I was 12 when I first saw 'The haunting', back in 1983. I was not allowed to watch the television after 8:30pm (movies used to start at 8:30pm in the early 80's in France, and were without any commercial interruption) because I had to finish my homework and go to bed early for school. But this time ... this time I had been exceptionally allowed to watch this movie ... There was a special personal reason, and I now remember what it was. Something that had happened a couple of weeks before. I also remember that it was probably wintertime because it was already really dark outside when it started. The story was so captivating ... I clearly remember I was chilled to the bone, all panting and tensed during the entire movie. The small boy that I was was scared and yet fascinated by the story, by the gothic house, by the silence and the noises, by poor Eleanor. It does not take long to realize that something terrible is going to happen; that something has got to give. A growing tension ... It was so good ... so new ... such an experience! That's how it all began ...
And then there was this special event ... July 27, 1999. I was a 28-year-old young man then. There was a film festival, in Lille (France), with various dark movies, including 'The haunting'. My very first chance to see the movie in a real cinema, on a really wide screen. I still have the program booklet of the festival and my ticket for the show. No, I didn't drive to go there ... It was strangely scheduled at 11:30am, on a Tuesday, so we could really count the people in the audience. I remember I took a day off at work. Nothing could have stopped me from going there. It was so good! I was ecstatic, blissful on cloud number nine. Since I'm more than familiar with the movie, I could enjoy every single scene on this wide screen. The image was so rich in details! I noticed so many new things thanks to the high definition of the image. And I was amazed to discover all the parts on the extreme left and right sides of the image; the parts that always get cropped on the television. Even the best 'wide screen' VHS or Laserdiscs (at that time) did not render the original image in its full width. And the sound! The soundtrack was outstandingly dynamic and powerful ... I wish I can watch it again soon in these conditions.
Did I mention that I'm a French male, born in 1971? As of writing this part, I am still 32 years old, like Eleanor in the movie ... (but not for a long time!) For some complex and really personal reasons I now begin to understand, this movie remains very special to me.
The very first time you see 'The haunting', you might believe that you're watching a 'haunted house' movie. A very good one indeed, but a classic 'haunted house' movie. However, there is much more than that in this movie. More than meets the eye. What if I tell you that, to me, 'the haunting' is essentially the story of Eleanor, who is not allowed to be happy ... A kind of tragic, desperate, fatal fate. Heroine and victim at the same time. From the very first minute you see Eleanor on the screen, you feel sympathy and compassion for her. On her first scene, she struggles to get the permission to borrow a small car - that is nevertheless half hers - to take her first chance for a vacation in her whole life. She's not asking much, but she's not getting it. Poor Eleanor. As the movie continues, you understand how unhappy she's been and still is. She's done nothing wrong, but she's punished. She's all alone and running away, on her own personal quest for a moment of happiness. She thought she was heading for something pleasant - at last - to happen to her. Love, for instance. But it couldn't be that way. She just wasn't allowed to be happy.
I think Theodora sums up perfectly the personality of Eleanor at the end of the movie. She proves that she had understood perfectly who Eleanor was and what she was really looking for.
To me, she is obviously the main character of the movie, equally with 'Hill House', of course. She is 32-year-old, charming, a bit simple but mainly because she didn't see the world yet. She was a bird in a cage. She didn't experience many things on her 'desert island' and so she is very naïve, emotionally fragile and a bit clumsy in her relationships. You see the whole movie through her point of view; you're on her side. Eleanor is a complex character. Here are some highlights:
Desperate. She is rather unlucky and you immediately feel sympathy (not pity) for her. Up to now, she had a sad and dull existence, made of unpleasant work for which she's never been thanked or appreciated. She can't remember being happy in her adult life. Her life is a continuous world-weariness and an endless despair. Eleanor is stifled, tormented by her past, haunted by unhappy memories and suffers from extreme mental distress.
Sane or insane? Some fans draw the conclusion that Eleanor's insane. I personally don't think so. She suffers. She suffers a lot to a point that is almost unbearable. She does irrational things, it's obvious. But should we blame her for that? During the movie, we follow Eleanor's mental and emotional progress, getting worse and worse. Is she loosing grip on reality? Is she drifting slowly into madness? Is she descending into dementia? Is her head the monsters' world? Eleanor herself wonders Maybe I am insane...
Appropriate for the 'experiment'. John Markway contacted Eleanor because, when she was a child, she had a Poltergeist experience: showers of stones fell on her house for several days. She is very reluctant to talk about it and almost denies it ever happened (many believe that Poltergeists are the manifestations of unbalanced teen-aged minds). And it does not take long before Hill House really makes Eleanor the center of all attention. The house has found a kindred spirit in Eleanor and consumes her; she is disappearing inch by inch into the house.
Running away. Driven to despair, Eleanor is ready to go anywhere ... Away from this unhappiness; away from her existence that was already much like death. This time she's decided to do something and to escape. She accepts the invitation of John Markway - without investigating and not really paying attention to the reason why she is invited and what will be asked her - , 'steals' the car and goes to Hill House, without telling a word to her sister who disapproves but seems to be her only family. This is the very first act of rebellion in her whole life. She ends up in Hill House, and her initial reaction is to flee again. But she does not. She stays and breaks the spell, the strange enchantment of Hill House and the house becomes her lover...
Waiting for something to happen. She's been waiting and hoping for something to happen. Something, at last, really, happening to her. Something truly extraordinary, like Hill House. That's why she got so exited when she got the invitation-letter from John Markway to spend part - or all - summer in a country House for some... experiments. Once in Hill House, she is scared and yet morbidly fascinated by what could be her dream come true.
Feeling guilty. She spent all her adult life taking care of her invalid mother, until the mother died. She had no social life, because she had to be constantly at home. She has mixed feelings about the death of her mother. She feels relieved because she is free, at last, after eleven years 'on a desert island', as she says in a scene. But she also feels guilty because we know that the mother died because, one night, although the mother was banging on the wall, Eleanor didn't wake up to bring the medicines. She's been wondering ever since ... Did she wake up and go back to sleep immediately? It would have been easy. Didn't she really hear anything? The death of the mother has a really high importance in the story. Along the movie, Eleanor keeps on saying Mother says ... or keeps on referring to her as She. Now that her mother died, Eleanor hates her sister, Carrie, who blames Eleanor for the death.
Feeling she wasted a lot of time. She was confined, held captive in a small world. She thinks she wasted a lot of time that she wants to catch up with right now. Her trip to Hill House is like escaping from jail. She feels she's running away from this hideous past and she plans never to come back, well decided to start to enjoy this life.
Afraid of being left alone. She's very afraid of being rejected by other people. She keeps on saying You wouldn't leave me by, would you? or ... unless of course you want to get rid of me ... or I have a place in this room. These people are my friends. I belong.
Looking for love. Eleanor has no boyfriend or girlfriend. She has no friend at all in fact. From the book, we know that her father died when she was young. She is all alone, on her own, with no one to watch over her. All that she wants is to find love; she desperately needs to be loved. She keeps on looking for understanding, love, companionship and friendship. She repeats, Journeys end in lovers meeting. She fancies John Markway but she doesn't know or she is too naïve to realize that John is married. The days and nights are really tiring and frightening in Hill House but she takes it all for his sake. To find out that John is married will become another major disappointment in her life.
Dreaming. On her way to Hill House, Eleanor starts to dream about how her life could be. A daydream. A house, a pair of stone lions and she starts building up scenarios about how her life could be. Once in Hill House, she makes things up and does not tell exactly the truth about her life. She's really aware of how dull her life is. She wants to change it all for something better and thinks Hill House is the beginning of a new life for her. She says They would never have suspected at me ... I would never have suspected it at myself ... I'm a new person.
