The Haunting (1963)

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Released 8-Oct-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Julie Harris,Claire Bloom,RussTamblyn(Act.)Robert Wise (Dir)
Gallery-Stills
Theatrical Trailer-2:25
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1963
Running Time 107:19
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (29:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Robert Wise
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Julie Harris
Claire Bloom
Richard Johnson
Russ Tamblyn
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Humphrey Searle


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Arabic
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Haunting is an unusual film. It was made in 1963, when most films were being made in colour, yet it is black-and-white, even though it is in Panavision wide-screen. It works very well as a horror film, yet it shows nothing in the way of dismembered corpses or apparitions. One thing is certain, though: there are good reasons why this film is still popular even now, forty years after its initial release.

    Robert Wise has made an interesting assortment of films, including The Sound of Music, The Sand Pebbles, and the first Star Trek movie. Most recently I saw him in an interview on the Cat People disc (he directed The Curse of the Cat People, sequel to the original Cat People film).

    This film is based on a novel by Shirley Jackson, who apparently approved of the film, even with its changes from her novel. Nelson Gidding, author of the screenplay, visited her accompanied by Robert Wise, the director, and asked her about a possible interpretation of one aspect of the novel. She admitted she hadn't considered that, but thought it an interesting twist.

    The film begins with a history of Hill House, a strange, somewhat ugly mansion. There have been a series of unusual deaths associated with the house, starting from when it was built. It has a reputation for being haunted, which fascinates Dr Markway (Richard Johnson). Markway is out to prove the existence of the supernatural. He invites a number of people to join him at the house, people whom he has selected over a period of years as having some association with the supernatural. The current owner of the house, a Mrs Sannerson, agrees to let him investigate if he includes her nephew, Luke Sannerson (Russ Tamblyn) in the party. Of all the people Markway invites, only Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris) and Theodora (Claire Bloom) show up. So we have our party of four intrepid investigators: Markway is the scientist, Luke is the dilettante, Theo is the ESP-sensitive, and Eleanor is, umm, the person things seem to happen to. It doesn't take long for strange and unusual things to begin happening...

    One other character I want to mention: Dr Markway's wife, played by Lois Maxwell — a lady we've seen most often playing Miss Moneypenny in quite a few James Bond films (14 of them, starting with the very first one). It's interesting to see her in another role.

    This film works well as a horror film, but it can also be seen as a study of what happens in Eleanor's mind. Although the initial voice-over comes from Markway, and we see him negotiating to get access to the house, once we meet Eleanor we concentrate on her, often hearing what she is thinking (in voice-over), and seeing what is happening around her.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. That matches the original theatrical aspect ratio; this film was made in anamorphic Panavision.

    The picture is fairly sharp. Shadow detail is somewhat limited, dropping off into black a bit too quickly, but adequate. Film grain is only minor. There is no low-level noise. There are times when I felt the contrast was a little high, but that might be due to the film stock used (Robert Wise mentions in the commentary that he shot a few external shots on infra-red film to exaggerate the sky).

    Blacks are solid black, whites are white, and there is plenty of variety in the greys in between. There is no trace of the false-colour effect that can afflict a monochrome film.

    There are lots of small film artefacts, but they are generally not annoying. Even the vertical scratches, such as at 58:06, are fine and barely visible. There are a couple of spots where the film jumps, most visibly at 52:36, possibly due to sprocket hole damage.

    Unfortunately, there's a fair bit of aliasing and some ugly moiré, with some of the worst moiré showing on Markway's jacket around 30:03. There are no MPEG artefacts, save for some light shimmer that appears fairly often.

    There are subtitles in English and four other languages, plus both English and Italian for the Hearing Impaired. I only watched the English for the Hearing Impaired; they are well-timed, fairly accurate, and easy to read.

    The disc is single sided and dual layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is fairly early in the piece, at 29:28. It is during a still shot, making it rather difficult to notice.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English, French, and Italian; I only listened to the English, which is unambiguously mono, being Dolby Digital 1.0 at 192kbps. There's an occasional touch of distortion, but it's barely noticeable.

    The dialogue is rather too quiet, making it a bit difficult to understand unless you turn the volume up at least 5dB — once you do, though, it's fine. There are no audio sync issues.

    The score comes from Humphrey Searle. It is a bit shrill in places, and discordant on occasion, but that's deliberate.

    This soundtrack will exercise nothing but your centre channel speaker.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static with a short grab of music. It gets a bit repetitive after a while.

Audio Commentary — director, screenwriter, cast

    This commentary has been pieced together from separate recordings of the six participants, who are:

    In other words, all four of the main characters are here — that's impressive. At least parts of this were recorded quite recently, for one of the speakers comments on the film being forty years old. There are gaps in the commentary, but there's plenty of content. We hear most from Robert Wise and Richard Johnson. They provide a lot of information about the making of the film, from initial conception through to early screenings.

Gallery — Stills (5:04)

    This is a free-running montage of still photos, changing about every 8 seconds. It starts with promotional material, but then goes into a series of behind-the-scenes photos.

Trailer (2:25)

    This is much louder than the feature, but not as good quality.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version sounds quite similar, with all of the extras we have, plus production notes. The descriptions I've read of the R1 transfer make it sound no better than this one. I get the impression that there's very little to tell the two apart. Choose whichever suits you.

Summary

    The Haunting is a classically scary film that has definitely stood the test of time, presented fairly well on DVD.

    The video quality is reasonable for a film of its age.

    The audio quality is adequate.

    The extras include a commentary from the six main participants, which is unexpected for a film this old.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, September 19, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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