Vincent Price Double Feature
U.S.A., 1958 / Italy, 1964
Directors:
William Castle /
Sidney Salkow
Starring
Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart
Elisha Cook Jr., Giacomo Rossi-Stuart
Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli
B&W / Not Rated

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL: 75 Min.
LAST MAN ON EARTH: 86 Min.
Format: DVD
Double Feature Disc / R0 - NTSC
Diamond Entertainment
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Haunted Hill
 
  6
Last Man
 
  5  
  5    
Guest Review by Lucas Micromatis
Another double feature DVD from the budget-minded folks at Diamond.
    One of schlockmeister extraordinaire William Castle's best gimmick flicks (the famed "Emergo," in which a plastic skeleton seemed to emerge from the screen and float above the audience), House on Haunted Hill stars Vincent Price as an eccentric millionaire who invites five strangers to a secluded mansion for a haunted house party, and a chance for $10,000 each if they survive the night. Elisha Cook Jr. babbles on (as only Cook can) about ghosts and spooks, much to the disbelief of his fellow partygoers. Naturally, all manner of strange occurrences are visited upon the hapless group: severed heads appearing in the darndest places, blood dripping from the ceiling, spectral visions, floating skeletons, etc. While there are considerable lapses in credulity and plot holes large enough to drive a stake through, the film succeeds on its own terms as a fun slice of spooky nonsense, with some genuine shocks thrown into the mix which still pack a jolt (especially the old hag in the basement). Price lords over the film with tongue firmly planted in cheek; he's at his best when trading poisoned barbs with his sultry wife, played by Carol Ohmart ("Remember the fun we had when you poisoned me?")
    House on Haunted Hill has been released on DVD twice before: once by Warner Bros. in a no-frills edition (though it does feature the fun trailer), and again as a pricey Roan double-feature paired with the utterly forgettable The Bat. Diamond's print is comparable in image quality, crisp with few blemishes, and widescreen to boot.
    The raison d'être for this disc, however, is the inclusion of one of Price's more elusive offerings, the low-budget, Italian-lensed The Last Man on Earth. Based on Richard Matheson's classic horror/sci-fi hybrid I am Legend (which was later remade as the loopy Charlton Heston vehicle The Omega Man), the film stars Price as Robert Morgan, sole untainted survivor of a devastating plague which turned its victims into vampires. Vampire-slayer by day, Morgan barricades himself in his house each night as the ghouls feverishly try to break in, led by his former best friend. Although burdened by a low budget and futile attempts to disguise the streets of Italy as Los Angeles, Last Man still works thanks to loads of atmosphere and some well-done, bleak imagery. Price looks thoroughly world-weary as he treks through the barren streets littered with corpses; one great sequence positions him alone on a huge, Potemkin-esque stairway, looking about frantically for any sign of life. In one of his few heroic roles, Price convincingly carries the film (if he sounds oddly dubbed, it's because he was. The original soundtrack was lost, and Price was called in to re-record all his dialogue).
    Unfortunately, Last Man does not fare as well in its presentation as Haunted Hill. Shown fullframe (the opening American-International title reads "erican Internatio"), the print is often scratchy and blemished, though the back blurb claims it boasts "fully restored and enhanced digital masters". Still, it is an improvement over the various bootlegs floating around.

Diamond's disc is lacking in extras, outside of brief bios of Price and William Castle, and each film boasts a paltry two chapter stops. Nevertheless, the budget disc is worth the five dollar price tag for Last Man alone. It's also packaged nicely; the cover art is a nice merging of the main graphics of the two films' movie posters.
    Overall a fun release from Diamond, whose other releases include such double features as Carnival of Souls/Horror Hotel and Giant Gila Monster/Killer Shrews, and solo films like Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride (the uncut Satanic Rites of Dracula, with the American release title tacked on) and the psychedelic They Came from Beyond Space
. 7/21/01
UPDATE In September 2005 MGM released the best version of Last Man on Earth ever on home video, pairing it on a double feature DVD with the apocalyptic Panic In Year Zero! (1962). You can read the EC review of this disc HERE.
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