Like most haunted house films that I have seen, there is a lot that is vague about the set up or motivations of the people involved. Too much exposition is going to slow down the story and undermine the creep factor. “The Legend of Hell House” jumps into the events of the story with a minimum of set up. I think this was a bit of a mistake, there is some excellent back story that comes up in the film, and anticipation of the revelations and horrible events that precede the events told here would make the movie even creepier. On the other hand, there is a lot of weirdness that raises goosebumps because you don’t quite know what is happening.
The set up is basic, like “The Haunting of Hill House” a dozen years earlier, this is a story of paranormal investigation of a haunting. There are four main characters, a physicist and his wife, and two mediums, one of which survived a deadly investigation twenty years earlier. This seems like the exact plot of the older film, but that is about as far as the mimicry goes. The haunting, events and explanations are very different. I was impressed by the atmospheric electronic score from the opening, it does not sound like a spooky old house, but more like some otherworldly crashing and humming. These are also some differences in the two movies.
Pamela Franklin is the star of the movie, and I saw her in something else recently. After I looked, I think I must just have been remembering this movie. She appears to have been the British version of Jamie Leigh Curtis in the 60s and 70s. A scream queen for horror fans to follow through the story. These is a lot of sexual tone in this movie. In fact it inspired one of my favorite bad puns. As a ghost pulls back the sheets on Miss Franklin’s bed, all that came to mind was she was about to celebrate Hollow Weenie. (Sorry, I can’t resist this stuff).
This came out the same year as the Exorcist, It does not have the same level of fright but there are two or three good goose bump moments and a shock or two that should keep you interested. I saw this movie with my Dad’s Friend Rusty Phipps. He was a magic enthusiast and he worked at the Hollywood Studios as a grip and stagehand. He was as nuts about the movies as I was and it pissed my Dad off sometimes when he would take me to a show, and then we would see two or three. We actually saw this at a drive in, I think it was the one on Rosemead Blvd. that is no longer there. I would put this on the same level as “Poltergeist”. Plenty of boogie men to keep you up at night for a while.