15 July 2024

The Haunting (1963)
Contributed by Robin Sherwood

Robin Sherwood is a former model turned stage and film actress who appeared in such horror fare as the grindhouse favorite The Love Butcher (1975), the classic Tourist Trap (1979), Brian De Palma's Blow Out (1981) as well as a meaty turn in the vigilante thriller Death Wish II (1982). She has graced several fan conventions including Chiller Theater, and will be featured in the genre lecture series Fear-Mongers: Fireside Chats about Horror Films at Dixon Place in lower Manhattan on December 21, 2010. Sherwood volunteers at Pet Rescue and lives in New York with her beloved cat.

I’ve just watched The Haunting, the original 1963 version directed by Robert Wise that starred Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Thomas and Russ Tamblyn.

When I saw it for the first time, I was ten-years-old. And I didn't sleep for weeks, I was so terrified. It haunted me until I saw it again recently.

In viewing the The Haunting this time around, I focused on the fashion, exterior life and food as if I had been cast in the part of Theodora. I suppose my acting experience had something to do with me watching the movie from that angle.

What initially struck me is how much I loved the grandeur of Hill House. Were it not haunted, I would have loved to live in this gargoyle-laden Victorian palace!

Entering the house first are Julie Harris (Eleanor) and Claire Bloom (Theo). Julie is dressed rather dowdy with a natural, no-makeup look. But Claire looks stunning…"gorgeous" would be the more appropriate word.

Claire’s clothes were designed for the film by Mary Quant. [Quant was costume designer for several movies in the 60's such as Georgy Girl with Lynn Redgrave.]

I wanted all of the outfits she had on in The Haunting. I just hoped that the leopard print jacket she was wearing was a fake. Okay, maybe I can do without the fake leopard jacket. But I imagined what I would look like in the rest of Claire's dreamy clothes. That timeless style is still fashionable today.

Her hair and makeup are breathtaking as well, especially when she had a softer appearance with her hair falling down to her shoulders. It seemed to me that Claire approached the role of Theo as if she were playing a cat. There's a feline aura about her.

I also noticed how chic the characters' breakfast was in the morning...very health and weight conscious too. Julie had one boiled egg, half a grapefruit and one cup of coffee. The lifestyle at Hill House was quite elegant. Everyone was thin.

But this is still a horror picture after all. And for me, the scariest scene was at the end, when a woman - an apparition in white - runs behind the tree where Julie's Nell is killed by her car crashing into it. That was truly frightening.

Thank goodness I revisited The Haunting, because I'm no longer afraid of the film anymore. I had fun, and even laughed at the rubber door. And I so enjoyed the fashion statements...

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