Owning nothing. We guess from the very beginning that she has almost no money. She owns half of a little car, with her sister Carrie. She's homeless, lives at her sister's house where she sleeps on the coach in the living room (and pays a rent for that!). All that she owns can be packed in a single suitcase and a cardboard box. She has no job, no friend, no-one to love, no money, nothing.
Have you noticed that, in this movie, the female characters are vastly more complex and more interesting than the male characters?
Theodora is quite an example. She's gorgeous, icy, sophisticated, independent, dressed in black haute couture and very clever. Theo is clairvoyant and has a gift of ESP; but she feels very comfortable about it. Theo would probably like to be the center of attention. Although she displays a very self-confident attitude, Theo is probably not as strong as we might initially think she is. When the house gets wild, Eleanor is much stronger than Theo ... But I think Theo wouldn't change a thing in Theo.
We don't know much more about her, really. 'Theodora' or 'Theo' is the only name she has. Just Theodora as she says. But don't conclude that Theodora is hiding anything. Theodora is lesbian but this part of her personality is - subtly - expressed in the film although more freely expressed in the original book. When you guess, when you add all the details, you understand she's obviously lesbian.
Theo initiates the underlying sexual desire. Some examples:
Theo is a very good person and sincerely wishes Eleanor well. It's absolutely obvious when Eleanor is about to leave the house.
This film is so subtle, intelligent, moving, fascinating, captivating, addictive and disturbing ... that nothing should spoil your experience.
You're absolutely free but just consider this as a friendly advice. Choose a rainy or windy dark evening. Don't spoil it and make sure that everything is perfect before starting. Don't let anything or anyone disturb you: answering machine 'on', mobile phone 'off', computer 'off', door locked. Don't watch it alone. Don't watch it in a crowded room either, your friend or a friend or two will be fine. You will probably be happy to have someone to talk to when it's over (to share your experience). If you are the kind who nibbles, take immediately the food and drink you need (and go to the bathroom before you start). Don't watch it until it's really dark outside. Don't watch it in a luminous room, that would ruin the experience. Dim the lights. An atmospheric lighting will be fine. The soundtrack, together with the black and white images, has the highest importance in this film. So make sure that the room is really quiet and turn the volume up. Feel cosy and get ready to have a good chill.
This movie was and remains my very favourite one. Although I've been watching it countless times, I still get a lot of pleasure and thrill in watching it over and over again. It's not as good and as intense as the first time but I appreciate every single time I watch it. In fact, I would even say that every time, I discover new details I hadn't noticed the previous times. To continue to enjoy it, try different things...
You'll discover a lot of details...
... if you keep on looking at the people who don't speak (you usually spontaneously look at the people who do speak)
... if you focus on the set instead of the actors
Just try and you'll see that every single detail was purposely chosen. It is definitely a real masterpiece.
If you have not seen it, lucky you! Don't change a thing!
If you have seen it, now you know that making a good movie requires talent whilst making a bad movie just requires money.
A selection of reviews and comments from the 'Amazon' web site. Please note that some reviews were written before the DVD was released...
I don't agree with 100% of them but it's sane to read different points of view to make your own opinion.
Certain to remain one of the greatest haunted - house movies ever made, Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963) is antithetical to all the gory horror films of subsequent decades, because its considerable frights remain implicitly rooted in the viewer's sensitivity to abject fear. A classic spook - fest based on Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hill House (which also inspired the 1999 remake directed by Jan de Bont), the film begins with a prologue that concisely establishes the dark history of Hill House, a massive New England mansion (actually filmed in England) that will play host to four daring guests determined to investigate - and hopefully debunk - the legacy of death and ghostly possession that has given the mansion its terrifying reputation.
Consumed by guilt and grief over her mother's recent death and driven to adventure by her belief in the supernatural, Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris) is the most unstable - and therefore the most vulnerable - visitor to Hill House. She's invited there by anthropologist Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson), along with the bohemian lesbian Theodora (Claire Bloom), who has acute extra - sensory abilities, and glib playboy Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn, from Wise's West Side Story), who will gladly inherit Hill House if it proves to be hospitable. Of course, the shadowy mansion is anything but welcoming to its unwanted intruders. Strange noises, from muffled wails to deafening pounding, set the stage for even scarier occurrences, including a door that appears to breathe (with a slowly turning doorknob that's almost unbearably suspenseful), unexplained writing on walls, and a delicate spiral staircase that seems to have a life of its own.
The genius of The Haunting lies in the restraint of Wise and screenwriter Nelson Gidding, who elicit almost all of the film's mounting terror from the psychology of its characters - particularly Eleanor, whose grip on sanity grows increasingly tenuous. The presence of lurking spirits relies heavily on the power of suggestion (likewise the cautious handling of Theodora's attraction to Eleanor) and the film's use of sound is more terrifying than anything Wise could have shown with his camera. Like Jack Clayton's 1961 chiller, The Innocents, The Haunting knows the value of planting the seeds of terror in the mind; as opposed to letting them blossom graphically on the screen. What you don't see is infinitely more frightening than what you do, and with nary a severed head or bloody corpse in sight, The Haunting is guaranteed to chill you to the bone. - Jeff Shannon -
It's a mark of a good ghost story when the rational explanation of the strange events depicted seems unacceptable. Such is the case of Robert Wise's "The Haunting", in which the burden of proof is laid upon the skeptics. The movie is exceedingly well - adapted from Shirley Jackson's classic novel: somehow, in the process of shifting the emphasis from the reality of a malignant ghost to the probability of the main character's dementia, the supernatural element gains more credence. This is what adaptation is all about - finding one's OWN vision in the source material without betraying that material. But Robert Wise has been doing this sort of thing ever since he was asked to salvage Welles' "Magnificent Ambersons" from utter destruction by RKO. (Along those lines, isn't it time this guy was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by those ditzes in the Academy? Or does Wise's achievement simply pale in comparison to the brilliance of, oh, say, Warren Beatty?) In any case, ghost stories were taken rather more seriously in the Sixties than they are today. The Sixties were a literally heady time when ESP and the paranormal were investigated - with straight faces - by the CIA and KGB. The idea of the human mind having limitless power, and the possibility of even tapping into the World Beyond with that power, seemed no more irrational than conceiving that man would walk on the moon someday. Therefore, "The Haunting" takes its haunting pretty seriously. Claire Bloom's Theodora, for instance, is introduced as a respected, well - nigh infallible psychic who has proven her abilities at Ivy League universities. The scientist (Richard Johnson) who is trying to prove once and for all whether or not supernatural forces like ghosts really exist, comes across as a completely rational person who seems willing to go along with the idea that it's all rubbish, if shown enough evidence. Russ Tamblyn provides the thoroughly skeptical anchor as the decadent playboy who stands to inherit Hill House. And then there's poor Eleanor, the main character, played by Julie Harris in a sort of Method haze that contrasts nicely with the more traditional acting styles of Bloom, Johnson, and Tamblyn. Harris does what she can with the part of the flighty spinster with a guilty conscience: there's a lot of Sixties - era inner turmoil that must be laboriously worked through (usually through voice - over interior self - questioning, e.g., "Am I going mad? No! I'm not mad; THEY'RE mad!", etc.). On the whole, though, Claire Bloom takes the acting honors as the aggressive lesbian - dressed in icy black haute couture - who's immediately smitten by her otherwise total opposite in Harris. This little side relationship is delineated with more sharp truth than you'd expect from films of this period: the catty sparring, followed by the tender solicitude, is priceless stuff. But when all is said and done, it's the scares that count in a movie like this, and - rather amazingly - "The Haunting" STILL scores in this category, particularly with the scenes where the main characters gaze in rapt horror at a closed door, from behind which thunders a deafening, ceaseless knocking. The special effects involving the bulging door remains a nice touch, 40 years later. My advice? Turn out the lights, pour a stiff drink, and watch this movie in all its newly - available widescreen glory - I guarantee a good time. Just don't confuse this "Haunting" with the wretched remake that came out a couple of years ago, or you'll ruin your buzz.
Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House proved to be major force in the world of the ghost story and with its adaptation to film we have what may well be the all time best haunted house story. The movie is one of the last in the classic school of fright where the imagination is what gets you. With its gothic scenes and excellent use of shadow, The Haunting is that rare movie that delivers and continues to do so without having to rely on cheap gimmicks or gratuitous gore.
A researcher invites a group of people to stay in the Hill House to determine if it is indeed haunted. We have two women, one an unmarried spinster, the other a free spirited lesbian. Both women have had psychic occurrences in the past and the spinster seems to have been taken by the house, her purpose in life is complete as she looks forward to becoming its caretaker. Yet the house does posses her and in a tragic turn of events claims yet another victim. Whether the house is haunted is undeniable, the actual spirits are not seen but make their presence felt in some of the most frightening scenes involving the classic school of "Fear of the Unseen" that filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock were best noted for. The photography and setting are wonderfully distorted and used to create a sense of fear and sheer terror. It is undeniable that this movie is one of the best made films in the Horror genre and regretfully we may never see another like it in our world of special effects and all out gore. I highly recommend this movie to any movie buff to help show what real terror is all about, but make sure you are not alone.
The original 1960's version of The Haunting, still manages to run circles around the dopey 1999 remake, even though it had little to no special effects or gore. Indeed, director Robert Wise's take on author Shirley Jackson's novel, remains an all time favorite haunted house film of mine. Rather than flood the viewer's senses with what Wise sees as "scary", he allows our fears and imagination of what might be out there to push the story forward. By the time of the big reveal at the end, so much tension has been built in, that the ending is much more effective and satisfying.
After her mother's recent death - and driven by a total belief in the supernatural, Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris) decides to join an expedition to explore Hill House, a New England mansion. She's invited there by anthropologist Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson), along with the bohemian exotic Theodora (Claire Bloom), who has extraordinary extra - sensory abilities, and a stuck up playboy Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn) who will inherit Hill House if it is clean of any strange goings on. As you might imagine, strange things start to happen, shortly after the group arrives.
The character's fears (as well as our own) propel the film. The scares in the movie are driven by the mind. Screenwriter Nelson Gidding crafted a fine adaptation that along with Wise's atmospheric touches, and a fine ensemble, allows for a fun film watching experience.
Happily the DVD has a great audio commentary with Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn, director Robert Wise, and screenwriter Nelson Gidding. Each of whom, offer some fine stories about the making of the film and bring a unique perspective to the track. For someone who has been around awhile as a director, Wise still exhibits wit, wisdom, and class, that infects the others as well. The DVD also includes an interactive essay entitled, "Things That Go Bump in the Night", a still gallery, and a vintage theatrical trailer.
Shot in black and white, The Haunting, comes highly recommended. Watching this version will help one to forget the mistakes of director Jan De Bont's needless remake.
Forget the recent computer - generated images - infused, over - the - top remake! Robert Wise's 1963 'The haunting' is one of the scariest films ever made and the chills are achieved by masterful restraint, rich atmospheric black and white photography and subtle psychology. Today's younger audiences may be perplexed by the absence of visual effects - you never see a ghost or heads rolling around - but yet the film is scary because we are frightened by what we don't see!
About the DVD: The image quality is good but a tad disappointing. Darker scenes (of which there are many) suffer the most as blacks are rendered a soft gray. Daylight outdoor scenes and indoor scenes that are well lit look terrific. There are also quite a few noticeable nicks and scratches. However, it is still far superior to vhs quality and it is good to see the film in its original wide screen format.
A very interesting commentary features Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn, director Robert Wise, and screenwriter Nelson Gidding. Bloom and Tamblyn (and even Harris herself) talk about Harris's aloofness toward the other cast members (she was so deep into her part of the depressed Eleanor Lance that it overlapped into real life). The screenwriter talks about his initial interpretation of the script (he thought the haunting was purely psychological and not really happening - a point that writer Shirley Jackson told him he was wrong about). Director Wise talks about various aspects of the film, including how they achieved results on such a small budget.
Other features include a gallery of stills and a brief essay on the history of haunted house movies.
A must have for fans of the film!
A friend and I watched this on Halloween night when I was 24. I was terrified to turn out the light for the next three weeks. Part of me wonders why I should have been so scared, after all in "The Haunting" you never see a ghost, there is no blood and gore, no demons lurk waiting to scare you. And that's precisely why the movie is so scary. Robert Wise uses camera angles, sound effects and music to create one of the most terrifying movies of all time.
The actors are all great. Julie Harris turns in a great performance as the narcissistic Eleanor, who feels the house is talking to her. Claire Bloom is radiant as the charismatic Theo, and Russ Tamblyn is fun as the token skeptic in the group.
One of the most terrifying scenes in the film is the infamous scene when Eleanor and Theo are trapped in their rooms listening to the loud knocking at the door and are too terrified to move. It's a very frightening scene and one that will make you lock your door every night.
Watch this one alone, in the dark if you want a truly nightmarish time.
Before they were called horror movies they were called thrillers. Robert Wise's brilliant film version of Shirley Jackson's classic novel focuses on what we can't see in the shadows that frightens us. Before horror film directors abandoned all their skills and resorted to cheap shock tactics to scare audiences, Wise, Nelson Gidding (screenwriter) and his cast created a masterpiece that is just as creepy as it was 40 years ago. It seems like a distant era. The Cuban missile crisis had recently occurred; Kennedy's assassination and the Cold War had created a sense of paranoia that hadn't been experienced before. The weapons of mass destruction ruled the day to day consciousness of many school children and adults. It was a perfect time for the revival of scary movies. They always seem to crawl out of the woodwork when the psyche needs them most.
There have been a number of pretenders to the throne of haunted house movies. Richard Matheson's fine homage The Haunting of Hell House (and his marvelous novel) is almost comparable to the classic that Wise helped create. Part of the power of this marvelous film is in the skillful performances by Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn and Richard Johnson. Johnson plays Dr. Markway who invites three individuals to a haunted house for an experiment. Hill House has a reputation as a place of evil. He wants to see if two of the three who have exhibited some degree of psyche abilities can sense anything as they stay in the house overnight. The third is a distant relative of the founder of Hill House. He's there to be the placebo if you will. Strange doings occur while they occupy the house. Most of them seem centered on poor Nell (Harris) who, somehow, seems to be in tune with the house. They're all in for one hell of a night.
Everything in the film is perfect from the production design to the interior monologue delivered by Harris as Nell. The transfer is crisp and fairly good although occasionally soft in spots. It appears that it is in the original aspect ratio for the first time on home video. The commentaries by the cast members and director Wise are interesting and informative. It was probably a good idea to have multiple commentaries as, despite Wise's considerable talents, he isn't always the best storyteller (as witnessed on the DVD of The Day the Earth Stood Still).
While the remake is interesting, has a number of compelling performances, it can't compare. The director of the remake resorts to too many computer generated effects and explains everything too clearly. Without the mystery, there's no substance to the film. Computer generared effects are fine but they demystify and that can undermine a thriller or horror film. Purchase the original classic film and approach it with an open mind. It has atmosphere and enough creepy effects to make it perfect for viewing on a dark, stormy night.
