An evil old house, the kind some people call haunted, is like an undiscovered country waiting to be explored. Hill House had stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more. Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there… walked alone.
The past few weeks have been rather hectic in terms of time, so I haven’t had a chance to do a Flashback Friday in a while. And, really, this is just a brief entry in honor of the passing of Julie Harris on August 24. While Ms. Harris was a multi-award-winning actress who found fame in movies, television, and theater, she shall forever be to me Eleanor “Nell” Lance from The Haunting, Robert Wise’s 1963 adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s brilliantly unsettling book The Haunting of Hill House.
I once made a list here at the lair of 10 of my all-time favorite horror movies, and The Haunting was securely in this mix. If I had to narrow this list down to only five? The Haunting would remain. It is a wonderfully atmospheric film based upon one of my favorite novels from one of my favorite authors. Also, with unflinchingly eerie cinematography, Wise proved he was definitely a director who knew his trade well; what he did with cameras and angles and deep focus in this film are all part of what still make it an amazing addition to the horror genre.
Plus, the cast was positively stellar. In addition to Harris, equally renowned stage actress Claire Bloom portrayed the “unnatural” clairvoyant Theodora, one of my favorite genre characters (although Theodora is far more nuanced and practical [and far less hysterical] in Jackson’s novel); Richard Johnson played Dr. John Markway; when he wasn’t being a Jet all the way, Russ Tamblyn played Luke Sanderson; and while on leave as the internationally known Moneypenny from early James Bond fame, Lois Maxwell made an appearance as Dr. Markway’s wife, Grace. Plus, there are a couple of supporting actors who deliver some awesome moments, including Rosalie Crutchley as the intensely morbid Mrs. Dudley (No one will hear you in the night. In the dark. Isn’t that right, Mrs. Dudley?).
I talk about this movie all the time because it truly is one of my favorites. There’s no way to simply explain how wonderful it is. Every moment is a new discovery. Every scene is art. Every knock, creak, moan, roar, smash, clang, crash, and scream are a horror fan’s delight. I have watched this film myriad times. I will watch it myriad more. It is fantastic and frightening and deserves the respect that it continues to receive. Also? That house. That house that they found for this movie blows my mind.
It is now the Ettington Park Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m not going to lie…it’s my goal one day to stay here, or at the very least to visit it. I feel this is a sabbatical I need to take.
Until then, I shall happily pull my DVD out and take a trip to Hill House again and again and again…