7.5/10
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426 user 101 critic

The Haunting (1963)

G | | Horror | 22 August 1963 (USA)
Trailer
1:08 | Trailer
Hill House has stood for about 90 years and appears haunted: its inhabitants have always met strange, tragic ends. Now Dr. John Markway has assembled a team of people who he thinks will prove whether or not the house is haunted.

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:

At Hill House The Dead Don't Stay Quiet! See more »

Genres:

Horror

Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Richard Johnson later said he received invaluable film acting advice from Robert Wise. Wise told him to keep his eyes steady, to blink less, and to try not to time his acting (Wise said he would take care of that in the editing room). Johnson also credited Wise with helping him to craft a much more natural acting performance. See more »

Goofs

Mrs. Dudley says she sets out dinner at 6 p.m. and leaves soon afterward, when it begins to get dark. Another scene establishes the date as being August 21. Most of the northeastern US observed Daylight Savings Time through late October even before the Uniform Time Act of 1966; nevertheless, sunset in Boston that time of year is around 5:50 p.m. and could not be more than a few minutes later anywhere in New England. Mrs. Dudley might leave right after serving dinner, but it would already be twilight, and quite dark in such a heavily forested area. 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.
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Alternate Versions

The original cut of movie (shown 24/9/03 at Filmhouse, Edinburgh) has several differences from the general release print -
  • Alternate opening with voice-over by the Mrs. Sanderson character in place of the Markway monologue. The titles prior to this scene are slightly different. The 'History of Hill house' scene continues into the meeting with Mrs Sanderson and Markway but in this version, it is Sanderson who is doing most of talking.
  • The following scene from the general release print of Markway listing his subjects on a blackboard is missing. In its place is a scene where Theo throws her lover out her apartment and, next to a photo of her lover, writes "I Hate You!" on a mirror in lipstick, looks at her reflection and mutters "I hate you too...". She then receives her invitation from Markway. This is delivered to her by her landlady, who requires the excess postage to be paid. Theo already knows this is to be paid and there is humorous exchange concerning her ESP or her 'gift.'
  • There are several extended scenes involving Eleanor's 'inner thoughts' - most of which tie into her thoughts on her possible relationship with Markway. The scene showing her traveling to Hill house is extended with more 'inner monologue' material including a couple of shots of her turning onto 'Route 238' and commenting on "Journey's end in lovers meeting...".
  • The Morning/Harp scene runs longer and contains more dialogue from both Eleanor and Markway. This print had a title card prior to the MGM logo - "This print is on loan from the National Film and Television Archive."
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Connections

Referenced in The Watcher in the Woods (1980) See more »

User Reviews

 
And whatever walked there, walked alone.
19 April 2013 | by hitchcockthelegendSee 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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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

22 August 1963 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Haunting See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,400,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$742
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Argyle Enterprises See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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