The House on Skull Mountain (1975)

PG | 89 mins | Horror | 1975

Director:

Ron Honthaner

Writer:

Mildred Pares

Producer:

Ray Storey

Cinematographer:

Monroe Askins

Editor:

Gerard Wilson

Production Designer:

James Newport
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HISTORY

An 11 Jul 1973 Var article stated that producer Joe R. Hartfield got the idea for The House on Skull Mountain while touring Atlanta, GA, as a unit publicist for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) television program Gunsmoke (CBS, 10 Sep 1955--1 Sep 1975). He arranged funding from local African American business men, who formed Film Fund Corporation. Film Fund received “top priority payback” which, according to an article in the 24 Aug 1973 HR, included reimbursement from dollar one on gross film rentals as well as a first right of refusal on six of Chocolate Chips Productions’ upcoming films. The House on Skull Mountain was the first to be filmed.
       Hatfield recruited production personnel from the Gunsmoke television show to film The House on Skull Mountain, including director Ron Honthaner, assistant producer Ray Storey and director of photography Monroe Askins.
       Actress Xernona Clayton had a television talk show, The Xernona Clayton Show on WAGA-TV in Atlanta, when she was cast.
       Georgia State Senator Leroy Johnson, who played Mr. Ledoux, served as a Georgia State Senator from 1962 to 1975. He was the first African American man elected to that post since the end of the reconstruction period in 1877.
       A news brief in 18 Mar 1973 HR reported that principal photography was to begin on 30 May 1973, while the 11 Jul 1973 Var announced shooting was completed on 10 Jul 1973. As principal photography lasted only twelve days, the actual start date was probably later. Scenes ... More Less

An 11 Jul 1973 Var article stated that producer Joe R. Hartfield got the idea for The House on Skull Mountain while touring Atlanta, GA, as a unit publicist for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) television program Gunsmoke (CBS, 10 Sep 1955--1 Sep 1975). He arranged funding from local African American business men, who formed Film Fund Corporation. Film Fund received “top priority payback” which, according to an article in the 24 Aug 1973 HR, included reimbursement from dollar one on gross film rentals as well as a first right of refusal on six of Chocolate Chips Productions’ upcoming films. The House on Skull Mountain was the first to be filmed.
       Hatfield recruited production personnel from the Gunsmoke television show to film The House on Skull Mountain, including director Ron Honthaner, assistant producer Ray Storey and director of photography Monroe Askins.
       Actress Xernona Clayton had a television talk show, The Xernona Clayton Show on WAGA-TV in Atlanta, when she was cast.
       Georgia State Senator Leroy Johnson, who played Mr. Ledoux, served as a Georgia State Senator from 1962 to 1975. He was the first African American man elected to that post since the end of the reconstruction period in 1877.
       A news brief in 18 Mar 1973 HR reported that principal photography was to begin on 30 May 1973, while the 11 Jul 1973 Var announced shooting was completed on 10 Jul 1973. As principal photography lasted only twelve days, the actual start date was probably later. Scenes were shot in Atlanta, GA, in and around the Callanwolde Mansion, and the film was finished at CBS Studio Center in Studio City, CA.
       Various contemporary sources estimated the film’s budget between $250,000 and $400,000. According to the 11 Jul 1973 Var article, when the producers complained of overcharges by local craftsmen, the State Department of Industry and Trade stepped in to negotiate prices.
The producers were hoping to have the film ready for distribution in Sep 1973 with a premiere in Atlanta, GA.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
28 Oct 1974
p. 4731.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 1973
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 1973
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 1973
p. 1, 21.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 1974
p. 3.
Variety
11 Jul 1973.
---
Variety
16 Oct 1974
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Key grip
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
African art provided by
Atlanta
Curiosities created by
COSTUMES
Cost
Cost & clothing furnished by
Div. of American Sportsman Mfg. Corp
Shirts by
Women's ward des by
of International Fashions
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles, opticals & processing by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Casting
Prod in assoc with
Atlanta, Georgia
SOURCES
SONGS
"Love Has Gently Come This Morning," lyrics by John Welsh and Susan Welsh, music by Jaime Mendoza Nava, sung by Ella Woods
"My Hometown Is Just a Stranger Now," lyrics by Ruth Talmage, music by Art Freeman, Julian Music Co., sung by Debbi Lindsey.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1975
Production Date:
ended 10 July 1973 in Atlanta, GA
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
30 October 1974
Copyright Number:
LP44155
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Movielab
Prints
DeLuxe®
Duration(in mins):
89
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24075
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After receiving last rites, Pauline Christophe instructs her servant, Thomas Pettione, to give the priest four letters addressed to her great grandchildren, requesting they visit her. When Thomas and the priest depart, Pauline opens a box full of voodoo dolls. Days later, Lorena Christophe, Pauline’s great-granddaughter, drives up a winding road followed by Cadillac that beeps at her to go faster. When she refuses, the car bumps her, forcing her to lose control. Once Lorena stops her car, she sees a mansion sitting on top of a mountain shaped like a skull. Meanwhile, Phillippe Wilette, the other driver and Lorena’s cousin, races toward the mansion, but sees a flaming skull in his windshield and almost crashes. At the mansion, Lorena discovers Pauline’s burial in progress. Standing graveside, Lorena notices a crow holding a white feather looking down from a tree branch. After Lorena sprinkles earth on the coffin, the crow swoops down and drops the feather onto the casket. Only Louette, the maid, sees the feather bleed, then burst into flames and disappear. Later, Lorena meets Phillippe, who, despite their being cousins, attempts to flirts with her. Phillippe is indifferent to Pauline’s death, as he never knew she existed. Lorena admits that neither had she. In the kitchen, Louette tells Thomas about the feather, insisting it was a “wanga,” a voodoo curse, and someone is going to die. After Thomas assures her the dead have no power, Louette escorts the guests to their rooms. Phillippe wants to take the elevator, but it is broken. Meanwhile, another cousin, Harriet Johnson, is flying to Atlanta, Georgia, ... +


