The House That Would Not Die (1970) Blu-ray Review: A Clear Case of Repossession

Barbara Stanwyck's lackluster TV-movie debut is pulled out of the vault by Kino Lorber.
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Originally broadcast as an ABC Movie of the Week just four days before Halloween in 1970, The House That Would Not Die was one of umpteen-gazillion TV movies produced by the one and only Aaron Spelling. In this strange little blast from the past, former screen goddess Barbara Stanwyck ‒ one of many Hollywood stars who found much-needed work during the TV-movie heyday (in fact, she makes her debut in one here) ‒ stars as a silver-haired woman who has inherited a Revolutionary War-era home in Pennsylvania's Amish country. Yeah, it sounds positively terrifying already, I know.

Moving into the house with her quirky young niece (Kitty Wynn), the ladies soon get to know all of the locals, ranging from traditionalist college professor/aging ladies' man next door (Richard Egan) and his modern student counterpart (Michael Anderson, Jr.), to a deadly supernatural force lurking within the walls of the home. As it turns out, the latter possesses (ha-ha) the ability to take over one of the living, making it easy for seemingly benign or compassionate characters to switch to more malicious settings at any moment. There's even the required medium (Doreen Lang, The Wrong Man) on-hand, solely to establish, explain, and advance the (always unseen) horror.

Based on Ammie Come Home by the late Barbara Michaels, The House That Would Not Die isn't the sort of horror movie which will warrant repeated viewings from the average cinenthusiast. Heck, even I personally found it to be rather boring by early '70s TV movie standards. But don't let that dissuade you; as there are several effective moments to be found in this 74-minute curio item (which, with commercials added, would fill a 90-minute time slot nicely), thanks mainly to the combination of director John Llewellyn Moxey (The City of the Dead) and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? writer Henry Farrell (Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte).

The rest of it, on the other hand, may require a little more patience and understanding than most contemporary viewers are accustomed to (read: your grandparents may enjoy it). Granted, that should be expected for a low-budget commercial television film made long before TV censors became as relaxed as they are now. You would undoubtedly see lots of blood and at least one fleeting glimpse of a scantily-clad maiden were The House That Would Not Die to be manufactured for television today, but it is nevertheless always interesting to see how previous generations of filmmakers tackled the subject matter with what they had (and what they could do).

Arriving on home video for the first time ever, The House That Would Not Die hits Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The feature has been scanned in 2k for this release, and is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Overall, the image quality is about as perfect as you'd expect an old TV-movie to look in HD, and the DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack is just as nice. English (SDH) subtitles are included, as are a small handful of (unexpected) bonus materials: an audio commentary with historian Richard Harland Smith; an interview with director John Llewellyn Moxey; and trailers for other Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases.

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