Hill House is no place if you're nervous. Built by a madman, it's seen more than its share of trauma and death. It's "stood for 90 yrs. and might stand for 90 more". It's haunted and there's always room for one more guest. The permanent kind. Robert Wise directed this 1963 version of Shirley Jackson's famous novel and proves that what scares us most is what lurks in the shadows, the woodwork, whispered disembodied voices, the odd disconcerting angles of a hallway... and something that pounds it's way around a huge, dark old house at night... and that terrifying feeling of being watched by something you can't see. The DVD of "The Haunting" is a fine widescreen/letterbox print that preserves the integrity of the marvelous black and white photography. The sound could have been punched up a little but it's adequate. The story of a parapsychologist and his three specially chosen investigative guests who stay in Hill House is engrossing and literate with Richard Johnson as the fatherly Dr. Markway and Julie Harris, Claire Bloom and Russ Tamblyn as the guests all giving excellent performances. Harris especially (as the nervous and tormented Eleanor) is a standout as the bulk of the film rests on her shoulders. She is singled out by the house to "come home" and finds herself at odds with the others when they think she should leave. Scared out of her wits yet morbidly fascinated by what could be her dream come true, she learns to be very careful what you wish for... for those who walk in Hill House, walk alone. The last line by Russ Tamblyn, "This house should be burned down and the ground sowed with salt" still gives me chills. "The Haunting" is a haunting film and probably the best haunted house film ever made. Lots of great extras on the DVD, too. Enjoy this one with a friend.
The story has, by now, been imitated endlessly. Four people on a haunted house just to study it. But this is just the premise.
The great Robert Wise sets up the most perfect, most classic haunted - house film ever made. The screenplay is built on the principle that you don't have to see it (the gore, the blood, etc.) to feel the fear. So, this is one of those great films where the tension is constructed upon the things you hear... the things you know are there.
In the pre - computer generated images era, you really had to create something out of what you had. So, Mr. Wise had a great script (years ahead of its time), great characters, great actors, a great cameraman, and settings that are a wow!
This is what makes this film so much better than any other (not to mention its remake - which clearly goes for the predictable cheap - trick computer generated effects).
The story is told in the most perfect classic form. From beginning to end, you follow the story in the most careful pace. Beat by beat. From the prologue to the conclusion, the story is peerlessly told.
The characters and actors are great to watch: Julie Harris is the perfect troubled woman haunted by inner ghosts, while Theodora (the beautiful Claire Bloom) is the perfect icy clairvoyant who may or may not be a lesbian (everything is constructed with such taste... ). Richard Johnson is great as the Doctor who must keep control of the experiment. Russ Tamblyn is also great as the non - believer who is in just for the adventure. As we will discover, all of them have weak points the house will explore. So it is possible to say that this is one film where the set (in this case the house itself) is one character just like the others.
The house has personality. It's not that unbelievable - monumental - lifeless - overdone - cathedral we see in the remake. This one is more realistic. We all know (and are fascinated by) houses like this one. It has style, visual integrity, proportion and it also puts into the film a nice touch of claustrophobia. As long as the characters are there, they are at its mercy. This "house character" is always present. Trying to get in. Banging at the walls and doors, trying to make itself graphically visible through the shots...
... This is where we get to the camera work - certainly one of the best ever made. In a house so rich with character, the distorted wide - angle lenses (let's not forget that Wise worked with Orson Welles) add much to the final effect. Corridors, statues and other objects are always there to remind you the house is present. They actually keep surprising the characters as if they were saying "we are here". This is why this film is so much superior to its sequel: you don't have to see the statues move... for you know they do when you are not there. In fact, this film constructs a state where you know the things that happen when you don't see them happen. That's pure film magic.
I wonder why nobody does films like this any more. Why do they always go now for the computer generated images obviousness...
I just love the wide - angle lens that smoothly move through the rooms... the time we are allowed to see those beautiful sets. And all the uncontrolled fear that invades the characters. The soundtrack is another great element. The film is constructed in an almost silence (which is very comfortable at the beginning). So much that the noises made by the hauntings are almost unbearable when the things get rough.
This is one of those films that were meant to be seen ONLY in widescreen, for the compositions inside the shots make great use of it (in fact I never saw it in a Pan and Scan version - I cannot imagine how awful it must be). This DVD edition has a great commentary audio track by the actors and director but lacks any kind of documentary about how it was made (which I'd love to see). But we can't have it all...
If (like me), you love the genre, you will love this film, which is a one - of - a - kind effectively constructed cinematic work. Just don't watch it alone... in the dark... in the night...
Without a doubt the finest ghost story ever filmed, and the most frightening. Julie Harris and Claire Bloom give unforgettable performances, nuanced by repression, desire and yes, sheer terror. Director Robert Wise once again affirmed his standing as one of the premier artists of his (or any other) time.
It is troublesome that some reviewers warn younger viewers away from this treasure due to the fact that it has few special effects - this film rather proves that such additions would actually detract from the story. It is, pure and simple, a deeply psychological exploration of both the human mind under extreme stress, as well as a peek into another world.
Are there ghosts in Hill House, or has Eleanor (Julie Harris) simply conjured them with her tortured mind and powerful telekinetic abilities?
We never know for sure (as author Shirley Jackson intended).
This film is remarkably faithful to Jackson's novella as well as to her themes of psychic turmoil and repression resulting from guilt and wasted lives.
By all means AVOID the recent remake (Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta - Jones) - it completely ignores the source material and goes the literal route of portraying the ghosts as absolute entities, playing down Eleanor's instability. A really bad film and in no way comparable to the original - as much a travesty as was the recent remake of "Psycho".
The entire point of this exercise is to induce terror in the viewer by subtly encouraging us to weigh the possibility that the events occurring in Hill House are driven by Eleanor's preternatural psychic abilities in combination with her extreme mental distress. Eleanor's existence in Boston is suffocating, both for her and for us. She is repressed in every way, harbors extreme guilt over the death of her mother, and lives the "spinster aunt" life in a controlled, emotionally vacant environment. She is one huge primal scream waiting to erupt.
After all, which scenario is more frightening: actual ghosts or the possibility that one's personal demons could actually be literalized and brought to "life" by the mind alone? For me, the latter scenario is much more frightening, as it implies a complete loss of control over both the mind AND the physical events surrounding you!
Taken either way, the film is both terrifying and groundbreaking by any standards.
A benchmark in psychological horror for the ages.
Robert Wise's 1963 "Haunting" is one of the great gothic ghost flicks ever. Period. Filmed in glorious black and white with a great cast, this is a wonderful example of how sound and insinuation do more to frighten you than explicit graphic violence and gore.
The downside is that the script is a bit cliché, like an old 50's romance (Oh Nell... my dear sweet Nell... ). Apart from that, I believe it is a nearly ideal story with superb subtly nuanced performances. A bit risqué for it's time with thinly veiled innuendos: Eleanor and the good Dr., Theo and Nell, and Luke with his drink.
A good cast led by Richard Johnson as Dr. Markway and Julie Harris as the socially stunted Eleanor, with Claire Bloom as the flamboyant Theo and Russ Tamblyn as the thirsty and fast - living sarcastic Luke make for a wonderful down played ensemble. Even the minor roles are well done, especially Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, who are superior to their counterparts in the terrible remake.
The most effective scenes are where you see nothing (save for a message on a wall or a twisting doorknob), but hear plenty. And what is this entity that calls for Nell? We don't know, and we don't care! Some things are better left veiled without the explanation of an old Indian burial ground or the revealing of Nell's intricate family history which was made up for the unimaginative remake.
Nicely enhanced by a tremendous score, this isn't a film to make you jump at every corner, but will, through atmosphere and subtlety, make the hair stand up on the back of your neck and have you reach for the light switch. Let's just hope that the DVD does it justice!
While there are less than a handful of innovations or improvements in the remake, such as the opening scene with Lili Taylor arguing over her mother's apartment, or the subtle movements of figurines on the mantles, there is little else to remotely recommend it.
"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality... Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within... silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone".
Thus begins Shirley Jackson's classic and harrowing tale, "The Haunting of Hill House". (If the last part of the introduction sounds vaguely familiar, perhaps that is because Stephen King quoted it in his novel, "The Shining" - a modern master paying homage to an earlier one.
