THE HAUNTING (1963) Reviews and overview

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The Haunting is a 1963 British psychological horror film about a team of paranormal investigators staying in a seemingly haunted house.

Directed by American Robert Wise (Audrey Rose) from a screenplay by Nelson Gidding based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (We Have Always Lived in the Castle).  It was remade in 1999.

The movie stars Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson (The Monster ClubZombie Flesh Eaters; Beyond the Door), Russ Tamblyn, Fay Compton, Rosalie Crutchley, Lois Maxwell and Valentine Dyall (City of the Dead).

Reviews:
“So many elements blend together perfectly in The Haunting, creating a horror film that, even decades later, will scare the piss out of you. In unison with the black and white photography, which perfectly conveys the dark, shadowy terrain of this most unusual abode, is the camerawork of Davis Boulton, who isn’t afraid to tilt and turn his camera, signifying a situation that is quickly spinning out of control.” 2,500 Movies Challenge

“Overlong ghost story with a surplus of dull chat. A few effective moments – the ‘breathing door’ is memorable…” Howard Maxford, The A – Z of Horror Films

The Haunting relies on precise and unsettling compositions, low angles and unexpected camera moves. Wise shot very little additional coverage, editing in his head and checking dailies as he went, a life-long habit retained from his early days as a film editor. Warner’s 2003 DVD of this MGM film wasn’t bad, but this 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray improves on it in every respect.” Blu-ray.com

The Haunting is a wonderfully mature horror film, as ambiguous as it is terrifying, leaving some doubt in the mind of the viewer as to what really is going on. Like that other great British ghost film of the 1960s, Jack Clayton’s masterly The Innocents (1961), there are hints that much of what we are seeing stems from the mind of its heroine…” The EOFFTV Review

“…it sets itself a dizzyingly high standard at the very outset with a prolonged flashback detailing the troubled history of Hill House, the episodes blending into one another via disquieting dissolves that seem liable at any moment to disclose a ghostly face. The film comes complete with a queasily atonal score by Humphrey Searle and a remarkable cast of British character actors. It’s pulverisingly effective as a haunted house picture and a fascinating character study to boot.” Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic, A Century of Horror Cinema

Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca

“A chillingly effective ghost story made all the more scary by Wise’s sensible refusal to make things visually explicit, relying instead upon the horror of the unseen. The sound effects are particularly well done and add immensely to the overall horrific effect.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

“We are treated to a flood of reaction shots from the actors so that we can clearly see how scared they are. We only get one special effect toward the end of the 2nd act, but the buildup surrounding it makes it all the more terrifying. And other than some schizoid cinematography, there are no other special effects for the rest of the film, but you’re already in such a terrified state that you don’t care.” The Pitt and the Pendulum

the haunting 1963 blu-ray

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The Haunting relies heavily on the acting of Julie Harris. And it works. Her fragile sanity and fits of anger, persecution and guilt seem to mirror the house’s bouts of door-slamming, moaning, children crying and general craziness. The cinematography by David Boulton should be singled out […] This is a classic not-to-be-missed.” The Terror Trap

Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel was re-issued to tie in with the film’s 1963 release:

haunting of hill house shirley jackson pulp paperback novel cover

Buy novel: Amazon.co.uk

Cast and characters:
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
Pamela Buckley … First Mrs Crain
Amy Dalby … Abigail Crain, aged eighty
Rosemary Dorken … Abigail Crain’s Nurse-Companion
Verina Greenlaw … Dora Fredericks
Claude Jones … Garage Attendant
Frieda Knorr … Second Mrs Crain
Howard Lang … Hugh Crain
Janet Mansell … Abigail Crain, aged six
Paul Maxwell … Bud Fredericks
Susan Richards … Nurse
Mavis Villiers … Landlady

Filming locations:
Austral House, Basinghall Avenue, London, England
Ettington Park, Ettington, Warwickshire – exterior shots
MGM Borehamwood – studio

Technical details:
1 hour 52 minutes
Black and white
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Trailer:

Clip:

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