house and I looked it up later. It was literally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Shane: I’m so proud of myself. It’s in a style called Mayan Revival, so if you look at it…if you look at the house, it sort of has a temple-like vibe to it and has these in-in these carved stones?
Virginia: I did see the carved stone things and I was wondering about that. The interior though, cuz I wrote this down, was the exterior didn’t really look like the traditional haunted house, but the interior I thought very much did. Like…
Virginia: Very…older furniture. There’s lots of cobwebs and rickety staircases and…
Shane: Oriental carpets…
Shane: Gas lamps…
Shane: They also, I believe they said – I wrote this down so it’s got to be true – They said this is a house that was built 100 years ago. And I’m like, there’s no way their house was built 100 years…
Virginia: Yeah. I don’t think Andrew Lloyd…
Shane: It was in the…
Virginia: Frank Lloyd…[laughs] I was gonna say Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Shane: Andrew Frank Lloyd Webber?
Virginia: [laughs] Yes, Frank Lloyd Wright.
Shane: It was built in the 1920s.
Virginia: I see. Well that–Well, it wasn’t almost 100 years ago then, it would be hundred years ago now.
Shane: Right. Right. So there you go.
Virginia: So, general discussion, yes?
Shane: Why did everyone look like they had lard in their hair? I guess it was because of the–I’m gonna answer my own question.
Shane: I guess it’s cuz it was the fifties, but it was…it’s distracting, what was happening!
Virginia: Well, and we were watching the colorized version too, so, I’m sure that didn’t help much. Like, it probably brought some of, like, those distractions into more focus, I guess? Where…
Shane: Right, because they don’t only change the color when they do that. They play with the-the contrast, the light and dark that’s happening there. Sometimes I think instead of colorizing movies they should go in…I think it would be more respectful just to like…for scenes that are so dark that we can’t see anything, go ahead and play with how light and dark things are, so we can really see it.
Shane: So yeah, you might be–I think you’re right about that that aspect. Vincent Price refers to himself as a playboy.
Virginia: [laughs] I forgot about that.
Shane: He’s a really creepy…kind of a monster, not a playboy.
Virginia: Well, and he’s–Annabelle is his fourth wife. The first wife mysteriously disappeared…
Virginia: And the other two died.
Shane: Whatever that means.
Virginia: So, um, she’s concerned for her safety, and she’s having an affair with one of the people who was invited to the house to stay overnight……who is part of the plot. Yes.
Shane: It’s very-It Sounds very scary.
Virginia: It is! Kind of. But Annabelle and Frederick are really…they’re not very nice to each other at all. You can tell they hate being together…
Virginia: But Annabelle won’t leave him because she wants half of everything he’s got.
Shane: California though is a no-fault divorce state though?
Virginia: Was it in 1959?
Shane: I guess, I don’t know. So I had I just have some–I have some observations that I made that, uh, I can run through…
Shane: And Virginia, if you want to comment, that’s great.
Shane: If not, they can just live as their own comments.
Virginia: Ok. Uh-huh.
Shane: Vincent Price looks like an evil version of Walt Disney.
Virginia: [laughs] That’s good, yeah!
Shane: Like if Walt melted a little and turned more evil.
Shane: We don’t need to get into that exactly right now. The effects-the special effects for the–what you think are ghosts, but are really the caretakers, it’s pretty fantastic. The movie does have scary moments, I have to admit.
Virginia: Mm-hm. Were you scared by, um, the caretaker lady, Mrs. Slydes, who popped up behind Nora?
Shane: That’s what I’m referring to as we go…
Shane: …because at the time, I didn’t know that it was the care, you know…It’s later, like, oh no that’s misdirection. That’s not, that’s ghosts.
Virginia: I see, yeah.
Shane: That’s not ghost over there. Those are the caretakers. Everyone gets a handgun presented in a little coffin! [Virginia laughs in background] What is this, John Woo meets Tim Burton?
Virginia: I don’t know what that means, but ok.
Shane: John Woo, like in Hard Boiled. It’s like, it’s a gun, you know, it’s like a shoot-’em-up gun, you know…
Virginia: Oh, I see.
Shane: Lots of guns in John Woo movies…
Virginia: Well, and he said in Nora’s there were blanks. So did all of them have blanks? Would he really have loaded them all?
Shane [laughing]: That’s right. That’s right
Virginia: And it also kind of reminded me–I don’t know, have you seen Clue with, um…
Shane: We watch—Yeah.
