The spirits of the dead cannot rest in the made for TV movie The House That Would Not Die (1970) in which Barbara Stanwyck stars as Ruth Bennett who has just inherited a house from a recently passed aunt. Ruth moves into the house with her niece Sarah (Kitty Winn). During a house warming party a séance goes wrong and Sarah is suddenly possessed by a mysterious woman with a connection to the house. As Ruth tries to understand what is going on, Sarah’s mental health declines and a revelation to the house’s original owner is revealed when she comes across a hidden Bible within the house’s walls. With the help of her neighbor Pat (Richard Egan) and Sarah’s boyfriend, Ruth must discover the truth of the possession before she loses Sarah to an unspeakable evil.
Based on the novel by Barbara Michaels, the screenplay by Henry Farrell does a good job of presenting the material. Although dated by today’s standards, as a ‘70s film it played to the sensibilities of the time as it explored the séance as a “party favor” and touched upon its ramifications and fears of the time. There is a very logical explanation to the possession (unlike many such films of today) and it’s even laid out as a mystery to be solved.
Although John Llewellyn Mosey’s direction is flat it works for the film as it doesn’t allow for style to get in the way which many theatrical possession films of today do. For a TV movie you can do worse than this and although it won’t leave a lasting impression it is a film that shows the ‘70s possession film for what it was.