The Haunting (1963)

“It was an evil house from the beginning – a house that was born bad.” Arguably the best of the haunted-house genre, this superb psychological horror film was directed by Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound of Music) and based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel, The Haunting of Hill House. Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) leads a team of paranormal researchers to investigate the possibility of supernatural occurrences at a huge and very eerie, 90-year-old mansion called Hill House. The group includes the rather unstable spinster Eleanor “Nell” Lance (Julie Harris), the clairvoyant lesbian Theodora “Theo” (Claire Bloom) and wisecracking heir to the estate Luke Sannerson (Russ Tamblyn). I really enjoyed the opening sequence (which provides a wonderfully disturbing history of the house and its unfortunate inhabitants), the maze-like mansion itself, the unstable spiral staircase, the bending door, the weird statues, the “Whose hand was I holding?” scene and the creepy caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley (Valentine Dyall and Rosalie Crutchley). Is Nell truly insane or is the house really haunted? Lois Maxwell (best known as “Miss Moneypenny” in the James Bond films) portrays Markway’s skeptical wife, Grace. The exterior shots were filmed at Ettington Hall (now known as the Ettington Park Hotel) near Stratford-on-Avon. Skip the truly awful 1999 remake that starred Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson. Useless Trivia: Director Martin Scorsese reportedly placed The Haunting No. 1 on his list of the scariest horror films of all time.

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