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The Haunting (1963)

Directed by Robert Wise   Screenplay by Nelson Gidding

   Our story revolves around Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson), whose job as a psychic researcher prompted him in choosing others associated with the paranormal to accompany him to the Hill House manor. Conducting a research in order to grasp further information on the subject of ghosts, with no better choice then the history pairing alongside this particular house. Having the participants present in order to capture any record of movement; for official evidence. Our main character begs her sister to borrow the car so unwilling to lend, as unaware of the whereabouts going and whether it would be brought back in proper condition. Deciphering for herself that after eleven years of caring for their sick mother, she would finally do something for herself and heads out either way. With Theodora (Claire Bloom) arriving next, you soon take notice to her entrancing face and demeanor that pairs perfectly with the screen. A last participate attending more so out of his relation to the inheritor, Mrs. Sannerson’s nephew Luke, who could care less about the paranormal. As his sole interest lay in when he would receive the house to live off of. Though our heroine loses her life in the end as shes driven to her death, she was finally able to do what so longed and let go.

1. Eleanor’s inner discussions with self: Having watched the remake first, it wasn’t until years later in which I would check out the original. Unsure of how Eleanor would be displayed and was pleasantly surprised at how disappointing the remake ended up turning out. It was fairly important for the display of Eleanor and her condition to be shown in a way that truly embodied what she was going through. Being able to hear her thoughts, feel as she did, opened up a whole level to the character not taken over in 1999. A slow unraveling of her mind was wonderfully portrayed as the movie itself was quiet, yet filled with her deafening concerns about the actual history of the house. As Eleanor had been present due to her interaction when 10 years old; showers of stones falling atop her house for 3 days straight. In complete denial about the ordeal however, she was also forever plagued by the caring of her mother the past 11 years. Not making it about how ‘spaced’ out she could be or difficult in not actually finding crazy. Julie Harris just had an innocence, yet could switch on firm responses for anyone who dared question her claims.

2. Angles/Editing and Camera Movement: Now, because they didn’t have many effects, or felt many were needed for that matter. As Robert Wise had previously worked as an editor and laid out the film exactly as wanted. They instead used the natural talent of the cast and slated angles to give off the suspense needed. For instance, the moment when Crain’s second wife falls down the stairs and is shown up close, the look on her face with the tilt of her body and camera was forever embodied in my brain. Also, using Eleanor with the darkness, as though it slowly became her as the movie progressed. Found at one point hanging over the balcony, unable to say what had happened. Though one of the ‘biggest’ effects being when the door was seemingly being busted open, achieved by having a stuntman stand behind such and simply pushing it in; not so scary when you think about it in that text though. Pushing the camera around the frame of the door while the pounding continued to give a simple yet effective way of displaying the poltergeist.

3. The History of the House: No time wasted on letting us know the past of the house about to enter. Immediately narrating, we’re told of nearing the presence of a born evil house that had surrounded itself with mystery, misfortune and the death of many coming in contact with. Originally built by Hugh Crain as a home for his family, Mrs. Crain would meet her fate before ever setting foot inside. With daughter Abigail growing within the house, his second wife would meet an untimely death by a unexplained fall down the stairs. Passing away years later as a companion that cared for her inherited Hill House, later committing suicide by the spiral staircase. Passed onto Mrs. Sannerson who had approved the experiment occurring within the house, knowing that her nephew would be one of the participants. Being as Crain was a man who hated people of any sort or conventional ideas, he built the manor to suit this mind with every angle in the house off, leaving no square corners. Because that’ll show em!

4. The Cast: Wherein the obvious choice would be in casting an array of intriguing misfits, such would not be the case for the remake (go figure). The first to arrive at the manor is Eleanor (Julie Harris) whose initial interaction is with the Dudley’s. The misses (Rosalie Crutchley) fairing as a far better choice between the two films as her fiendish smile responds to the mocking of her repetitive nature. Stating the times for dinner and breakfast and how no one could hear them if they screamed…in the night, in the dark. Arriving shortly after, Theo, who was quite the established clairvoyant. Attaching herself to Nell rather quickly and perfectly playing devils advocate while cowering with her new friend one minute. Yet implying perhaps having to do with the occurrences going on around the house the next. Jealousy or an actual cause for concern? While never remarking directly about Theo’s sexuality, it was clearly there and left for the audience to decipher as to what was what in that department. Lead by Richard Johnson’s devilish good looks as the Doc who simply mediated the show going on around him. His voice and sense of humor shining as his despair for the departed comes back around with a feeling of guilt. Leaving Russ Tamblyn (Luke) whose often comedic antics rounded out the group all dealing with the situation at hand.

5. The Subgenre: It’s a difficult enough task to find people who appreciate the older Horror movies for there ability to slow things down in a world where the words more, faster and now are preferences opposed to anything else. However a taut psychological, paranormal thriller was the result. Whereas the remake, while wildly entertaining, couldn’t help such being as it came out an Action, thriller comedy. And who doesn’t love one of those?! I just really hate thinking of all that money going to waste.

   It’s been 50 years this past September since the original The Haunting has been released. A classic tale written as The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Something that fell upon Robert Wise’s hands and after spending a night reading, became frightened when an associate walked in right at a main part in the book. Claiming if able to portray the type of build up done so perfectly that he knew he would have something special. With subtle differences to the book, the title was chosen after asking Shirley of any alternative names had for the novel. The overall runaround of one left with their own paranoia in a huge house created the question of whether the house was even haunted to begin with. Achieving such with a group of four different personalities and a portrayal of a story capable of entertaining without showing any blood, violence or for that matter, any of the supposed ghosts surrounding the house. Rather, creating something that the remake had to spend a ridiculously estimated 80,000,000 in order to modernize.