Let's Scare Matthew Price to Death

The Haunting (1963), with Peter Kuplowsky

julie harris big head haunting

It’s back to cases, as we return to the setting of the very first episode of our show, a haunted house. but The Haunting might be the best looking horror film ever made – Director Robert Wise certainly aims for that, pulling every great camera and editing trick he learned working on films like Citizen Kane. Peter Kuplowsky chose this, and he might be the most enthusiastic film scholar and programmer in the world. The answer is most likely probably maybe yes to both. Now listen, and decide for yourself!

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[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/lsmp2d/LSMP2D_PeterKaplowski_MAIN.mp3]

Direct Download: LSMP2D_PeterKaplowski_MAIN.mp3

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  • Allan McPherson

    Great episode, maybe my favourite so far. My take away (heavily influenced by the book, for the record) is The Haunting is an anti-haunted house film (contra, perhapse?). I see Hill House not being larded with spirits but rather completely devoid of them, of humanity at all. It exists as a sort of sink hole of humanism, built by a misanthrope as an expression of that misanthropy. The way Jackson describes the design of Hill House is that it deliberately defied the tenants of architecture, that it did not work like a house “should.” I saw this as critique (or maybe just a fanciful subversion) of Frank Lloyd Wright. This came to me 20+ years ago, when I was working at an Architecture and Design Library, so those elements may have been overly on my mind.

    Your comment on the opening “history lesson” narration, with its light spookhouse tone is spot on. It promises something light and jaunty then drops you into the grim Ibsen-esque parlor scene. That transition immediately lays a ground work for dread. Once you see the human hell Nell is living in, the last thing you want to see is her becoming a joke, anything terrible that might happen to her being treated as an entertainment. It is a great moment of upending the audience expectation.

    Fantastic film, genre or not. Thanks for the conversation!

    Reply to Allan McPherson
  • Sean Kelly

    The original Haunting has been a film that I have been forever wanting to see.

    I saw the remake in theatres and actually admit to liking it on the first viewing, though my opinion on the film lessened when I got the film on home video and watched it a few more times.

    However there are three moments of the remake that still stand out for me (some spoilers ahead):
    1) Skeleton jump scare
    2) Lili Taylor getting pinned to the bed by moving furniture
    3) Decapitation by lion-shaped fireplace flue

    Reply to Sean Kelly
  • Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg

    Shirley Jackson was American

    Reply to Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg
  • Robert Reineke

    The Lovecraft story you couldn’t quite name is The Picture in the House. Like Texas Chain Saw Massacre the protagonist discovers a cannibal is the occupant.

    In addition to Kane I think Robert Wise’s time with Val Lewton is a clear influence on The Haunting.

    If you’re looking for films in a similar vein let me highly recommend The Innocents.

    Reply to Robert Reineke

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