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.
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 <email@example.com>
Look closely at Dr. Markway as he folds his paper at the breakfast table and you can see he is holding a cigarette in his left hand. In the very next shot, Markway is holding the cigarette in his right hand instead. See more »
Dr. John Markway:
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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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."
THE HAUNTING(1963) is an important horror film because it is one of a tiny handful of films within the tradition that genuinely unsettle the viewer. Are the events at Hill House for real, or are they happening on the inside of Eleanor Lance's head? The author of the novel upon which this movie was based, Shirley Jackson, left us to wonder at the end of her story. A constant theme in Jackson's work was the displacement and the destruction of the hopes of women (Most of her work was written in the 1940s and 1950s).
Jackson, in her own intriguingly artful manner, asks us in The Haunting of Hill House to contemplate the domestic prison that many women like Eleanor Lance found themselves in. Eleanor is a spinster, the slightly dotty older sister compelled by restrictive family relationships to care for an ailing mother. She's been nowhere, she has had no experiences, and she barely has social skills. Like anyone else, she wants love, intimacy, friendship, and she doesn't know how to seek them. Naturally, she operates from a place of low-key fury. Julie Harris conveys this so successfully in the film that she actually bounces the viewer between feelings of empathy and feelings of exhaustion. "Why doesn't she make up her mind to go or stay?", we ask ourselves. Eleanor isn't an attractive person, and Julie Harris plays this to the "t". THE HAUNTING explores Jackson's extended metaphor of feminine anger damn near as skillfully as the author presented it on the page. Certainly whatever "walks alone at Hill House" is not such a distant cousin from the Corn Goddess, or other archetypal representations of the understandable rage of women whose lives have been restricted by domestic roles. But how much of it genuinely resonates from that house with its "doors that stay sensibly shut", and how much of it is between the ears of Eleanor Lance, who, even in a crowd, is walking alone, just as is whatever is in Hill House? In creating this book, Shirley Jackson was able to breach the same territory the 19th century feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman explored in her remarkable story The Yellow Wallpaper. And it is no small thing that the cast of The Haunting- Julie Harris and Claire Bloom foremost- were able to recreate on the screen and do this complex novel such justice. Director Robert Wise, who fifteen years before gave us the Val Lewton masterpiece THE BODYSNATCHER, labored diligently to establish the same stifling atmosphere found in that earlier film. Patterns in wallpaper that vibrate with voice, doors that breathe, and that steady, horrific hammering on the walls that chills as certainly as did Jackson's description in the book itself.
Certainly Rus Tamblyn and Richard Johnson do more than pull their weight in this piece, and it couldn't have been easy to play second line to talents like Harris and Bloom. The cast, the direction, the set, everything works in this movie, a remarkable work of harmonic convergence on celluloid. THE HAUNTING is an important film to see because it does what horror films rarely do, it freely explores the internal and takes us all along, and babies, we ain't laughing. But it works. And that's more than can be said for three quarters of the over-hyped movie offerings in the horror tradition. Among U.S. horror films of the 1960s, only PSYCHO and ROSEMARY'S BABY touch so boldly on the unspoken terror in the horror film:a common fear among our spieces that we may be unworthy of love. Are we talking frightening now?
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