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Friday April 20th 2018

The Legend Of Hell House | 1963

Considering writer Richard Matheson was responsible for the excellent adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman in the Sixties, as well as the the scripts for the much-filmed I Am Legend and for Steven Spielberg’s first feature Duel, this film of his own novel is sadly disappointing. It’s not a patch on the earlier, and similar, The Haunting (that’s the 1963 version, of course, not the CGI heavy Jan De Bont revamp). The director went on to make the amazingly different cult road movie, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry.

A varied team of investigators (sceptic, medium, survivor…) descends on the ominous ‘Belasco House’ to confront the possibility of life after death.

The palatial home of the obviously stinkingly rich Mr Deutsch (Roland Culver), who commissions the investigation, is Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire. The grand estate is also seen in Stanley Kubrick masterpiece Barry Lyndon, The Young Victoria, Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film of Hamlet, the big-screen version of 60s TV series The Avengers, Shekhar Kapur’s The Four Feathers, with Heath Ledger, and (as the Italian palazzo) the 2015 Bond movie Spectre.

As the team is assembled, Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) is picked up outside St Catherine’s Church, just south from Sacombe Green Road between the villages of Sacombe and Sacombe Green, southeast of Stevenage, in Hertfordshire.

Twitchy Fischer (Roddy McDowall) is picked up at Roydon Station, High Street, alongside the River Stort, west of Harlow in Essex.

The ‘Hell House’ of the title, one time home of sadistic debauchee Emeric Belasco (a character clearly based on notorious magician Aleister Crowley), is Wykehurst Park, Colwood Lane, Bolney, Haywards Heath. Disappointingly, the Victorian Gothic fantasy is a private home and not visible from the road.