The House That Would Not Die
It's been awhile since I wrote about a Barbara Stanwyck movie. I was looking at some old posts and I saw a comment from my old video store pal Steve, who suggested a TV movie Stany made in the 70s called The House That Would Not Die. It's also a chance to write about a horror film again.
On top of all that, this may be the first made-for-TV movie I've talked about here (and wouldn't you know it, I just missed a TV movie blogathon). I certainly remember their heyday. I was more drawn to the big, epic mini-series than to the movies of the week. Even as a kid, I think I was aware they were generally inferior to a theatrical movie, so I don't recall watching them much.
House would never be mistaken for a big-budget picture. It sticks to the titular house for the most part. Special effects are limited to superimposed images and lots of wind and fog and shadows. More money was probably spent on Stany's wardrobe. The cinematography is very basic and unflashy, looking not unlike a TV show from the time.
This was Stany's first movie of any kind post-Big Valley. I have to say, she still looked good in her twilight years (she would have been 63 when she made this movie). She never lost her trim figure. Despite the wrinkles and silver hair, she was still recognizable as the star of so many great films from her youth, in the 30s and 40s. If she had any plastic surgery, I couldn't tell. Her clothing in this movie is fabulous and tasteful, worthy of a Hollywood legend.
The story, based on a book, taps into the fascination with spiritualism and the supernatural that was going around at the time for whatever reason. There are not one, but two séances. There's the debate over whether spirits are real or not, trying to use science to explain them away as products of the imagination when in fact, they're real enough for the purposes of this story. The teleplay is a little stiff and awkward, but there is an attempt to provide atmosphere, at least. It's watchable.
The Big Valley