Dying millionaire Rudolph Deutsch (Roland Culver) offers £100,000 to physicist and parapsychology expert Dr Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill) if he can discover the secret of the afterlife in The Belasco House – also known as “Hell House” – a house with a history of violent hauntings.
Barrett is joined in “Hell House” by his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), medium Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin), who is eager to make contact with any spirits in the mansion, and psychic medium Benjamin Fischer (Roddy McDowall), who was the only survivor of a previous investigation into the house twenty years before.
The group are greeted upon arrival by a creepy gramophone recording of the notorious previous owner of the house – the sadistic Emeric Belasco who vanished into thin air many years ago after infecting the house with evil through his unusual lifestyle choices including drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, bestiality, murder, vampirism, necrophilia and cannibalism.
It appears, after a seance, that the spirit of Daniel Belasco, son of Emeric, roams the house and the younger Belasco soon begins to make life difficult for the temporary new occupants of “Hell House”, attempting to bump off Dr Barrett by various means and making all manner of strange things happen to Miss Tanner.
The ghostly presence also turns Ann into a rampant nymphomaniac who disrobes at the drop of a hat and keeps trying to seduce Ben Fischer.
The film becomes silly when Barrett unveils a “reverser” machine which he believes will drain the house of its psychic energy and send the spirit of Belasco’s dead son, Daniel, away.
Although director John Hough makes atmospheric use of the suitably eerie sets, he is too content to send shivers rather than shocks, and thus dilutes the efforts of a cast that has valiantly entered into the spirit of the thing.
The ending is really rather flawed – although not entirely devoid of fun.
Dr Lionel Barrett