The Haunting
The Haunting

Wise first read the Shirley Jackson book "The Haunting of Hill House" when he was in pre-production on WEST SIDE STORY. "I was reading one of the very scary passages—hackles were going up and down my neck—when Nelson Gidding...burst through
Bloom and Harris

Claire Bloom and Julie Harris

the door to ask me a question. I literally jumped about three feet out of my chair. I said, 'if it can do that to me sitting and reading, it ought to be something I want to make a picture out of.'"*

This film, Wise's last in black-and-white, showcased his brilliant mastery of black-and-white techniques. "The exterior was a several-hundred-years-old manor house out in the country....It was a pretty horrifying-looking thing under certain kinds of lights, and I accentuated that by shooting some of the exteriors with infra-red film."*

As always, he used all the tools available to him as a craftsman in order to convey and intensify the important elements of whatever story he was telling. He was shooting this picture in Panavision and could not find a wide-angle lens that would give him the spooky feeling he wanted to elicit from the house's hallways. So he called the president of Panavision, Bob Gottschalk, and asked if there were wider-angle lenses available. Gottschalk told him "'We have developed a 30mm, but it's not ready for use yet. It's got a lot of distortion in it.' I said, 'That's exactly what I need for certain places—I want the house to look almost alive.'"*

Wise cleverly used suggestion and simple effects to create an atmosphere of icy terror that would serve as a model for haunted house movies for years to come.

From the AFI Catalog of Feature Films

PosterSynopsis Dr. John Markway, an anthropologist with an interest in psychic research, learns that Hill House, an old mansion in New England, has a reputation for evil and supposedly is filled with supernatural powers; and he decides to conduct an experiment there. Assisting him are two women he has carefully selected: Eleanor Vance, a lonely, withdrawn woman who supposedly had a supernatural experience at the age of 10 and has devoted her life to caring for her invalid mother; and Theodora, a bohemian of lesbian leanings and remarkable extrasensory perception. Luke Sannerson, a skeptic who stands to inherit the house, accompanies them. Almost immediately the quartet are subjected to thunderous poundings, hideous screeching, and other terrifying phenomena for which Markway can find no rational explanation. Eleanor feels that the house is calling to her; and she begins to treat it as a living object. At this point Dr. Markway's skeptical wife, Grace, arrives and, defying the ghost, tries to persuade her husband to give up his experiments. Eleanor, who has fallen in love with Markway, now loses all touch with reality; and the other members of the group decide that for her own safety she must leave. As she drives away she feels a force tugging at the steering wheel; then, suddenly, Grace appears in the road, and Eleanor, in attempting to avoid hitting her, swerves off the road and is killed by crashing into the same tree under which the first mistress of Hill House died. (From: xxxxx)

Wise Facts
  • The house where most of the movie was filmed was said to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman who had thrown herself off the balcony one Friday because she could not marry her lover. "We did not film on Fridays,"* said Wise.
  • Hip London designer Mary Quant costumed Claire Bloom.
  • Credits: 112 min. Argyle Enterprises; A Robert Wise Production; Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.;  Directed by: Robert Wise;  Produced by: Robert Wise;  Screenplay by: Nelson Gidding;  Edited by: Ernest Walter;  Director of Photography: Davis Boulton;  Music by: Humphrey Searle;  Production Design by: Elliot Scott;  Sound by: Gerry Turner;  Costumes by: Maude Churchill;  Make-up by: Tom Smith;  Hair by: Joan Johnstone; 
    Fay Compton Cast  Julie Harris (Eleanor Vance), Claire Bloom (Theodora), Richard Johnson (Dr. Markway), Russ Tamblyn (Luke Sannerson), Lois Maxwell (Grace), Rosalie Crutchley (Mrs. Dudley), Fay Compton (Mrs. Sannerson), Valentine Dyall (Mr. Dudley), Ronald Adam (Eldridge Harper), Freda Knorr (2d Mrs. Crain), Janet Mansell (Abigail, 6 years), Pamela Buckley (1st Mrs. Crain), Howard Lang (Hugh Crain), Mavis Villiers (Landlady), Verina Greenlaw (Dora), Paul Maxwell (Bud), Diane Clare (Carrie Fredericks), Claude Jones (Fat man), Susan Richards (Nurse), Amy Dalby (Abigail, 80 years), and Rosemary Dorken (Companion)

    Photo Gallery
    Movie Clips
    Complete Credits


    1. Robert Wise On His Films, p. 44
    2. Robert Wise On His Films, p.177
    3. Robert Wise On His Films, p.177
    4. M-G-M Press Release, Jan. 18, 1963

    © American Film Institute