on June 12, 2004
HIll House has been standing empty for almost 90 years. Whipsers of strange phenomena have kept would-be ocupants away for a long time; not even the owners will live their. That is, until Dr. John Markway assembles a small team to invesitgate the supposed supernatural events of the house. He invites Theodora, a psychic who lives a very different lifestyle; Eleanor, a sheltered young woman who recently lost her canterkaerous mother and has had experienece with poltergeist phenomena; and Luke Sanderson, soon to inherit Hill House and acting as the family's representative. Together, they begin to study the house, it's history and architecture. Or, has the house chosen one of the team for its own purposes?
Horror film director Robert Wise does a magnificent job with this adaptation of the Shirley Jackson novel. Very few visual effects are used, instead relying on lighting (the one scene with the wallpaper in Eleanor's room is eerie), atmosphere, sound and the viewers own fear to create a creepingly chilling film. They make the viewer feel like actors in the movie instead of bystanders. All the actors give fine performances: Clair Bloom as Theo, Russ Tamblyn as Luke, and Richard Johnson as Dr. Markway. But, Julie Harris' performance of Eleanor makes the film. Her almost childlike confusion, fear and determination to stay the course keep you enrapt in the film.
It's very refreshing to see a horror film that doesn't rely so much on expensive special effects to get the chills across, instead using acting, lighting and story to convey terror and fright. This is a classic horror film that still delivers to this day.
on November 21, 2001
"The Haunting" is undoubtedly the best horror film ever made. This is better than anything Hitchcock made, better than anything Hammer made, better than anything else in the genre. "Psycho" looks subaverage and tame compared to this utterly terrifying masterpiece. Parts of this movie will have any sentient lifeform wizzing their proverbial pants and shuddering, spellbound but totally frozen in fear. The character of Eleanor is tragic, sad, and totally believable:the actress gives one of the best performances I've ever seen on the stage or in film. Everything was simply done right with this movie. I would go so far as to say that this movie alone, even though it was made in 1964, is a solid justification for the past and continued existence of horror movies--and there have been far more bad and just objectionable/desensitizing horror movies than substantive and intelligent ones. This surpasses the book, and the book was a classic. One of the most effective, noirish, decadent, fascinating, enigmatic movies ever made.
on June 28, 2004
Most people see the remake and won't bother with this one, but this film is really truely pure horror unlike the remake, one of the scarest films ever made, it also tells a classic story of a repressed women and a house that makes her lose her mind, the film is so much more than all of that though, it has all the events timed perfectly as it keeps bulding more and more untill the frightning conclution, If you're a true horror fan give this one a shot, you'll love it.
on September 6, 2003
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 Vance (Julie Harris) deciedes 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 extrodinary 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 atmosheric 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
on January 31, 2008
I first watched part of this movie when I was 10 (when it first came on TV). I only got to the part where the woman falls down the stairs then my father had to turn the television channel for fear of my hysterical reaction. For decades I thought the movie was called "Hill House". When I finally saw the movie in total it still held the increasing suspense and mystery that makes it a classic. This movie should NEVER be put into colour and is best seen in a basement with all the lights off.
on March 24, 2004
My only complaint about The Haunting is that I can't seem to stay awake to watch it when I'm tired or sleepy. Otherwise, it is the very finest ghost story you will ever see. I personally prefer Shirley Jackson's excellent book The Haunting Of Hill House to either film version, as it goes into much more detail. The remake isn't at all as bad as the critics say and has some new twists to offer in the story. But, the original still stands as the definitive ghost story. It takes quite awhile for the story to really get going and there is a lot of talk and very little action for most of the film's running time. But, there is at least one scene that will leave you wondering as you lie in your bed in a dark room if you are really alone. Who could ever forget Mrs. Dudley's creepy and sinister little smile when she says "There won't be anyone to help if you call out in the night". Brrrrr.......... Just turn down the lights, get someone you trust to hold onto and make sure you are wide awake when you watch it!!
on February 24, 2004
Man, what can I say that hasn't already been said. This was a great horror experience. And this is truly the only version on film that represents Shirley Jackson's original novel. It is a dark and frightening place these unsuspecting people step into, and it only gets worse.
