Tuesday, November 3, 2009

House That Would Not Die, The (1970) (TV)

Directed by:
John Llewellyn Moxey

Competent, but very forgettable, made-for-TV haunted house/ possession tale, based on Barabra Michaels' novel Ammie, Come Home. Ruth Bennett (Barbara Stanwyck) and her beloved niece Sara (Kitty Winn) move into a very old country home that belonged to a distant, reclusive relative that Ruth hardly knew. Things look up for both ladies as they quickly find potential romance; Ruth with next-door neighbor Pat McDougal (Richard Egan), a college professor, and Sara with Stan Whitman (Michael Anderson, Jr.), a college student. Pat's sister (Mabel Albertson) gets permission to bring psychic Madame Sylvia (Doreen Lang) over to the home for a seance and soon after several of the characters start behaving strangely. Sara freaks out during the seance and tries to strangle her aunt later that night, but can remember nothing by the next morning. Pat becomes violent and sexually aggressive. A painting falls into the fireplace, sudden gusts of wind open and close doors and a male voice can be heard calling out from the garden...

Ruth and company begin researching the history of the home and eventually uncover a few dark secrets hidden in the family closet. Around two-hundred years earlier during the Revolutionary War, a general and his daughter lived there. The general, a traitor siding with the British during the war, was threatened to be exposed by the girl's soldier boyfriend after the general forbids the two to marry. So what horrible things happened to the three of them? Whatever it is, it's likely located right behind a boarded-up door in the cellar. Sara is periodically possessed by the girl and wants to expose the secret, while Pat is sometimes possessed by the general, who tries to make sure no one finds out what really happened.

The cast is fairly decent, but the storyline is incredibly predictable and the chills just aren't there for the most part, though nostalgic viewers who saw this one as kids seem to look at it through rose colored lenses. One senses Henry Farrell (WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?), who adapted the book, may have had to tone things down a lot for the tube, as there's some hinting toward childhood sexual abuse here. Stanwyck, who also appeared in William Castle's THE NIGHT WALKER (1964) and the TV-movie A TASTE OF EVIL (1971), injects some class into the proceedings for what's it worth. Winn (billed as Katherine Winn) would go on to win the Best Actress prize at Cannes for PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK (1971), play Ellen Burstyn's personal assistant in THE EXORCIST (1973), appear in the 1977 flop follow-up, EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC and then basically threw in the towel on her acting career to raise a family.

Released to VHS by both Worldvision and Guild Home Video, but there's no official DVD release. Aaron Spelling was the producer and it was an ABC "Movie of the Week."


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