Virginia: We watched it together. Ok, I couldn’t remember.
Virginia: Um, where, you know, you get the six weapons, the lead pipe, and the rope, and everything…
Virginia: And they’re–I don’t think they’re in coffins, but they’re like in-in you know boxes and like gift-wrapped I think…
Virginia: And this movie kind of reminded me of Clue a little bit, just like…
Shane: Trapped in the house…
Shane: Have to figure–there’s something to figure out…
Virginia [speech overlapping]: Chandelier falling…
Shane: …some sort of mystery…
Shane: Gas-lighting ghosts. The ghosts are gas-lighting. I mean, that’s what I wrote down.
Shane: It turns out that it’s Vincent Price’s character…
Virginia: Yes. Yes! Are we talking about the skeleton?
Shane: Well, the–more specifically–well, yeah, there’s the skeleton played by himself. I don’t know what that is. Uh, the head in the suitcase of the young woman-the woman who is…
Virginia: Right. Yes. And then also, you know, Trent and Annabelle had to rig her up to be hanging from the ceiling in two different places.
Virginia: Um, which they kind of revealed because, like, we don’t know as the audience that she’s not dead until Trent goes into her bedroom and is like, “oh it’s almost over honey,” and she kind of wakes up a la Sleeping Beauty, I guess [Shane laughs in background] and says “help me take the hanging harness off,” and then we’re like, oh ok, so that’s how this happened. I got it.
Shane: You have to explain this to the audience honey and take, [laughs] take this harness off me.
Shane: At one point, and I’m not-I’m not very smart.
Shane: I think we have established that and at one point…[laughs]…I’m a little embarrassed of this. I wrote down at one point, is the young woman – because I don’t remember anyone’s name…
Shane: …in movies…anyone’s name. Is the young woman actually having a break with reality?
Virginia: Well, that-that was-that was Annabelle and Trent’s plan, was to…
Shane: I know.
Virginia: …have her, have–I’m just saying like you were very perceptive in that you picked up on…[Shane laughs in background] I think in the remake, the 1999 remake, it was–it’s been years since…
Shane: Oh, you saw that.
Virginia: But I think it’s made even more explicit that they’re, like, forcing her into, like, this just mental, like, a mental break. Like they’re pushing her to the limit
Shane: Right. So that’s what I have as far as my thoughts.
Virginia: So, um, the Bechdel test. We talked a little bit about this because while we were watching it, because there aren’t too many female characters. There’s Mrs. Slydes the caretaker, who doesn’t have any speaking parts, although she scares the crap out of a few people. There’s Annabelle, the lady of the house, Nora, and then Mrs. Bridgers, who’s the older lady. So at one point, Annabelle and Nora do speak to each other right before they start talking about Frederick because she’s like, “Why are you here? Is it because of my husband?” So that, like, [scoffs] they’re talking about a man.
Virginia: But right before that, Annabelle says, “This is your room. Depressing, isn’t it?” And Nora says, “I doubt if I’ll spend much time here.” So that-that’s about it. That’s the pass.
Shane: There’s literally just–all it needs is one and it has one. [laughs]
Virginia: Yes. Exactly. I mean it’s from 1959. I guess I’ll take what I can get. Um, and then for, uh, disability portrayal…Um, Mrs. Slides was–they established after she scared the crap out of Nora that she was blind and that–I mean, I don’t know a whole lot about blindness or any sort of visual impairment other than, you know, my particular problems with depth perception, but I think it’s generally, like, kind of portraying her as a monster, you know? Because she’s like this big– not really a big scary thing, but like this scary thing with claws and a scary face that pops up behind someone and then kind of as an explanation, they say-they say later when her and her husband come in like, “oh she’s blind, don’t worry about her.” Like…
Virginia: It-it-it was a little icky to me, but I’m not sure if I can really articulate why.
Shane: They had her rolling around on a roller skate, it looked like, too. Her movements…
Virginia [interrupting]: Yeah, that’s how she looked like she was floating.
Shane: She looked like she was floating. But that’s…I imagine a blind person does not move around as though they’re floating.
Virginia: I would say most humans probably don’t.
Shane: Well, I’m just saying that the explanation of oh, well, she’s blind doesn’t explain.
Virginia: Right right. I see what you’re saying.
Shane: Why is she lurking in random rooms, kind of following behind people? It doesn’t explain everything.
