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Review: House On Haunted Hill / Last Man on Earth - Double Feature

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Review: House On Haunted Hill / Last Man on Earth - Double Feature

Old 09-26-00, 10:56 PM
  #1  
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Here is my first-ever DVD review. I just received this disc from Amazon ($6.99).










Title: House on Haunted Hill / Last Man on Earth - Double Feature
Reviewer: Tom Perconti
Movie rating: **** / ****
Picture rating: *** / *
Sound rating: *** / *
Extras: * / *
Repeat viewing: *** / ****
Advice: [/b]Recommended
Worth: [/b]$10.00



Review:

Synopsis

Note: The movie synopsis is deliberately vague and lacks detail because I do not wish to give away too much of the story.
In House on Haunted Hill, Vincent Price stars as a millionaire who hosts a unique party at his house. He offers each of his guests $10,000 if they can survive the night. This William Castle film is vintage Price. Price appears to really enjoy the role and plays it for all it's worth. The rest of the cast does an admirable job, including Carol Ohmart as his wife, Elisha Cook Jr, and a "pre-Big Valley/pre-Nanny and the Professor" Richard Long. I won't say any more so as not to give away any of the story. Although no one over the age of 9 will be genuinely scared by this film, it is a great example of how people were chilled and thrilled 40 years ago. There is a remake that was made in 1999 which should be avoided at all costs...

Last Man On Earth is an Italian-made film based on the novel "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson. It too stars Vincent Price, this time as the sole survivor in a post-plague world. This film just drips with atmosphere and isolation. It is very slow moving (in the good sense) and really draws the viewer into the story. It is easy to see this film's influence on George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" made years later. An alternate telling of the "I Am Legend" story was done in "The Omega Man" starring Charlton Heston.


Audio:

The audio on House is pleasantly adequate. Presented in its original mono, it is fairly clear. Background noise is only noticeable when playing through an audio system. The audio on Last Man is not nearly as good. It is often dull with noticeable noise. People with moderate to high standards will find the audio of both films bothersome.


Video:

House is presented in widescreen. The print is surprisingly sharp and relatively free of dirt and scratches. The contrast and black levels are pretty good, but there are noticeable compression artifacts and "halo" effects on some scenes. Video quality certainly surpasses that of the existing VHS tapes and better than other low-cost DVD producers.

Last Man is presented in what appears to be Pan & Scan. I assume this because while the titles and opening credits are displayed, the image appears elongated top-to-bottom to accomodate all of the text. Video quality is unfortunately mediocre. This is especially true for the first 10 minutes. Dirt, scratches, hair, and lint are all painfully obvious during the opening scenes. The print is soft and has poor contrast and black levels.

Extras:

The only extras consist of a short bio page on Vincent Price, and a few screenshots of other Diamond discs.

Overall:

Although the technical merits of this disc leave a lot to be desired, there is something about these films that compels me to recommend it. These films are a great diversion from the seemingly endless slasher films that saturate pay cable channels and video rental shelves. This double-feature disc conjures up memories of those Drive-in double features, Creature Feature movies on Saturday nights on WNEW, and Chiller Theatre on WPIX. The quality of House on Haunted Hill alone is worth the under $10 pricetag. To get a film as unknown as Last Man on Earth at any quality on disc is certainly worth something.

I don't know if a good/better print of Last Man on Earth exists, so it is unknown whether we will ever see a better quality disc become available. But for the price (of a rental...you can OWN it), it is certainly worth getting and enjoying now until/if a higher quality disc comes along.

[This message has been edited by sracer (edited September 26, 2000).]
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Old 09-27-00, 12:21 AM
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quote:
Originally posted by sracer:
I don't know if a good/better print of Last Man on Earth exists, so it is unknown whether we will ever see a better quality disc become available.


A better quality print definitely exists. Image Entertainment released a widescreen (2.35:1) laserdisc of this last summer and it looks great.

I believe that Elite is working on a DVD of this sometime soon as well.

I'll wait. (but thanks very much for taking the time to do such a detailed review)

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Old 09-27-00, 09:31 AM
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That's great news! If it is anything like their NOTLD and Evil Dead discs.... I'm there!
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