This first - and finest - film version, made by Robert Wise (who also gave us "The Sound of Music"!), has a stand - out cast headed by Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson and Russ Tamblyn. And Hill House. (Though, for some reason, the director couldn't quite find a house to his liking in New England, where the story takes place, so went "across the pond" to England to find one.)
Although some changes were made between the novel and screenplay, the result is a truly terrifying film - in a cerebral way. If you're looking for graphic mayhem and gore, try the remake - or any number of "dead teenager" pics. THIS is the genuine article: four people researching the supernatural take - up residence in an old New England house reputed to be haunted. This proves to have been a very bad mistake.
Filmed in superbly atmospheric black and white by Davis Boulton and employing a specially ground lense for many of the interior shots, which adds to the mounting sense of unease and discomfort for the viewer (especially when seen in widescreen), "The Haunting" is a true classic. There are some memorable special effects in the "less - is - more" genre (one was borrowed by Disney for their Haunted Mansion). Well - paced, the film is centered upon the supernatural haunting within Hill House, and the haunting torment within the mind of Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris), for whom the house reaches. There is no contest.
As The New York Times said in a review of this picture once, "A truly terrifying film... see it with a friend".
It is not often I love a book and go on to enjoy the Movie adaptation. To Kill a Mockingbird, comes to mind. But this is the case with the marvelous movie The Haunting. Since I adore spooky, sinister tales, I treasured Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. And forget the silly, insane remake; this is the Mount Everest of Haunted House movies, only rivaled by The Legend of Hell House made nearly a decade later with Clive Revill, Pamela Franklin and Roddy McDowell and the Innocents with Deborah Kerr and Pamela Franklin. These three would make a super triple - feature of Houses with Things that go bump, since all three deal not only with the supernatural, the complexities of the mind, but the force of the will lingering after death.
The Haunting is a rather faithful adaptation of Jackson's dark and spooky novel. The key word being spooky - not gory. If you are looking for buckets of blood, search on. This is a sophisticated movie that chills rather than shocks. Staring the gorgeous Richard Johnson as Dr. John Markway, a man determined to prove ghosts do exist. And since he believes he will find them at Hill House, he arranges with the current owner to rent the house to carry out his research - though part of the pact is he must accept her grandson Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn) to keep an eye on things.
Markway invites a wide range of people to come and take part, people with a past that showed their lives were brushed by the paranormal. However, only two come: Theodora, a clairvoyant with vague lesbian hints played by Claire Bloom, and Eleanor Lance brought to aching life by the brilliant Julie Harris.
Eleanor is a timid woman, browbeaten her whole life. She spent her youth tending her ailing mother and is now forced to live with her sister and her family. They are quick to take her money for rent, but show her little respect. In her one act of rebellion in her whole life, she accepts the invitation from Markway. When she arrives at Hill House, no one is there except a cranky gatekeeper and his equally cranky wife, who inform her they leave when it gets dark and there won't be anyone to help her.
Eleanor gets spooked, but finds Theodora, a chic, smart woman with a biting sense of humor. Despite the women being total opposites, they instantly like each other and set about to explore the dark, brooding and nearly suffocating house. Just as they are about to panic, they stumble into the dining room where Markway is. He performs introductions, and takes them on a tour, while giving the strange history of the house. Seems despite the house's ancient feel it is not that old. Hugh Crane built it for his first wife. However, she never saw the house, being killed as the carriage crashed into a tree on the way to occupy it. We learn Hugh was an overbearing, macho, zealot who tormented his daughter with devils and Hell rather than nursery rhymes. The second Mrs. Crane met an equally strange death in the house, leaving it to go to Hugh daughter, Abigail. She grows old and dies in the room that was her nursery, tended by a nurse/companion. Since there was no family, the nurse inherited the house. However, her enjoyment is short lived, as she later hangs herself from the ceiling in the library. Since then, no one has been able to live in the house.
It is not long before all sorts of sinister and chilling todos begin plaguing the women, especially Eleanor, for it seems the House has targeted her, even to a mysterious "Help Eleanor, Come Home" scrawled across the wall. Eleanor begins to remake her image into the person she would like to be in her heart. She starts to have romantic illusions about Markway, only to have them shattered when his strong willed wife (Lois Maxwell, Moneypenny from the Connery Bond films!!) shows up demanding he stop this nonsense about ghosts.
The movie is quite believable, walks the thin line in the Henry James' Turn of the Screw style story, of how much is real and how much is within the mind. The acting is faultless with the four leads turning in understated, yet oh so perfect performances. In Black and White, I could not imagine this movie in the brilliant washes of color needed for color filming. The dark lensing of The Haunting lets those shadows rule and give it threatening, disturbing feel that sets the tone for the movie.
So turn out the lights and enjoy one of the best haunted house film, and if you are lucky enough have that triple feature with The Innocents and The Legend of Hell House! A great way to spend a rainy Saturday night!
The Haunting directed by Robert Wise and based on the novel, The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson is a must see movie. No, I'm not talking about the remake done by Jan De Bont in 1999 with Zeta - Jones. That one was a disgrace to both Jackson and the original black and white film. Whereas Jackson and the black and white film played upon the insecurities of Eleanor - the last name escapes me right now, but it's either Lance or Vance with my gut leaning towards the latter (in the book I'm sure it's Vance and in the black and white film it's Lance) - who is the main character in the story. However, the '99 remake gave the character confidence, which didn't seem right since Nell - the affectionate term Theo gives her - doesn't know what to do with herself and seems never did know what to do with herself before and after her mother died.
On that note of Theo though. The great thing about the novel and the original film was that you got glimpses that Theo is a lesbian. It's the subtle things she does and says to Eleanor that cause you to suspect. The way her tone is while looking at Eleanor in certain scene's also gives you cause to suspect that as well. Whereas in the '99 remake you're smacked upside the head so to speak that she's bi.
With my beef about the characters out of the way onto the juicy stuff - the creepy effect of the film. This film like so many other wonderful black and white films in the horror genre around this time relied on techniques that we have today that they didn't have back then and of course no blood, guts or gore (yeah I know - sarcasm - the horror of not seeing people's bowels gutted to give you the complete gross out effect). Unique camera angles used during the movie truly give this film the creepiness it ends up having. The day for night shots aren't the best like so many other older movies, but I prefer it over the computer generated effects we can use today. Either way a sense of falsity or corniness is emitted with either choice.
What I love best about this movie is that it's what you don't see rather then what you do see that's most scary. One of the producers from the '99 remake said that as well to give the remake some support, but honestly. If you have to literally knock the head off of one of the four main stars of the film and kill him off when the same character didn't die in the book or original film, then DON'T kill him off in a remake of both of those! Anyway, I'm sidetracking. Like I was saying what I love about this film is what you don't see as opposed to what you do. My favorite scene in this version comes when Eleanor wakes up to knocking on her bedroom wall (coming from outside of her bedroom). Out of 11 years of habit she thinks it's her mother calling her (when it's also the ghost of Abigail Crane who died while calling for help from the companion she took in to take care of her when she got to be an old woman) and Eleanor begins to get up to take care of it only to realize it's not her mother and she's not in her own home. Realizing where she is she hears Theo yelling for her and the two end up living out this horrific scene hoping and praying whatever is outside their rooms does not get in. This whole scene though only requires close - up camera shots, moving the door and a loud noise on the other side of the set to give off the feeling of something truly evil on the other side of Theo's door. When it all ends and the Doc and Luke pass by the girl's rooms after telling the two men about it both women break into fits of laughter and comment how something "Knocked on the door with a cannon ball" followed by the men saying that the wood wasn't scratched and the girls saying, "How nice it didn't mark the woodwork".