Virginia: Um, are there any pop-culture references you now understand? I was thinking mainly of the, of the scary Mrs. Slydes popping up, because that’s-that’s one I’ve seen in a few, like…I think maybe Treehouse of Horror did that one year or something like that.
Shane: Not really. I mean…Can we talk about the–the skeleton reminds me of other things, but the, at one point – I keep forgetting his name, Vincent Price’s character…
Shane: Frederick. He has this-this ridiculous rig that he puts on his body…
Virginia: Oh right.
Shane: With, like, cranks and, like, turns…it is basically a giant puppeteer rig for this skeleton that he uses to scare…
Virginia [mock surprise]: You mean it’s not the skeleton starring as himself?!?
Shane [laughing]: I don’t know why that’s in the–we’ve established that that’s in the credits…
Virginia [speech overlapping]: That’s actually listed on the IMDb page and in the credits of the movie. “Skeleton as himself.”
Shane: Yeah, I still don’t know what to say.
Virginia: But why wouldn’t Annabelle have seen the wires and stuff, if…he was like rigged up like a freaking fishing pole or something like he’s trying to catch Jaws.
Shane [laughing]: That’s perfect! That’s exactly what it was! [a la Quint in Jaws] “Get behind me, get behind me! I’m gonna reel in this giant shark, I am!” [imitating fishing reel] Click click click click click click click click click click click .
Shane [normal voice]: If you were across the room, and you had this whole rig set up, and even if the lights were out over there, and you’re like, “here’s the scary skeleton!” I’m like, the scariest thing is you trying to pretend that that’s really a skeleton.
Virginia [a la the Wizard of Oz]: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
Shane: [laughs] Very weird!
Virginia [normal voice]: Yes.
Shane: The special effects though, I have to admit, it really did look as though he was controlling it…
Shane: …and he’s just like kind of absently, [semi-imitating Vincent Price] “Yes, I’m very good at this.”
Shane: I don’t have a Vincent Price impression or else you’d be hearing about it throughout.
Virginia: Probably. Yeah. Um, how would it be different with today’s technology? They would have cell phones, but…
Shane: Super obvious. Yeah would be the-would be cell phones.
Virginia: Um, they probably still wouldn’t be able to get out of the house. I mean, because there were bars and steel door…like, you couldn’t call a locksmith and be like, “hey come let us out.” I think that that problem wouldn’t be solved.
Shane: Did they have SWAT teams in 1959? You could SWAT that house…
Virginia [laughing]: True, true.
Shane: …and get that thing open in a second.
Virginia: Um, but other than that, I mean did they have power problems? They did have power problems, but that-that’s like an older house even then. So I don’t really know that it would be that different, except for maybe the cell phones.
Shane: And the SWAT teams.
Virginia: And the SWAT teams.
Virginia: Um, that’s about all I had. Do you have anything else to discuss?
Shane: I do not.
Virginia: Well, I think that about wraps it up then. You can find us on iTunes and Stitcher, and also on the Cosmic Potato Podcast Network at CosmicPotato.com. Episode transcripts and links to what we talked about are available on our website at WaitYouveNeverSeen.com. We’re on FB and Twitter under WaitYNS, and you can also email us at WaitYouveNeverSeen@gmail.com.
Shane: Leave us some feedback or let us know if you have any suggestions for movies we should watch. Also, if you understand what “Skeleton as himself” means, I would love to know.
Virginia: Or if you’ve seen any of his other work.
Shane: We should look up his IMDb page.
Virginia: We should.
Shane: See if Skeleton has more work.
Virginia: We should.
Shane: That’s our show for today. Next time we’ll be watching Shaun of the Dead. [Virginia laughs in background] Oh my goodness, I’m so excited! Thanks for listening!!
Sound technician: Any time, tape’s rolling.
Michael Jackson: Hi, this is Michael Jackson.
Vincent Price: And this is Vincent Price, inviting you to…
Jackson & Price together: “The Thriller.”
[“Thriller” music plays faintly in the background]
[Vincent Price recites]
Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y’all’s neighborhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse’s shell
The demons squeal in sheer delight
It’s you they spy, so plump, so ripe
For though the groove is hard to beat
It’s still you stand with frozen feet
You try to run, you try to scream
But no more sun you’ll ever see
For evil reaches from the crypt
To crush you in its icy grip
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller…
Can you dig it??
[Evil laughter from Vincent Price]
Vincent Price [normal voice]: [laughs normally] That’s great fun!
Sound technician: Great take, cut.
Vincent Price: Ok, alright!