(1959, Horror, colorized)
Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy
There’s something like forty-eight loose ends, but I’m sure they’ll all just work out in the end.
In a nutshell:
An eccentric millionaire throws a murderous party in a haunted house.
[Another three-riffer do-over, another shamelessly recycled summary. A review of Mike’s solo version can be found here.]
A pair of floating disembodied heads opens the film. The first belongs to strange, nobbly little man named Pritchard, who declares that he has inherited a mansion where the spirits often drive the inhabitants to murder. The second belongs to eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), who says that his wife has asked for a haunted house party, and rented Pritchard’s ghost-infested manor for the purpose.
The guest list is as follows: a test pilot named Lance; a secretary named Nora; a journalist named Ruth; a psychiatrist named Dr. Trent; and finally Pritchard himself, who has not set foot in the house since the murder/suicide of the rest of his family many years ago. None of the above knows Mr. Loren personally, and none of them knows the other until they meet at the beginning of the party. They’re there because they’re all desperate for money, and Loren has promised them $10k a piece if they last the night.
Loren and his lovely young trophy wife Annabelle are in attendance too; some pre-celebration exposition alerts us to how much they loathe each other, each one wishing the other was dead. The party kicks off with a rambling tour given by the only marginally sane Pritchard, showing off the various bloodstains and acid pits. Secret passage shenanigans get Lance clubbed in the head while a spooky caretaker frightens Nora out of her wits. Nora wants to leave, money or no, but when Loren tries to give everyone their last chance to leave for the night, he discovers the caretakers have gone home and locked them in early.
Loren hands everyone a loaded gun—or “party favor” as he calls them—and tells them all to have fun. Everyone goes to hide in their rooms. Fake severed heads, secret passages, and aborted stranglings fly every which way, driving Nora right to the brink of a nervous breakdown. These events culminate in her discovery of Annabelle’s corpse hanging in the stairwell. Everyone agrees that she could never have gotten that high without assistance, and accuse Loren of murder. Loren denies this; Dr. Trent cuts down the body and lays Annabelle to rest in her room.
Later that night, Annabelle appears outside Nora’s window; the end of her hanging rope slips through the bars like a snake. Nora shrieks and runs from the room. She tries to take refuge in the parlor, but the organ starts to play itself. Further attempts to flee finally trap her in the cellar with the acid pit.
Dr. Trent sneaks into Annabelle’s room to wake her up. Turns out she’s not dead after all, but was wearing a flying harness the whole time. They kiss, and Dr. Trent hides her while he goes to wake Loren. At Dr. Trent’s urging, Loren investigates the cellar. The hysterical Nora shoots him and flees the room. Trent sneaks in afterwards and starts to drag the body towards the acid pit.
Annabelle arrives a few minutes later to find the cellar empty. While she looks on, Loren’s skeletonized remains rise from the pit and chase her around the room until she falls into the acid as well. An alive and fully fleshed Loren emerges from behind a door to retrieve his skeleton marionette and throw it into the acid after her. The others arrive; he explains that Nora’s gun is loaded with blanks, and that he killed his wife and her lover in self defense. Pritchard’s paranoid rambling takes us into the closing credits.
So... No ghosts, then. Huh.
I guess I could go on about the needlessly elaborate murder schemes and the dozens of unexplained loose ends, but hey, I’ve already done that once before. If you feel the urge, go ahead and check it out.
The reason we’re discussing the film again has to do with Mike’s current push to bring his friends Bill and Kevin in to revise the solo efforts of his past. Mike actually didn’t do half-bad on this one last time he made fun of it, and while there are plenty of new jokes, the best quips of his previous effort have also been recycled and shared. A few of my favorites: When Vincent Price makes his dramatic entrance, Mike says, “If you do get a Vincent Price in your home, don’t panic. Call animal control.” During the introduction scenes that follow shortly thereafter, Kevin notes, “Trapped in a building with people you don’t know, and were you to get to know them, you’d like them even less. He’s managed to simulate the experience of jury duty.” Later, as everyone creeps through the house with their guns at the ready, Bill says, “If you do run across a barely talking dog and some meddling kids, shoot to kill.” The experience improves a decent amount with the addition of extra riffers. Enough to warrant a second purchase of the same film? Maybe. I could go either way on that question. If you’ve never seen the first version and need to choose between Mike alone and Mike with friends, then you should definitely go with Mike and friends.
(1959, Horror, colorized)