The Legend of Hell House


What an amazing scary film from 1973 starring Roddy McDowell and Pamela Franklin and directed by John Hough.

An annoying ginger haired physicist played by Lionel Barrett is enlisted by an eccentric millionaire to investigate ‘survival after death‘ in the ‘Mount Everest of haunted houses’, which is Belasco House. Accompanying the sceptical Barrett is his sexy wife, lord knows how he managed to catch her, and two mediums. One of these mediums, (Roddy McDowell) is returning after being the only sole survivor of an earlier investigation.Legend of Hell House

Legend of Hell HouseThe Belasco house was the scene of debauchery and murder and this investigative team are about to find out how dangerous it really is.  The annoying physicist certainly finds out that that there isn’t an answer for everything.  How many will survive?

When we remember the great non gore horror films, lots of us tend to mention Universal Horror, American International Pictures, Hammer Horror and even RKO, but we forget about this gem of Horror, which totally freaked me out as a teenager.

From the start, the imagery and the music set the tone of the film. Do you remember that eerie like bongo music and then seeing the Belasco House shrouded in mist behind those black wrought iron gates?

Legend of Hell House

How many of you remember the possessed black cat that attacks the female medium?  When I was watching this film last night (lost count of how many times I’ve watched it), during the attack scene and the wailing cat noises as the medium rips the claws off her skin and throws the cat across the room, my identical black cat sprang up on the back of the couch looking alarmed and I can tell you that I must have looked alarmed as well.  Each time she threw the cat, it came back for more until she locked herself in the bathroom.

The same medium eventually succumbs to the spirit that is haunting her and she offers her body in the hope that the spirit will go to heaven. We all knew that she was being fooled and the woman who played her was fantastic, especially when she turned around and started laughing hysterically.  Her face was deranged and scary.

image How did Roddy McDowel’s character resist the forward desires of the annoying physicist?

This is a great film and there is lots of freaky stuff happening in this film to keep you entertained.

While looking up information, I found out that this is one of only two productions of James H Nicholson after his departure from American International Pictures.  I also found out that the Blasco house does exist and it is called ‘Wykehurst Place’, a Gothic revival mansion in Bolney, West Sussex. It was designed in 1871. This is a mansion that I have to visit and take photographs of as it is beautiful and haunting.

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  1. I remember seeing this film late at night at my grandparents about 28 years ago. With regard to the posessed cat, this to me was the most frightening part of the film as nothing seems to stop it until the medium locks herself in the shower. Now by chance my grandparents had a rather elderly cat that seemed to spend most of its life eating and sleeping and had all the energy of a slug.
    However, on going to bed feeling rather scared after seeing my first late night horror, I saw the old cat sitting outside the bedroom window in the style the cat does in Legend of Hell House and got a bit of a fright. However, falling asleep quickly, I’d been at school all day and my grandparents were 100 miles away and it was late, you can guess what the nightmares were about: the friendly old cat had turned into a psycho like the one in the film and had jumped through the window with its claws and teeth out and started attacking me until I woke up sweating and hitting the ghost cat with a pillow.
    The next day my grandmother gave me I told you so but you were determined to watch this rubbish talk, as she did hear some strange noises from the back bedroom that night, and insisted that I waited a few years again to watch these sort of films. Meanwhile the cat turned up, probably thinking it had had its best laugh in years as even the birds had stopped being frightened of it years earlier.

  2. Hi Glenn, thanks for your post.
    You sound just like me and you made me laugh. 🙂

  3. Also did you know the owner of the house, Emeric Berlasco, was based on Aleister Crowley? I did think Berlasco’s description did sound rather like Crowley.

  4. I didn’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out if it were true

  5. Crowley was the inspiration for another satanist, although this being 1957 references to sado masochism and orgies weren’t allowed, Dr Karswell in Night of the Demon. I bet old Aleister would have been delighted that he inspired two horror films.

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