Thursday, May 29, 2014

Terror In The Haunted House – Filmed In Mind Altering 'Psycho-Rama'

By Steve D. Stones

This 1958 curio employed the gimmick of a process called “Psycho-Rama” to lure patrons into the theatre. This gimmick may have been influenced by the many gimmicks director William Castle employed his 50s and 60s films, such as “Percepto” and “Illusion-O.” 

The process involves subliminal images and messages flashed on the screen for less than a second at key points in the film. Images of skulls, snakes, ghosts and creepy heads were flashed on the screen. The process was later banned.  Rhino Video, who distributed the film on VHS in the 80s and 90s, inserted their own subliminal message in the film – Buy Rhino Movies!

Sheila Justin, played by Cathy O’Donnell, is a newly-wed who lives in Switzerland with her husband, a man approximately twenty years her senior. She visits a psychiatrist regularly to discuss the fears she has of an old house and ghosts that haunt her in her dreams. Her husband Phillip, played by Gerald Mohr, takes her to the United States to live in a big house in Florida. When the two arrive in Florida, Shelia has a mental breakdown, fearing the house is the one from her dreams. 

Sheila’s biggest fear is the thought of having to go upstairs in the attic to confront ghosts that haunt her, as they do in her recurring dreams. Whenever she confronts her fears, the “Psycho-Rama” process of the film kicks in as quick images flash across the screen.

The couple attempt to leave the house, but discover that their car is missing an engine distributor. Sheila later finds the distributor cap in Phillip’s suitcase.

The owner of the home, Mark Snell, arrives to find out why the couple came to the house. Snell informs Sheila that Phillip is the last of the “mad Tierneys,” a family that lived in the home for many generations.  Sheila also discovers that she had been to the house before as a child, and that Phillip had carved their initials in a tree in the front yard because they were in love with each other. Snell insists that Sheila leave the house.

Snell turns out to be a cousin of Phillip. The two have an argument in the attic, and Snell is accidentally killed. Sheila and Phillip leave the house for good. Sheila has confronted the source of her nightmares for good after having gone to the attic.

Terror In The Haunted House was produced by Howco International, the same studio that brought movie goers other great 50s cult classics, such as Attack of The 50 Foot Woman and The Brain From Planet Arous. O’Donnell’s acting is a bit overly dramatic in places, but the film is fun entertainment. Happy viewing!

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