TERROR IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1958) Reviews and overview

 

‘Astounding shocker!’

Terror in the Haunted House is a 1958 American horror film in which a newly-wed young wife is forced to re-live a haunting nightmare. The movie was originally titled My World Dies Screaming but it has become better known by its 1959 re-release title.

The film is notable for being shot in “Psychorama”, a stylistic gimmick that incorporated subliminal imaging onscreen. At certain points, a skull is subliminally flashed to inspire terror, a snake to inspire hate, two hearts to inspire love, and large colour letters spelling out “blood” to create fear.

Directed by Harold Daniels (Diabolic Wedding; House of the Black Death; Date with Death; Port Sinister), from a screenplay written by Robert C. Dennis, the movie stars Gerald Mohr (The Angry Red Planet), Cathy O’Donnell (The Amazing Mr. X), William Ching (Scared Stiff) and John Qualen (7 Faces of Doctor Lao). Produced by William S. Edwards (Date with Death).

The soundtrack score was composed by Darrell Calker (Beyond the Time Barrier; The Amazing Transparent Man; Date with Death; From Hell It Came).

Plot:

Philip Tierney (Gerald Mohr) takes his new wife Sheila (Cathy O’Donnell) to an old mansion in Florida. He persuades her to return to the crumbling old mansion where, as a child, she witnessed a brutal axe murder.

Reviews:

“After setting up the premise during the first half and sloppily unveiling the few twists to the storyline before it should, the film really has nowhere else to go and plods along toward a predictable and exposition-heavy conclusion. O’Donnell […] actually tries to give a performance, but she’s stuck playing one of those irritating 50s females who ultimately has little to do other than act on the verge of hysteria throughout and whimper in the corner.” The Bloody Pit of Horror

” …it reminds me of Gaslight; it’s one of those movies in which the lead female character is required to be in a perpetual state of fear and dread throughout the entire movie, and quite frankly, I’ve never liked those types of movies; rather than scaring me, they leave me feeling tired and impatient.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

” …there are some minor scares – mostly involving an Albino dog – and vague tension. There’s no horror here. The only terror involves this chick doing the ‘1950s movie yell’ a few times.  This movie is pretty forgettable, no matter what made-up form of ‘vision’ it was ‘shot’ in…” Mondo Bizarro

“Anything initially haunted and fantastical seeming is quickly forgotten and the film becomes a mundane psycho-thriller. (In fact, the retitling Terror in the Haunted House is a false description as, even aside from the mundane explanations, there is never anything done to suggest that the house is haunted). The initially promising atmosphere transpires to be nothing more than a torrid antebellum soap opera.” Moria

House is a talky but reasonably effective potboiler, given a certain charm by leads Gerald Mohr and Cathy O’Donnell, neither of whom are typical Hollywood “faces.” Though the scripter has clearly read a little Freud and Jung, the memories that Shelia must recover don’t evince any great psychological depth. They serve one purpose: to elucidate the mystery of her background and the question of where Philip– and a few other strange people– fit in a purely rational manner.” Naturalistic! Uncanny! Marvellous!

“The story manages to blend drama, mystery and horror into a very compelling film and there is hardly a moment where your eyes will not be glued to the screen as each and every scene is riveting. Mohr is perfectly cast and Cathy O’Donnell really lends a frantic air with her performance, raising the suspense and accentuating those around her.” The Telltale Mind

“Worth watching – the plot actually isn’t too bad if you can get past the melodramatic style of acting.” Videohound’s Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics

Choice dialogue:

Mark Snell: ” …if she stays in this house another night, she’ll be a raving maniac.”

Mark Snell: “You’re insane. You’re really out of your mind.”

Cast and characters:

Gerald Mohr … Philip Tierney
Cathy O’Donnell … Sheila Wayne (as Kathy O’Donnell)
William Ching … Mark Snell (as Bill Ching)
John Qualen … Jonah Snell
Barry Bernard … Doctor Victor Forel

Release:

The film was released in the USA by Howco International Pictures (Teenage Monster) on a double-bill with Lost, Lonely and Vicious in November 1958.

Fun facts:

Makeup was handled by Harry Thomas who worked on Edward D. Wood‘s movies in the 1950s.