The Legend Of Hell House [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1973)
Composed by Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001) and Brian Hodgson
1. [00:00] Proposition
2. [00:29] Drive To The House
3. [01:56] Outside The House
4. [03:20] Church In Hell
5. [03:58] The Investigation Begins
6. [04:12] The Seance
7. [05:12] The Voice
8. [06:09] The House Speaks
9. [08:36] Everlasting Peace
10. [08:47] The End
11. [ 09:35] The Legend Of Hell House
Directed by John Hough and based on the novel by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay. The film stars Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall (1928-1998), Peter Bowles, Roland Culver (1900-1984), Gayle Hunnicutt, and New Zealand actor Clive Revill. Released just six months before William Friedkin’s classic The Exorcist, The Legend of Hell House had just enough time to make a small impact, before it was completely overshadowed and almost forgotten.
The physicist Dr. Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill) is enlisted by eccentric millionaire Mr. Deutsch (Roland Culver) to make an investigation into ‘survival after death’ in the one place where it has yet to be refuted, Belasco House, the ‘Mount Everest of haunted houses’, originally owned by the notorious Emeric Belasco (Michael Gough), a millionaire infamous for all manner of excessive perversions – sadism, bestiality, necrophilia and cannibalism. The house is believed to be haunted by numerous spirits, victims of Belasco’s twisted and sadistic desires. Accompanying Barrett are his wife, Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), as well as two mediums: mental medium and spiritualist minister Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) and physical medium Benjamin Franklin Fischer (Roddy McDowall), who was the sole survivor of an investigation conducted 20 years before within the very same house. The harrowing film documents the group’s two-week stay in the house. As they argue science versus the supernatural, evil forces shake the house. One-by-one the visitors are stalked by the spirits of the house, which seem to manifest a bizarre and powerful influence on them. Piece-by-piece the terrifying secret of Hell House is unraveled, leading the survivors to the film’s final, shocking climactic revelation. The Legend Of Hell House’s direction and cinematography are impressive, the compositions are suitably atmospheric, utilizing split-focus and high, low and wide angles, and finally, the film’s electronic score is one of the creepiest ever committed to film. While visually it may seem like the film was produced under the Hammer line, it was actually one of the two films James H. Nicholson (1916-1972) produced after leaving AIP and before passing away. Incidentally, Nicholson’s other film was Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974), a car chase film that starred Peter Fonda. While every horror fanatic was waiting in line to see The Exorcist (1973) for the umpteenth time, this modest little English horror film criminally slipped through the cracks. A powerful and almost perversely hypnotic descent into terror and madness, The Legend of Hell House is an absolutely worthy addition to any genre fan’s collection and is easily more enjoyable than many of the supernatural films being released today.
BBC Radiophonic Workshop stalwarts Delia Derbyshire (best known for her electronic arrangement of the theme music to Doctor Who) and Brian Hodgson work some black magic to create a perfectly nightmarish affair, with it’s pulsing, throbbing, unsettling electronica complete with heavy breathing, screams (naturally), indiscernible voices, and an almost continuous drone. It’s a short but brilliantly effective creation. The soundtrack remains unavailable commercially. The score here was ripped from DVD by an unknown devotee who goes by the name of ‘The Master Cylinder’, a well known figure among rare soundtrack/score enthusiasts, having ripped and released soundtracks and scores for hundreds of films that were never officially released. This particular release was numbered MC 208. Capturing the gothic essence in a modernized fashion, the score is one of the most unique aspects of the film and definitely a must have for any serious soundtrack collector.
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