The House That Would Not Die – USA, 1970

The House That Would Not Die – aka The House That Wouldn’t Die – is a 1970 American made-for-television horror feature film directed by John Llewellyn Moxey (I, Desire; Home for the HolidaysThe City of the Dead) from a screenplay by Henry Farrell (How Awful About Allan; Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte; author of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? novel), based on the 1968 novel Ammie, Come Home by Barbara Michaels.

The Aaron Spelling produced movie stars Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Egan, Michael Anderson Jr., and Kitty Winn.

Plot:

Ruth Bennett (Barbara Stanwyck) has inherited an old house in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Amish country, which she moves into with her niece, Sara Dunning (Kitty Winn). The house was built before the Revolutionary War and is said to be haunted by the spirits of its original inhabitants.

With the help of Pat McDougal (Richard Egan), a local professor, and one of his students, Stan Whitman (Michael Anderson Jr.), they delve into the history of the house and find a scandal that involves a Revolutionary War general, who was suspected of being a traitor, and his daughter, who had disappeared after eloping with her boyfriend, a young British soldier. The spirits of the general and his daughter take possession of Pat’s and Sara’s bodies and a dark secret is revealed…

The House That Would Not Die will be released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber – the first time on either format – on January 8, 2019. Special features:

  • Audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith
  • Interview with director John Llewellyn Moxey

Review:

The House That Would Not Die is another tale of haunted early American colonials, but this time cloaked in the black velvet of séances, possession, hidden rooms, and constant wind. Television horror maestro, John Llewellyn Moxey (who, back in 1960, had helmed the impressive New England witchcraft shocker The City of the Dead), directs with his typically expert skill from Henry Farrell’s script.

The film, having moved the action from the novel’s location of Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighbourhood to Amish country, is a perfect example of the modern rural gothic, or – as outlined in Grady Hendrix’s book Paperbacks from Hell – women in nightgowns running from gloomy mansions.

While the denouement might seem a bit soft for modern viewers, it does fit nicely with the occult gothic, old-fashioned ghost story vibe, making this a solid and worthy TV production.

Ben Spurling, HORRORPEDIA

Other reviews:

“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 who adapted the book, may have had to tone things down a lot for the tube…” The Bloody Pit of Horror

“The script is one cliche after another, the acting is uninspired (Richard Egan probably comes off best), the use of music and sound is standard-issue, and the movie just wanders from scene to scene without building up much in the way of suspense.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“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.” Kindertrauma

“John Llewellyn Moxey directs with occasional effect – there are some odd moments during the seance and the investigation of the cellar that raise some atmosphere. Mostly the film has an easy predictability where all atmosphere comes at timed intervals and builds to contrived cliffhangers in time for the commercial break.” Moria

“It makes up for the lack of horror present, but there are a couple of times that it does present a slight chill down the spine […] What this movie offers is a little bit of mystery, some fine performances by a very talented cast and a lazy way to spend an afternoon.” The Telltale Mind

” …TV horror is nicely brought to life by grande dame Stanwyck and vet actor Egan; well made by genre director John Llewellyn Moxey (he helmed 1972’s excellent tele slasher Home for the Holidays among others). This one’s chock a block full of enjoyable atmosphere and with a good revelation ending. House is well worth seeking out.” The Terror Trap

Cast and characters:

  • Barbara Stanwyck … Ruth Bennett
  • Richard Egan … Pat McDougal
  • Michael Anderson Jr. … Stan Whitman
  • Kitty Winn … Sara Dunning (as Katherine Winn)
  • Doreen Lang … Sylvia Wall
  • Mabel Albertson … Mrs. McDougal

Technical credits:

74 minutes | 1.33: 1

Image credits: The Telltale Mind

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