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haunting

THE HAUNTING (1963)

Psychic researchers investigate a supposedly haunted house, with spooky results.

The sterling cast includes: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, Lois Maxwell, and Fay Compton.

Director Robert Wise with "The Haunting," has created a gripping horror/suspense classic.

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Promotional Lines: "You may not believe in ghosts but you cannot deny terror"
"SCREAM... no one will hear you! RUN...and the silent foosteps will follow, for in Hill House the dead are restless!"

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This classic film begins with a prologue that gives the audience the sinister history of Hill House, a "house born bad."

Director Robert Wise's THE HAUNTING is a gripping horror/suspense classic. The film begins with Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson) inviting a mixed group of psychics and cynics to a supposedly haunted house, said by town tradition, to have been "born bad." Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn), the next in line owner of Hill House, Theodora (Clair Bloom), a clairvoyant and psychic Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris) all agree to spend some time at Hill House, to investigate the existence of ghosts in this mansion that has a notorious reputation for being haunted.

The audience is introduced to Eleanor, who has taken care of her ill mother most of her life. When her mother dies, she must live with her sister, her brother-in-law and her bratty niece, who aren't the nicest people in the world. While Eleanor has psychic ability, she is also emotionally unstable. When invited to take part in Markway's study, she takes the car without permission, and travels to Hill House, where she is the first one to arrive. She feels the house watching her.

When the others arrive, it doesn't take long for manifestations to begin, in scary, insideous ways, giving the living more than they can handle, as evil, deranged presences let the living know that they are trespassing, while they slowly take control of fragile Eleanor, wanting only her to stay.

The spooky events that transpire have a profound effect on all of those involved.Without using the blood and gore of today's horror flicks, Wise creates great tension, and some genuine shocks, thrills and spills. With the aid of black and white photography, odd angles, unsettling music, and superb acting, "The Haunting" is memorably creepy.

Julie Harris is fascinating as a somewhat mentally/emotionally disturbed woman who becomes unhinged during her stay at haunted Hill House. Because of her mental problems, she was slowly possessed by an evil presence in the house. Under Wise's astute direction, she gives the kind of performance with which she wowed stage and screen audiences for years.

While no ghost makes a visual appearance, everything that points to a haunted house is present in this house. Unseen presences, mostly angry, evil, disturbed ones, make their presences clearly known to the people staying at Hill House. The characters experience the uncomfortable feeling of being watched, cold spots, hear crazy, insane laughter, running down the halls, door knobs turning, see eyes in the wooden walls watching them, mumbling, loud knocking noises on the doors & walls, bending walls, and even being physically touched by an unseen child presence, as described below in the favorite scene selection. Also, there was writing on the wall with a chalky substance, and the character, Eleanor, who perhaps had some psychic medium ability; slowly becomes under the influence of an evil presence in the house. She found it hard to fight against it, because of her vulnerability caused by her emotional needs and mental problems.

A favorite scene takes place at night, in the room shared by Harris and Bloom. After complaining that Bloom is holding her hand too hard, the camera quickly moves back to reveal that Harris and Bloom's beds are VERY far apart. "Then whose hand was I holding?" a disturbed Harris inquires. Whose hand indeed! Goosebumps, anyone?

Russ Tamblyn ("West Side Story") gives an interesting layered performance. He makes a credible transition from a wise cracking cynic, to a sober believer in the supernatural. Along the way he has a few moments to show off the dancer's athleticism he was famous for.

Lois Maxwell went on to some fame as "Miss Moneypenny" in the James Bond film series. She appears to have had more fun there then here.

The film benefits from a top notch screenplay, by Nelson Gidding, adapted from Shirley Jackson's novel, "The Haunting of Hill House."

If you enjoyed THE HAUNTING, you may like POLTERGEIST, THE SHINNING, THE LEDGEND OF HELL HOUSE, and/or the new version of THE HAUNTING.