Cover of "The Legend of Hell House"

Cover of The Legend of Hell House

Usually I am not thrilled about movies based on books.  The 1973 version of “The Legend of Hell House” was an exception.  It is based on the book “Hell House” by Richard Matheson, and I wanted to see it primarily out of curiosity.  At first I thought Vincent Price was in it, until I realized what year it was filmed, and then I decided I’d watch it to see how close of an adaptation they had made.  Generally speaking, adaptations aren’t as good as the book.  I was also interested in what kinds of special effects were utilized, given the year.

“The Legend of Hell House” was a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel.  The special effects were good – used sparingly and in the right places.  There were a few scenes I thought could have been included, including Doctor Barrett’s struggle in the steam room with an unseen, gelatinous-feeling monster.  However, even without this scene the movie was effective.

The dialog was in keeping with the book – there were some lines that sounded as though they came straight from the book.  (Which, given that the book was published in 1971 and adapted into film in 1973, makes it not only possible but likely.)  The house and characters were also straight out of the book.  The only incongruency was Doctor Barrett’s age.  Although I thought he was slightly older in the book, Clive Revill was still a very convincing Doctor Lionel Barrett.

The movie tastefully included some parts of the book which I thought would be impossible to render in 1973.  The movie treated the subject of Emeric Belasco’s sexual deviancy in terms of innuendos and suggestions.  With regards to horror movies, I prefer a more roundabout sexual approach – I don’t like mixing sex and horror.  If its a contributing factor to the house being evil, so be it.  I don’t care to be subjected to 20 minute scenes proving the point.

I suggest reading the book first, but thats standard advice I’d give anyone.  The movie is very enjoyable to watch – even though I’m seeing it in 2011 for the first time.  For me, “The Legend of Hell House” lives up to its name.