Another prime example of the film's success in scaring you by what you don't see is when the two women as sharing a room. Eleanor goes to bed angry for something Theo says to her. She wakes up in the middle of the night hearing what she thinks is a child crying and screaming. She grabs who she thinks is Theo's hand. After feeling like "Theo's" hand is crushing hers, Eleanor gathers enough strength to yell stop at who ever is hurting this "child" and when she does a light comes on and Theo - who is on the other side of the room - asks her what's wrong? Eleanor then gets up out of bed her hand in front of her face and asks out loud, "Whose hand was I holding?" This whole scene was done in darkness with only sounds and the camera around Eleanor. My point after those two examples is this, that these two women were being terrorized and scared by unseen being or force, and by sounds while either in darkness or by themselves not by something they could see that may have been gross or disgusting.
Overall this is a movie that is worth paying every cent for to buy. Simply renting it would not worth seeing it. Buy it and you will never tire of seeing it as often as you like.
No blood. No guts. Just sheer unadorned terror from the moment the "guests" enter the horribly creepy "Hill House". The new version pales severely compared to this 1963 black and white classic scare - fest. Whereas the new version relied heavily on special effects to scare you, it is your own mind that freaks you out as you wonder what is next??!! The film was shot in a most excellent manner, and that fact alone is enough to scare the wits out of you. I saw this when it came out in the theaters in 1963, and I was a brave kid of 15 when I entered the theater, but a scared - cat by the time the show ended. If anyone tells you that this movie isn't scary, I suggest you check them for a pulse. One more thing: if you enjoyed this one, then see "The Changeling" with George C. Scott. A wonderfully scary ghost story if there ever was one. These two movies, along with "The Woman in Black," are in my opinion, the three creepiest (therefore, most fun) movies ever to hit the screen.
Joining an unknown group of psychic researchers investigating a haunted house in New England, unmarried, neurotic Eleanor (Julie Harris), while trying to live beyond her past, is playing "catch - up" in her inner struggle to "fit in" - and, above all, to belong. But, something in her efforts to do so may prove to be her own undoing, as, in her own mind at least, those efforts are repeatedly frustrated and she finds herself ever - increasingly drawn toward the seemingly beckoning Hill House itself - until she ultimately, and tragically, crosses the point of no return. The story opens as an astute, convincing vision of one woman's underlying struggle with self delusion - one that will soon pale compared to the delusion and fear held in store for her within the infamous Hill House. Either way, whether the roots of her experiences lie in the psychological or the supernatural - or both - the conclusion for Eleanor is inescapable. It's the most enduringly frightening movie I've ever seen.
Not quite as an aside, I seem to recall none other than horror - film director Wes Craven pointing out the notion that the house we grow up in can leave a special and unique imprint on our psyche. It seems such a house (haunted like the one Eleanor grew up in, or not), can be abstractly thought of as a sort of three - dimensional construct of the psyche itself - and that, for him, no other haunted - house movie provokes in us a deeper response, on that level, better than "The Haunting". Of course, he attributes this directly to the sometimes subliminally effective, and often downright alarming, direction from Robert Wise, as well as the creepy, "something - is - watching - you" lens work from Davis Boulton. For me, all the ingredients add up to a film with high replay value and one that holds up long after seeing it - something all too rare for the genre, then as now.
The theatrical release had an outstandingly dynamic soundtrack that added immeasurably to the experience, but, the video releases have been disappointing in this regard, so far. Here's hoping the DVD will be true to the original - if there ever IS a DVD (sigh). I'm still waiting for "The Innocents" on DVD, too - (and we who wait here, don't wait alone!... ).
I agree with others here, the best way to see this one IS alone. And, as has been pointed out before, you will never see a single ghost in this movie, yet, by the end you'll be left without any reason to disbelieve!
Robert Wise's 1962 film "The Haunting" is simply the best, most riveting haunted - house drama ever filmed. Superb performances by Claire Bloom, Julie Harris, and Russ Tamblyn, as well as an utterly marvelous supporting cast, make this film the one all others should emulate.
Based on a masterful short story by Shirley Jackson, the action takes place at an old New England mansion (although the film was made in England, and a sharp viewer can catch that). The leading character, Nell, is tormented by her past and we have access to her thoughts throughout as the tension continues to build.
The settings are excellently done. When is the last time you encountered a silver toast server - rack, in which the slices are stacked vertically to keep them crisp? I viewed this movie a second time just to enjoy all the "perfect touches" like this one.
If you are a fan of the suspense/psychological thriller, don't miss out on this one! Robert Wise's 1962 production is by far the best, so don't be fooled by others of the same name. Five enthusiastic stars!
It's not unusual for Hollywood to take a literary piece and try to adapt it to film. What IS unusual is for it to be done so well. It's been a long time since I read Shirley Jackson's original tale, so I can't really say how faithful this movie is to it. What I CAN say, though, is that haunted house movies just don't get any better than this. And it's all done without any overt violence, without blood and gore, and without lots of special effects. Instead, this flick relies on subtlety and stimulation of the viewer's imagination.
Make no mistake, though, this movie is plenty scary. Written messages mysteriously appear on walls. A cold spot hovers near the old nursery door. Loud pounding sounds go up and down hallways in the night, focusing on the bedroom door of the main female characters, Nell and Theo, and accompanied by a deliberately rattled doorknob. These are only a sampling of what this house has to offer. Mrs. Dudley, the housekeeper, always leaves before sunset. Nobody will come any closer than town in the night, when it's dark, as Mrs. Dudley repeatedly informs everyone.
This is a great haunted house movie. It's all done in black and white, but that lends it a certain stark quality that adds to the overall atmosphere. The acting is first - rate. If you haven't seen "The Haunting", by all means give it a look. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a good ghost story.
What makes this horror movie great is not what you see or know, not jazzy special effects not gore, but just the unknown, what you don't see but what you hear or what you don't know. This movie is one of the creepiest and scariest movies I have ever seen. It has no special effects (except for one) you never ever see a ghost. That's what makes it so scary. In fact, you don't know, until the end, whether it's really haunted, or not (even at the end you don't know). It's just scary. The main character is, well, when she talks to herself it, just makes you, I don't know, tense, to listen to her. The camera work is good, in several parts, dizzying. One part is where she's looking up at the windows from the balcony and the camera just... drops. Very scary. It made me grab onto the couch to keep myself from falling. Another is where she is going up the spiral stairs and the camera switches to her feet, The camera, during this part, is at such a weird angle it makes you feel like you are falling off I high ledge, you know, that kind of unbalanced feeling when you are up high. If you like horrors movies and getting creped out, I recommend you get this movie.
Still the best haunted house film, "The Haunting" has the virtues of director Robert Wise and an excellent adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novel by Nelson Gidding. Hill House was built by Hugh Crain and its legacy of death includes both of his wives, his daughter Abigail and her lover. Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson) hears of the house's reputation and decides it is the perfect locale to investigate. Markway brings with him a team: Eleanor "Nell" Lance (Julie Harris), a neurotic spinster who had a terrifying Poltergeist encounter as a child; Theodora (Claire Bloom), a strong willed psychic; and Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn), who intends to inherit the house from the current owners. The house assaults the group their first night in Hill House, although all of the phenomena are suggested by sound effects rather than depicted with cheap specific effects. Meanwhile, the group is experiencing its own strange vibes. Theodora, a lesbian, is interested in Nell, who is totally oblivious to this and has eyes for Markway, a married man who also has no clue. More importantly, Nell is clearly the target of whatever forces are at work in Hill House.
"The Haunting" is a masterpiece of atmosphere and suspense, with the performance of Julie Harris at the heart of the film. Both of the female characters are vastly more complex than the pair of males, and Harris and Bloom's performances dominate throughout. The recent "remake" of this film with its over abundance of special effects only serves to heighten the strengths of the original when the horror is created in your mind and not just left on the screen. "The Haunting" is a true horror classic, filmed in glorious black and white. This is truly a movie to watch late at night with all of the lights out. Just don't expect to get any sleep afterward...
