AARON SPELLING produced television movies don’t grow on trees. Well, actually I guess they kind of do but I for one have never met one I didn’t like. You may have to take my reviews of seventies T.V. movies with a grain of salt kids because I’m just a big push over for them. I watched THE HOUSE THAT WOULD NOT DIE (1970) at around five in the morning and what can I say, I was as happy as a clam who just married a pig in slop. Yes it’s as hokey as your grandma’s doily and about as provocative as a READER’s DIGEST cover, but it has magical time traveling power! The melodramatic music, the over estimation of the effectiveness of slo-mo, the canned wind sound effects, the cocoa and copper hues and the general graininess of it all, was somehow able to successfully transport your Unk back a couple decades. The only thing missing was my mother yelling downstairs to tell me to “Turn that off and go to bed!”
THE HOUSE THAT WOULD NOT DIE is based on a novel called AIMEE COME HOME by popular supernatural author BARBARA MICHAELS. It stars the one and only BARBARA STANWYCK as Ruth Bennet, a lady whose hairdo looks just like a bowl of popcorn and so I made a bowl of popcorn. Ruth has inherited a creepy house which she moves into along with her niece Sarah (hooray, it’s KITTY WINN from THE EXORCIST!) Both ladies immediately land age appropriate boyfriends and then decide to have a séance. The séance is a success because the spirit world is indeed contacted but also a disaster because a couple of the participants are left possessed by ghosts. Sarah is possessed by some girl named Aimee and Ruth’s sexily named boyfriend Pat McDougal (RICHARD EGAN), is possessed by Aimee’s pissed off Dad. What is the secret of this house that won’t die? Like most secrets the answer lies beyond a false wall in the basement. I have no idea why people don’t check there first!
I have to say this movie with all its talk about Revolutionary War era ghosts got my hopes up that there might be an appearance by the FUNKY PHANTOM but alas he never showed. Instead, what we get is a painting that keeps falling into the fireplace and a front row seat to hapless Ruth being manhandled by her possessed boyfriend and strangled by her possessed niece. Additionally, an inordinate amount of time is spent in the town’s “Hall of Records.” Again people, forget the Hall of Records! The secret is always in the basement, what do you think basements are for? THE HOUSE THAT WOULD NOT DIE’s scares may be softer than bunny fur but it’s got a general spooky atmosphere that works nonetheless. (I know perfectly well that it would have scared the crap out of me as a kid.) Ruth’s nightmares of Sarah calling for help are particularly eerie.
The climax which involves EGAN’s possession momentarily upgrading to super bananas is short lived but convincing enough thanks to the fact that EGAN is kind of scary even when not being host to a contentious ghost. Gorehounds and folks under 70 may want to run in the opposite direction of this one but if you’re up for quiet granny scares this just might be the hooch for your hot toddy. Grab a shawl.
NOTE: Any shame I may have felt for enjoying this creaky chestnut has been erased by finding out it was directed by JOHN LLEWELLYN MOXEY, the same guy who made CITY OF THE DEAD a.k.a. HORROR HOTEL (1960) one of my favorite black and white horror films . If you’re looking for something to do today… watch HOUSE HERE and HOTEL HERE! Or you can come clean out my garage; I’ll pay ya a quarter!