After receiving last rites, Pauline Christophe instructs her servant, Thomas Pettione, to give the priest four letters addressed to her great grandchildren, requesting they visit her. When Thomas and the priest depart, Pauline opens a box full of voodoo dolls. Days later, Lorena Christophe, Pauline’s great-granddaughter, drives up a winding road followed by Cadillac that beeps at her to go faster. When she refuses, the car bumps her, forcing her to lose control. Once Lorena stops her car, she sees a mansion sitting on top of a mountain shaped like a skull. Meanwhile, Phillippe Wilette, the other driver and Lorena’s cousin, races toward the mansion, but sees a flaming skull in his windshield and almost crashes. At the mansion, Lorena discovers Pauline’s burial in progress. Standing graveside, Lorena notices a crow holding a white feather looking down from a tree branch. After Lorena sprinkles earth on the coffin, the crow swoops down and drops the feather onto the casket. Only Louette, the maid, sees the feather bleed, then burst into flames and disappear. Later, Lorena meets Phillippe, who, despite their being cousins, attempts to flirts with her. Phillippe is indifferent to Pauline’s death, as he never knew she existed. Lorena admits that neither had she. In the kitchen, Louette tells Thomas about the feather, insisting it was a “wanga,” a voodoo curse, and someone is going to die. After Thomas assures her the dead have no power, Louette escorts the guests to their rooms. Phillippe wants to take the elevator, but it is broken. Meanwhile, another cousin, Harriet Johnson, is flying to Atlanta, Georgia, when she sees a hooded figure with no face sitting before her. When she screams, the figure vanishes. Later, Phillippe walks downstairs and sees the elevator door seemingly open by itself. Thomas appears, closes the door and escorts Phillippe to the sitting room, where he sexually propositions Louette. Before she can reply, Harriet arrives. That night, the three cousins listen to Pauline’s attorney, Mr. Ledoux, explain that he cannot yet read the will as Dr. Andrew Cunningham, another cousin, is missing. However, he reads a letter Pauline left informing the cousins they are descendants of Henri Christophe, the black slave who overthrew the French and liberated Haiti. The letter reads that enemies of the Christophe family are not defeated, only dormant. After Ledoux leaves, Thomas explains that Henri Christophe defeated the French with the help of a voodoo spirit. Phillippe’s scoffing is halted with the entrance of Andrew, who is white. Over dinner, Andrew, a professor of anthropology, relates that he was left at an orphanage as a newborn, completely ignorant of his heritage. He claims to be as surprised as anyone that he is a Christophe. When the lights go out, they all go to their rooms except Phillippe. As Lorena prepares to retire, she sees the hooded figure and runs screaming into the hall, colliding with a drunken Phillippe, who tries to forces himself on her. Andrew appears and everyone goes to bed. In the basement, Thomas performs a voodoo ritual which causes Phillippe to see a vision of a lingerie-clad Lorena beckoning him. Phillippe follows the vision into the elevator shaft and plunges to his death. Awakened by Phillippe’s scream, Andrew finds his dead body with a wanga lying beside it. The sheriff arrives, suspects foul play, and orders everyone to remain at the mansion until he can arrange an inquest. The next day, Harriet goes upstairs to find Pauline’s door open. Inside is a voodoo alter and a chair rocking on its own. When Harriet examines the chair, a snake leaps out and bites her. Andrew and Lorena find Harriet unconscious with another wanga beside her. As they drive Harriet to the hospital, Thomas performs another ritual, which causes Harriet to sit up in the car, see the hooded figure and die. A doctor rules Harriet’s death was caused by a heart attack, but Andrew shows Lorena the wanga, and convinces her that a voodoo curse killed Harriet. Lorena wants to leave, but Andrew insists he must stay and find out who he really is. That night, as Andrew sleeps in a nearby chair, Lorena wanders off in a trance. Andrew awakens, finds Louette, and begs her to lead him to Lorena. Louette shows him a secret tunnel at the bottom of the elevator shaft, then disappears. Andrew follows the passage to an underground cavern, where he finds Thomas leading frenzied worshippers in a dance around Louette, who is tied to a post. With the drum’s tempo increasing, Thomas stabs Loutte, then summons an entranced Lorena to dance with him. Andrew grabs a machete and confronts Thomas as the worshippers run away in a panic. A machete magically appears in Thomas’s hand and he attacks Andrew. Andrew deflects the blows with a skull mounted on a staff and when Thomas hits it, everything vanishes but Andrew and the dead Louette. Upstairs, Andrew discovers Lorena unconscious in her bed. Thomas appears and declares that the Christophes have suppressed his family’s potential for centuries, but when he mates with Lorena, he will be all-powerful. Thomas awakens Lorena to witness his great triumph, then summons Pauline’s corpse to rise from the grave. A dirt encrusted Pauline enters the room and Thomas commands her to kill Andrew; however, Andrew calls to the Voodoo goddess Ursula for protection and Pauline throws Thomas out the window to die on the pavement below. Pauline then returns to her grave. The next day, Andrew tells Lorena he is staying to unravel the house’s mysteries and although she is leaving, half the house will always be hers. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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