No apologies here... I've been a jaded horror fan for years, and this is without a doubt the scariest flick I've ever seen. Subtle, intelligent and utterly fascinating. I saw this on my 10th birthday (before videos and vcr's ever existed!) with my two older brothers in a dark room with a birthday pizza. I couldn't sleep at all that night! I waited for years for them to release this on video, and when they finally did, I found that it had lost none of what had scared me so badly as a kid. Blood and guts? Nope... you never even see a ghost! It's all done with minimal special effects, a great script, cast, direction, quirky camera angles and lighting, and the most chilling sets ever put on film. The scene with the sculpted paneling in the bedroom makes my skin crawl to this day. If you are a gore freak, you probably won't like this (nothing against gore... I loved "Reanimator" and the "Evil Dead" films). If, however, you like your chills to build slowly, and creep up on you from behind, this is your movie. To cap it all, Russ Tamblyn delivers what I think is the best ending line in all of cinema. See this, then read the novel by Shirley Jackson, and ignore the worse than lame '99 remake
I first saw Robert Wise's "The Haunting" on TV in the late '60s, along with my 2 sisters. We were chilled to the bone! My sister and I still love this film - it sends out enough information, and then lets your imagination take over - no one can frighten you as badly as you can yourself! Robert Wise got his apprenticeship at RKO in the early 1940s, where the Val Lewton - produced thrillers such as "The Cat People", "I Walked With a Zombie" and "The Body Snatcher" were made. These films chilled you because they DIDN'T "Show you everything". He utilized these skills to perfection in "The Haunting", where its bedeviled heroine is the prime target of the house's malevolence. The 1999 remake was, in my opinion, a garish, shrill, heavy - handed cartoon, and that maudlin "explanation" about the "exploited" children (which has nothing to do with the book or original film) was embarrassingly naive. I'm so tired of all these "Poltergeist" wannabe films! I have been in some bizarrely decorated abodes, such as the Sir John Soane Museum in London, but NOBODY'S home looks like the laughably over - decorated, over - scaled house in the remake. The house looked like it was decorated for a 50 - foot Liberace! The characters just cardboard cutouts (a waste of a talented cast), but there was eye - candy in the luscious Catherine Zeta - Jones. Now, when is the 1963 "The Haunting" going to be released on DVD?
I can say with all honesty that this is the first and only horror film to make me lose an entire night's sleep! I considered myself a jaded horror film veteran impervious to theatrical scares until I watched "The Haunting". This film is one of the few cases where the film version surpasses the book it is based upon. The psychological implications of this film are devastating, and are some of the film's great strengths. The acting is superb all - around, especially the inimitable Julie Harris, in her best role as the doomed Eleanor. One former complaint comes to mind with the "miscasting" of Russ Tamblyn as the playboy, Luke: At first I thought his hammy performance to be the film's only liability; now I've come to realize - after repeated viewings - that Tamblyn played Luke perfectly, as a narcissist without an ounce of introspection who reluctantly accepts the presence of the supernatural in his future home. Tamblyn's character is the only one with the good sense to suggest they all get the hell out of there when the supernatural events turn ugly. Each of the film's characters is well - played by an outstanding cast of old pros who treat the material seriously. There are too many deliciously creepy scenes to fully list, but the door - breathing scene and Eleanor's hand - holding scene are two of the most frightening sequences ever filmed. Do NOT watch this movie alone!
This is a wonderful movie because it is a nearly perfect realization of the novel on which it is based. The casting, the acting, the script and especially the cinematography, are, I feel, just how one would envision in reading the book.
Some are disappointed that is not that "scary", or that it is slow. You may as well level this criticism against Shirley Jackson's novel. This is not really a horror story as such, but a subtle psychological tale of an unstable woman, who is seduced and destroyed by an evil house. Like the book, "The Haunting" casts a spell on you, brings you into its world, and gives you some chills along the way. I think if you understand this, you will less likely to be disappointed. (Having said that, there are some scenes I still would not watch alone in a dark room!).
My only real criticism of the movie, is that it leaves out some great material in the book that could easily have been incorporated, and the made the movie a bit fuller. Also I wish the screenwriter had not bothered to add so much dialogue that's not in the book. You can always tell which are the best lines - they are the author's.
As for the new 1999 version, it is nothing but a rip off a classic book and movie. It has only the basics of the plot, and absolutely none of the magic and atmosphere. I really fear appreciation of the classics is on the wane.
After seeing the new version of "The Haunting", I decided to watch this 1963 version as a comparison. This one is a keeper and wins hands down as the superior adaptation of the Shirley Jackson novel "The Haunting of Hill House". Julie Harris is incredibly right for the role of Eleanor and Claire Bloom is sophisticated and icy in her interpretation of Theo (I agree with a previous reviewer that Bloom's Theo could have been played lighter and funnier). Russ Tamblyn is adequate as Luke Sanderson and Richard Johnson is a real ladie's man as Dr. Markway (not the stuffy Dr. Montague of the book). Valentine Dyall is amusing as "Dudley - at - the - gate" and Rosalie Crutchley is just as Jackson made Mrs. Dudley in the story: coldly unemotional with an air of dirtiness about her. Mrs. Markway is very different from Mrs. Montague and her assistant Arthur Parker never appears in the movie at all. The classic part where the two women cower in Theo's bed in the Green Room while pounding is heard up and down the hallway is as good as could be expected as is Eleanor's disgust at holding the hand of something unseen. Cleverly, the film even includes the part where Eleanor asks Hugh Crain, in the form of a marble statue to dance with her. In the book, Hugh Crain was simply a sad, embittered eccentric man and not anything near the atrocious monster we saw in the insipid remake. Someone could make Jackson's story into something very atmospheric and totally bloodcurdling; the book let the reader's imagination wander whereas this competent adaptation leaves room for a bit of improvement.
I first saw this film on the big screen at the tender age of 14, when it was originally released in 1963. I have since viewed it countless times (the screen was smaller but the chills, just as big). I must admit the acting is superb. Julie Harris and Claire Bloom have never been given enough credit for these performances. We can relate on several levels with all of the characters. But all of the reviews I have seen have failed to consider one of the most dominant characters in the film: the house itself. Although not credited, this structure exudes evil in every perfectly framed shot it is in. This, of course, is a credit to the award winning direction. (Those odd - angled shots of the facade never fail to make my spine crawl.) But you have to admit, the interior scenes with the off center camera angles and gothic architecture are part of what scares us. This film was shot in a purportedly "haunted" mansion in England and suffered several unexplained incidents during filming. A large light tower tipped over quite spontaneously and several sealed canisters of film were overexposed and ruined, among other occurrences. Whether this was "studio hype" or factual reporting I can't say, nevertheless the structure sets an atmosphere for the film that no sound stage could ever equal. This atmosphere, which is produced by the house itself, is evident throughout the film. Anyone who has seen the film knows what I'm talking about. So let's hear it for the unsung hero: the house. I highly recommend this movie for a dark, windy night. Wear an extra heavy sweater. The chills are coming.
This original movie version of Shirley Jackson's highly esteemed novel "The Haunting of Hill House" is definitely the finer; it faithfully follows the novel and captures its intended creepiness. Handsome Richard Johnson plays Doctor Markway (Montague in the book) who invites three people to work as his assistants while doing psychic research in an old New England house reputed to be haunted. Eleanor is lonely, timid and impressionable; she spent eleven years caring for her invalid mother and at 32, has never had a life of her own. Theodora is beautiful, bright and vivacious; conscience to her is an attribute which properly belongs to girl scouts - she's Eleanor's free - spirited opposite. The scene where the two women, trembling from the cold, clinging to each other in bed as SOMETHING is knocking at the bedroom door is genuinely chilling. When asked by Luke (Russ Tamblyn) and Dr. Markway what happened the two women look at each other in disbelief and Eleanor says "Nothing in particular. Someone just knocked on the door with a cannonball, then laughed their fool head off when we wouldn't let them in, but nothing out of the ordinary!". As Eleanor drifts slowly into dementia, it is obvious that the house becomes her lover. If "The Haunting" is viewed on television, its effect is considerably enhanced if seen alone.
