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The Haunting (1963)

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A scientist doing research on the paranormal invites two women to a haunted mansion. One of the participants soon starts losing her mind.

Director:

Robert Wise

Writers:

Nelson Gidding (screenplay), Shirley Jackson (based on the novel: "The Haunting of Hill House")
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Julie Harris ... Eleanor Lance
Claire Bloom ... Theodora
Richard Johnson ... Dr. John Markway
Russ Tamblyn ... Luke Sanderson
Fay Compton ... Mrs. Sanderson
Rosalie Crutchley ... Mrs. Dudley
Lois Maxwell ... Grace Markway
Valentine Dyall ... Mr. Dudley
Diane Clare ... Carrie Fredericks
Ronald Adam ... Eldridge Harper
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Storyline

Dr. Markway, doing research to prove the existence of ghosts, investigates Hill House, a large, eerie mansion with a lurid history of violent death and insanity. With him are the skeptical young Luke, who stands to inherit the house, the mysterious and clairvoyant Theodora and the insecure Eleanor, whose psychic abilities make her feel somehow attuned to whatever spirits inhabit the old mansion. As time goes by it becomes obvious that they have gotten more than they bargained for as the ghostly presence in the house manifests itself in horrific and deadly ways. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

You may not believe in ghosts but you cannot deny terror See more »

Genres:

Horror

Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 August 1963 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

La casa embrujada See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,400,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$2,616,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Argyle Enterprises See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

For some of the scenes in which characters are tormented by loud ghostly sounds coming from the house, Robert Wise had the sounds on playback so that the actors could react to them authentically. It was a technique that they found very useful and effective for creating just the right mood of terror. See more »

Goofs

For a scientist, Dr. Markway exhibits an astonishing lack of scientific curiosity regarding the "Help Eleanor Come Home" writing on the wall they discover. He tells Luke to wipe it off the wall, without even taking photographs of the writing or samples of the chalk-like substance used to write it. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Dr. John Markway: [voice-over] An evil old house, the kind some people call haunted, is like an undiscovered country waiting to be explored. Hill House had stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more. Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there... walked alone.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Nostalgia Critic: Does PG Mean Anything Anymore? (2016) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
And whatever walked there, walked alone.
19 April 2013 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

The Haunting is directed by Robert Wise and adapted to screenplay by Nelson Gidding from the Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House. It stars Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn and Lois Maxwell. Music is by Humphrey Searle and cinematography by David Boulton.

Hill House has a troubled history, death, either by accident or by suicide, has occurred there over the years. Today, Dr. Markway, an anthropologist and investigator of paranormal activity, leads a team of four for a stay at Hill House, where they will stay for a period of time in the hope that Markway can prove something paranormal resides there…

The haunted house premise has been a staple for horror film makers since forever. To place the viewer in a murky house, alongside some character unfortunates, and then scare the tar out of them has always been the aim. It hasn't often worked to great effect, in fact the number of genuine scary haunted house movies barely trouble the fingers of both hands. How strange, then, that the best of the bunch chose a simple formula that has never been replicated since with the same great effect.

The Haunting thrives not on what it throws at you by way of jumps and peek-a-boo visceral shocks, it deals firmly in the realm of what you can't see scares you the most. Where we have to use our own fretful imaginations to fill in the blanks for us, which is never a good thing in psychological horror parlance. Robert Wise, a most gifted and versatile director, uses oblique camera angles, thundering sound effects and angled close ups of his actors to get the maximum amount of atmosphere from the premise.

Distortion is very much a key component here. We are told the history of the house and some of its structural quirks, the camera angles heighten this for ethereal impact whilst simultaneously marrying up to the distortion of a key character's mental health. The story in essence sounds simple, yet there is much bubbling away in Hill House, both on the page and up there on the screen. This is not simply a case of a group of people being haunted by a spectre or otherwise, the mind is a key player here, very much so.

Along the way are some truly breath holding scenes; a bending door, pounding in the corridor, a face on the wall (the lighting here genius), Nell's hand holding incident, a rickety spiral staircase that we fear from the off, and the ghostly finale as Hill House reveals its hand and what we thought was a simple and true narrative is actually more clever, more chilling than we first imagined. Suggestion is a very big thing in The Haunting, it's what drives it to greatness, but it also has scenes that really bring the gooseflesh jumping up on your arms.

The acting is mostly great, with Tamblyn and Johnson correctly underplaying their roles to let the two girls take centre stage. Both Harris and Bloom are excellent. As Nell, Harris is nervous, introverted and caught up in the atmosphere of the house, it's the pivotal role and Harris instills a heart aching fragility into the character. Bloom as Theodora has mystical qualities, a sexiness and a devilishly playful disposition, things that play off of Harris' egg shell walking quite brilliantly. While the house itself (exterior is Ettington Park Hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon) is an ominous character all of its own. As Nell first spies the monolithic frontage she muses that it's a monster waiting to swallow her, a small creature, whole; we know exactly how she feels.

Still the template haunted house movie, accept no substitutes and ignore stupid claims of homophobia, this is intelligent, scary and crafted with great skill. 10/10


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