• Sandwiched between two gigantic musicals (West Side Story in 1961 and The Sound of Music in 1965— also made Two for the Seesaw in this stretch as well in 1962) Robert Wise made one of more ambitious A-budget horror films this side of The Shining.
  • The Haunting opens with the history of the Hill house deaths via voiceover from Richard Johnson.
  • This is from Shirley Jackson’s famous novel. Wise is eager to capture some of Jackson’s fabulous writing in Julie Harris’ inner monologue even if it undercuts the performance a little. “Why am I here?” and “I’m coming apart a little at a time”. She is mousy and twitchy.
  • Russ Tamblyn (back with Wise after West Side Story) plays the “cocksure” young skeptic.
  • This was not shot in 65mm like the two musicals that flank this film in Wise’s career, but still- he uses the full wider 2.35 : 1 aspect ratio to full effect (this is the director that would later deliver perhaps THE split diopter film in The Andromeda Strain from 1971). At the 39-minute Johnson is foreground left, Tamblyn is center-center, and Claire Bloom is in the background right on the stairs.
  • Wise enthusiastically directs and edits the horror effects- the camera flies to the door, he bounces all around the room at difference distances to get the effect of a ghost or being in the room with the characters. Even the continued dedication to wide compositions gives the effect of these four characters being observed- and perhaps stalked.
  • In the gardens at the 59-minute mark with the statue in the front, Bloom foreground left—the two men are in the middle and Harris far background. This is Kurosawa or Wyler.

These are wide shots in large gothic parlors—this would be a perfect film to show in an example of why the pan and scan television effect (hopefully outlawed at this point) does not work.

  • At the 70-minute mark there is a fabulous low angle shot with Tamblyn in the foreground right kneeling. Johnson is standing in the background left but he is no more than a few feet behind Tamblyn in reality. This is Welles. Wise was the editor of Citizen Kane of course.

At the 78-minute mark- Harris background left with Johnson in the foreground right. Kurosawa had this mentality that if he had to show two people talking he would find a way to do it cinematically with a strong composition– Wise seems to have adopted that for much of The Haunting.

Perhaps the most brilliant shot and sequence in the film is the split diopter at the 88-minute mark with Harris in the foreground left with Bloom and Johnson opening the door in the background right all accompanied by Harris’ frazzled inner monologue.

  • A sensational score would have helped this film immensely- it does not have one- which is strange because Wise is Mr. Musical.

At the 100-minute mark Wise uses a high angle camera from the top of the spiral staircase.

Wise loves to use inventive angles here. It not only adds to the artistry of the compositions, but has an unnerving effect tied to the narrative and mood.

intermittently throughout the film he uses low angle shots up at the eerie castle – which serves as both an establishing shot and part of the reoccurring form. The house was set against the dark sky – Wise used infrared film stock to capture this effect.

  • A Must-See quality film