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THE HAUNTING ($20) is undoubtedly one of the finest and most atmospheric ghost stories to ever grace the silver screen. Having worked early in his career for producer Val Lewton on such films as CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE and THE BODY SNATCHER, director Robert Wise takes a Lewton-ian approach to horror, by utilizing light and shadow to tremendous effect and by not really showing the audience anything- thus creating an imagined horror far greater than anything that could be created on the screen. And, unlike the overblown remake, the Robert Wise version of THE HAUNTING will send real shivers up the audienceís spines because the imagination can still conjure things far scarier than expensive digital special effects.

Based upon the novel The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, THE HAUNTING tells of a scientific investigation conducted in a New England home reputed to be haunted. Julie Harris gives a captivating performance as Eleanor Lance, a mildly unbalanced young woman, who is invited to participate in the investigation by Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) because of a past experience with the supernatural. Also on the investigative team is another young woman named Theodora (Claire Bloom), whose psychic sensitivity is perfectly matched by her insensitivity to those people around her. The final member of the team is the spoiled Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn), who expects to inherit Hill House and is only participating as a means to keep an eye on the familyís property. However, soon after the groupís arrival, Hill House begins to demonstrate how and why it achieved its reputation- dividing the foursome whenever possible and preying upon their weaknesses. The cast of THE HAUNTING also features Fay Compton, Rosalie Crutchley and Lois Maxwell.

Warner Home Video has made THE HAUNTING available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. For a forty-year-old film that hasnít undergone any form of restoration, THE HAUNTING looks quite good on DVD. The image appears pretty sharp and rather nicely defined. The black and white film elements used for the transfer do display a number of blemishes, but they are not excessive. Blacks appear pretty inky and the whites are crisp and stable. Contrast is very good and the picture produces plenty of variety in its grayscale. A grain structure does become noticeable in places; however, it is never bothersome. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed throughout the presentation.

THE HAUNTING comes with a respectable sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. There is no getting away from the fact that these are four-decade-old recordings, as the limited fidelity will attest. Both the top and bottom ends of the track are truncated; fortunately, the music and sound effects really donít call for too much, so they sound reasonably good with a bit of amplification. Additionally, the track has been spruced up to remove most of the background hiss and other signs of age. As for the dialogue, it is crisp and always totally intelligible. A French language track is also included on the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras. Director Robert Wise and screenwriter Nelson Gidding, as well as cast members Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson and Russ Tamblyn are present on a rather detailed running audio commentary that fans will find both informative and enjoyable. Segments of Robert Wiseís screenplay with handwritten notes, plus a still gallery, movie ghost stories essay, cast listing and theatrical trailer close out the extras.

THE HAUNTING is a horror genre classic that has been given a fine DVD release by the folks over at Warner Home Video. If you are a genre fan or just a movie buff, then THE HAUNTING is a disc that you will want to add to your collection. Recommended.



The Haunting (1963)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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