Hill House is haunted, and a parapsychologist (Richard Johnson) chooses three other "researchers" to help him investigate what exactly is going on in this house. However, none of them are prepared for what will unfold.
The cast is superb, with Julie Harris playing a vulnerable "runaway" adult trying to gain respect and freedom for herself. Richard Johnson is the brave, level-headed researcher, hoping to find proof of life-after-death. Claire Bloom, sexy and unpredictable, plays the self-reliant psychic with a secret of her own. Russ Tamblyn as the synic turned believer. And watch for a surprising appearance of Louise Maxwell, Bond's Miss Moneypenny.
The film is a black-and-white masterpiece of gathering darkness and horror. Robert Wise fought Warner Brothers to keep the movie in black-and-white at a time when all major studios were insisting on color. The DVD presents the film in its original widescreen aspect ratio. The camera work here is tricky and masterful, catching you with odd angles and directions that cause a vague, and growing sense of angst, very much like the narrative in Shirley Jackson frightening novel. The sound quality is excellent. And the extras on this DVD are exceptional, with a full-length commentary including Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, Director Robert Wise and screenwriter Nelson Gidding.
Turn out the lights kids, it's the only way to meet this thing; in the dark.
on January 15, 2004
Call it horror or a supernatural thriller, "The Haunting" (1963) ruled out the pitfalls that made others of the genre seem pretentious. On first sight you are treated to a mansion set in an evil aura with baroque décor and looming statues. Doctor Markway (Richard Johnson) presides over the investigation, supplying us with an excellent catalog of phenomena to fuel our apprehension. Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris) is the hysterical spinster whose emotional fears become bound with ours. Then there is the wild soundtrack. Humphrey Searle composed a creepy score with a strong arrangement of brass and strings, creating an abstract and crazy effect to attack the senses. A perfect plot, script, narrative and good casting builds the horror through the viewer's own imagination. The best example of a movie to triumph over gore, intense violence and CGI. More evidence that "black and white" is not an obsolete format but an underused film technique. Robert Wise is a versatile director who showed a genuine skill in fright. You will not find "The Haunting" in any shallow top ten list with other famous horror films. You will find it taking refuge in your personal list of what you fear. A movie with a formula to survive repeated viewing and perpetual quality on DVD.
on November 1, 2003
I bought this release yesterday in a 'Scary Halloween Movies' issue here in Holland. The first thing that struck me was to read about an audio commentary, which supposedly included much of the original cast but without Richard Johnson (playing Dr Markway). The poor man must either have past away, or declined to cooperate in this project I thought. How wrong could I (or the (Dutch) person(s) responsible for the text on the packaging) be?
Richard Johnson's voice suddenly appeared with the introduction of his character, sounding very much alive indeed! Much to my amusement he filled most of the audio commentary track. His contribution was probably the best, with interesting details about stage acting vs film acting, old films (better than?) new films, and his 'nearly being Bond' comment (triggered by the appearance of Lois Maxwell in the film). He was the only one to make a (very funny) reference to the 1999 disaster remake. Anyway, the announced commentary by Claire Bloom and Julie Harris turned out to be short bits, that gave me the impression they were cut-and-past work from some pre-recorded obscure interview in comparison.
By the way, Russ Tamblyn's 'real' ghostly encounter was interesing and appropriate for this hair raising picture from an era which lacked cheesy computer effects.
I intend to show this film (luckily I saw it on the BBC several years or so before the remake) to my friends, who will just have to admit that this still stands as the one and only 'Haunting'. As someone else here already said, this is the best haunted house movie around, due to it's subtile terror, a great cast and atmosphere (only the original Amityville comes close).
on August 19, 2003
Forget the recent cgi-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 absense 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 Vance 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!