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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Comedy > The House on Haunted Hill (Acme/VCI vs. Key/20th Century Fox DVDs)

The House on Haunted Hill (Acme/VCI vs. Key/20th Century Fox DVDs)


Acme/VCI DVD Edition:

Picture: C-†††† Sound: C†††† Extras: C-†††† Film: B-


Key/20th Century Fox DVD Edition:

Picture: B+†††† Sound: B†††† Extras: B†††† Film: B-



In this article I will be comparing two of the more recent DVD editions of the original William Castle production House on Haunted Hill, starring Vincent Price.The film itself hasnít aged altogether that gracefully, but it is and always will be a genre classic.Despite a lot of plot holes and nonsensical ideas, it can still entertain and hold attention for the right audience; and if some theater happened to be showing it as a midnight feature with all the gimmicks included, the movie would be an out-and-out riot.However, until the day where I see it presented in that fashion, I can still merely assume.For now though, onward to the reviews.


The first of the two editions being compared will be the Vincent Price Double Feature, released by Acme DVD Works - a division of VCI.In addition to House on Haunted Hill, this edition also packs in The Last Man on Earth - an early adaptation of the Richard Matheson short novel, and one of Priceís best films.(As a short note... the MGM Midnite Movies line recently released this film as a double feature along with Panic in Year Zero.If you get the chance, be sure to pick that one up for your collection as well, since both copies are good.)The picture quality on this version of House on Haunted Hill is very murky, very aged and lacks a lot of detail.Itís obvious that no effort was given to restore the quality before releasing the disc, but thatís not a huge issue, considering that this is a budget disc after all.On the plus side, the version shown here does present the film in itís original widescreen version, unlike the other disc reviewed here, which actually claims that the film was originally made as a full-frame presentation.


The sound quality of the Acme DVD is likewise lackluster and is complete with the pops and scratches that result from the use of a worn print.The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, so no attempt to spiff up the audio was made, but can you blame them?


As for extras, thereís a William Castle promo reel, which is a nice touch, even though it could have been presented differently to better effect.The only real problem with it as it stands is that the last trailer gets cut off at the end.It seems that this was an error that occurred during the DVD mastering, as you can still manually scan past the spot where the glitch presents itself in order to access the last few seconds or so of the footage.


The second disc being covered was released by Key DVD, who have put together a very cool little package here; and the benefits very much outweigh any negatives as far as this MST3K fan can see.To start with, the picture quality is much better overall than that seen on the Acme disc, even though Key did get the aspect ratio wrong.It is a much more enjoyable experience, with no digital jaggers or worn film grain.


On top of the improved quality in picture, the colorized version looks pretty cool and shows how much the process has advanced over the last few years.Do I prefer the color version to the original black and white?The answer is a resounding no.But as an added bonus, I find it a pretty captivating novelty.If only Fox (who operates Key DVD) could get around to colorizing Return of the Fly and itís oft forgotten sequel, Curse of the Fly - thatís a definite no-brainer double feature right there, especially since the original Fly was presented in color while the two sequels were not.It would be a great way to finally give the second sequel an official home video release for the first time, provided that Fox does in fact hold the rights to it.


The sound on this edition is also an improvement, and even though it is 1.0 mono, it feels fuller and much, much cleaner than that of the Acme DVD release.Extra features are where this disc shines - on top of the optional colorization, you also have Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame giving a full-length commentary in the fashion of that show.Another commentary track of the fact-based variety would have been a great addition, but alas, youíll have to look elsewhere for that.As it is, this isnít some of his best comedy, but it stands as decent filler for those who lament the loss of the once-great TV program.


Even if the Key DVD edition isnít the absolute best out there (that honor likely belongs to the older cardboard snapper-cased edition released by Warner Brothers) it does have enough going for it to make it worth purchasing.If only it presented the film in the original widescreen format, I would have no trouble recommending it above all other editions out there.As it stands, it is definitely worth owning in addition to the Warner release for its unique features, and if you donít let the cropping of the frame get to you, it could very well be the only edition you need.The deciding factor just comes down to exactly what it is you look for in your movie-watching experience, and if you find silly frills a positive or a detractor.



-†† David Milchick


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