I have very vivid memories of the first time I watched The Haunting. I must have been about 8 or 9 years old, and had an understanding brother as a babysitter that night. The film itself, as you can imagine for a boy of that age, terrified me and I had problems sleeping that night. It stayed in my memory for years after, until I next saw it, this time as an adult. It is, in my opinion, a truly great film. It stands the test of time and remains one of the best "suspense" horror films. The special effects, in today's terms, are at best below average, and yet the impact it makes upon the viewers imagination is tremendous. The characters are all played to perfection, and it is unfortunate that no member of the cast went on to reach the status they deserved. In the UK, Russ Tamblyn is probably the most well - known. My disappointment came when I managed to locate a copy of the original novel by Shirley Jackson. I had been brought up on a film which had made such a large impression on me at a tender age, and through repeated viewings only enforced the status of it amongst the genre. However, the novel is an excellent piece of work. It is true to say that the written word stimulates the imagination more than celluloid as you envisage the characters in their entirety, and having read the book 2 or 3 times I now wonder if the film should have stayed more closely to the book. Dr. Markway is "dashing", but Dr. Montague would have given a different emphasis to the whole film, as would the "love interest" with Luke and Theo. Regardless, a classic film... I only hope the remake can lace it's boots...
Often compared with "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James, Shirley Jackson's 'The haunting of Hill House' is a book which somehow lingers in the memory long after the reader has finished the book. Freudian overtones are there, but only to a certain extent: there is more to this story than meets the eye for it is loaded with symbolism and hints of horror throughout. Julie Harris is absolutely brilliant as Eleanor; a great example of an actress who's perfectly suited for the role assigned her - she actually becomes Jackson's Eleanor (Jackson herself was quite pleased with the film which was made two years prior to her death in 1965). I don't think Claire Bloom was bad as Theodora, but I felt Theo would have been more of a fun person (not too unlike Rhoda on Mary Tyler Moore) and I think her interpretation was a mite icy. Doctor Montague was Hollywoodized in the form of Richard Johnson; a likeable man to be sure, but he wasn't in keeping with Jackson's bearded, rather cynical character. Luke was actually pretty true to the book in the form of Russ Tamblyn (he's the egotistical punk who's the heir to Hill House). The great stage actress Fay Compton has an effective cameo as Mrs. Gloria Sanderson. Mrs. Dudley, the housekeeper is played with restraint by Rosalie Crutchley (someone else could have made her creepier somehow). This must be a difficult book to film properly as this version only does a 3/4 job; there are many worthwhile elements in the book which never make the screen. The house itself should be seen nestled among great masses of hills ("It's why they call it Hill House", Eleanor said inadequately). If this is ever re - made again in color, please show us the colored bedrooms: Doctor Montague: pink, Luke: yellow, Theo: green and our heroine's in blue. Scenes from the book like Eleanor hearing voices in the clearing, the phantom picnic party and the trip Theo and she make to the brook are uniquely Jackson and should be included. When Eleanor opens the little trap door (once she gets to the top of the spiral iron staircase), she is shocked to see Mrs. Montague (who got lost??) - HOKEY! (in the novel, Mrs. Montague was a matronly woman and not this bloom of youth!). 'The haunting' is definitely a good thriller - but something always seems missing after I see it - they've yet to make this book into a totally satisfying film (however, this version far surpasses the ridiculously overblown and inept re - make!).
The Robert Wise production of "The Haunting" scared me in 1963 and remains the best version of the Shirley Jackson classic story. Interestingly (to me at least), having met Mr. Wise at a screening of this film, he told me that the film that scared him as a youth was "The Cat and the Canary" from which many subsequent ghost and horror films "borrowed" techniques - the fluttering curtains, an arm reaching out to grab an unsuspecting character, etc.
Mr. Wise has crafted a genuinely suspenseful and creepy film here. Check out the costuming credit for a name about to burst onto the international fashion scene shortly after the film was released. This film is almost Hitchockian in its use of camera angles and suggestion rather than graphic depictions of what is scaring us. It works very well - the recent remake is all special effects and almost no atmosphere. Black and white can convey terror in a way color can't. Julie Harris and Claire Bloom are perfectly cast.
See 'The haunting' with a friend, not just because it is scary, but because there is so, so much you will want to discuss after you first watch it. Although kids can enjoy it as a simple ghost story, most adults viewers cannot help but see the not - at - all - submerged subtext of sexual desire, specifically lesbian desire. In just about every scene there is some dialog, narration, camerawork (ex. - woman shown behind bars), symbolic object, symbolic action, or metaphor of some kind relating to repression and sexuality. The obviousness of all this is really surprising given the date of the film. In fact, the date makes the "sub" text all the more exciting. To get the most out of this film, pick up an unabridged copy of Freud's INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS. Then use the book's index to look up Freud's analyses of things relevant to the film, like "staircase dreams". (Viewing the film's staircase sequence in light of Freud's analyses is great fun!) And you will certainly want to read Patricia White's article on the film, entitled "Female spectator, lesbian specter: The haunting" reprinted in the excellent anthology, INSIDE/OUT, edited by Diana Fuss, published by Routledge 1991. (One final note: even though the remake stars the way - cool, indie - woman - of - my - dreams, Lili Taylor, you simply MUST see the original.)
The key strength of Robert Wise's movie is its ability to keep the idea of a possessed, evil house somewhat down to Earth, somewhat plausible, where eeriness is the goal, not getting audiences to jump out of their seats at the sight of Elm Street slashers or bloody heads floating around. I think the scenes at the beginning of the movie depicting the history of the house are the essence of plausible supernatural creepiness, unlike corny "Poltergeist" or hokey "The Haunting of Hell House". And Wise's work is sophisticated, unlike shock - and - schlock films in the "Halloween" or "Friday the 13th" category. The novel by Shirley Jackson, which "The Haunting" is based on, contained key scenes that were effective and contributed to the eeriness of her story (the rickety spiral staircase, for example). But I thought Robert Wise and his screenwriter were very clever in eliminating scenes that were far too literal - minded (e.g., Theo finding red liquid - blood? - splattered all over her clothes and bedroom walls) or that took away from the impenetrable, evil - lurking - inside sense of the mansion (for instance, Nell and Theo encountering apparitions of a family on a picnic out in the garden). The screenplay also eliminated distracting, extraneous characters (e.g., the chauffeur of the doctor's wife) and less creepy plot ideas (2 daughters - vs. Hugh Crain's only child Abigail - who have legal battles over the mansion, which they both move out of during their lifetime - compared with the story of someone spending her entire spinster life cooped up in the mansion and, most strangely, its nursery.) Also, the idea of the nursery room - kept locked and unseen until the end - as the evil heart of the house, with the cold spot directly outside the door, contributes to the movie's eeriness. Technically, Wise's film is well executed - Citizen Kane - ish - especially for the genre of ghost/haunted house movies. The sets - particularly if Wise didn't use the interiors of a real mansion - are quite realistic and creepy. And I thought Robert Wise using the monologue approach to capture the weak, neurotic nature of the Julie Harris character adds to the film's stressful tone. However, there can be moments bordering on melodrama, such as when the professor, at the foot of the staircase, tells Luke not to be so confident in his disbelief of the supernatural or when Luke gives his little closing line at the end of the film. But, overall, if a truly evil, haunted house could be found and verified, I'd imagine a documentary depicting such a place wouldn't be necessarily far more non - fictional - like and believable than the 1963 movie "The Haunting".