4 Outstanding Actresses: It’s 1964 and there’s cognitive commotion!

MBDPUEA EC001
Anne Bancroft as a lady who lunches and listens to gossip in The Pumpkin Eater – being held hostage by the intensely neurotic Yootha Joyce a lonely housewife sitting next to her while trapped under the hair dryer of life…
CapturFiles
Woman at hair dressers-“It’s like I told you, my life is an empty place!” Jo-“Well what do you want me to do about it?”

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

Cognition–ˌkägˈniSHən|
(noun)
the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
• a result of this; a perception, sensation, notion, or intuition.

CapturFiles_8 copy 2

These 4 particular films seem to be part of a trend of films that deal with either women’s brewing emotional turmoil or in the case of Jean Seberg’s Lilith- a creeping organic madness, perhaps from childhood trauma that is not delved into. 

Let’s consider women either in distress or the oft used “hysterical’ trademark that summons every neurotic ill associated with women. With these 4 films it’s the same root problem: Why should society determine what counts as an emotional problem? This is especially true for women, as if she was the engendering source of a specific kind of female mayhem, the creator of the tumult itself… Capable of giving birth, does she also give birth to a certain kind of madness directed inwardly or aimed outward at society and it’s unyielding ethical questions?

It’s not that I think Barbara Barrie is troubled because she falls in love with a black man. It’s that the world is troubled by her decision. Because of her choice -a society inherently cruel punishes her by taking away the one thing she had personal power over, to remove her child from her life. Although, she has a wonderful relationship with Frank both are being judged and condemned.

CapturFiles_16

CapturFiles_2 copy

The judge who awards custody of her little girl to the biological father even though he is not the better parent. Not too long ago, women could be hospitalized just for being menopausal, based on what their husbands say.

Women were at the mercy of white male society’s judgment. So if a white woman loves and marries a black man in the volatile climate of the civil rights 60s it would absolutely cause turmoil and quite the commotion.

CapturFiles_31 copy

All these women experience cognitive commotion, but are not necessarily crazy. One Potato Two Potato is about the societal impositions forced upon an inter-racial couple and the strain of a child custody battle forcing her to qualify herself as a good mother. The sentiments of the time, the courts and society in general are dis-empowering Julie through her motherhood.
This inflicts an agonizing torture on Barbara Barrie’s character Julie. Barrie’s performance as well as Bernie Hamilton as a man whose own masculinity is tested, tears me up inside…
A white woman, Julie Cullen falls in love with Frank Richards, a black man, against the will of everyone around them, including his parents who think he should stick with his own kind. Eventually Franks mother and father come around and embrace Julie, and her daughter who considers Martha and William her grandparents.
Julie has a son with Frank…and suddenly is being faced with a white judge deciding on who will gain custody of her little girl from a previous marriage to a man Joe Cullen who abandoned them years ago. Not til he finds out that she is being raised by a black man does he rise to take action and gain custody of his daughter.
This is a courageous story to relate in 1964. Barrie’s anguish is one that is not self inflicted, there is no mental disorder, or neurotic dilemma yet it would challenge anyone who dares to be truthful and follow their heart in a world where many people must hide who they are. A beautiful love story that becomes tainted by the stain of ingrained hatred and ignorance. And causes ruination to a happy family.
Barbara Barrie’s performance as Julie Cullen Richards is nothing short of intuitively astounding.
CapturFiles_16 copy
Just for funzies I wanted to paint some contrast into the mix, therefore pointing to films that truly deal with women and mental illness. More than cognitive commotion, they’re unstable, non compos mentis, deranged, knife wielding, murderous femmes, traumatized, delusional dames… or all out CRAZY NUTS!!!!!!!!!
And…
I’ll probably write about all these films mentioned–the women on the verge of a nervous breakdown or already on the shoulder of the weary road of life with all four tires flat at some point. I’ll Consider Charles Vidor’s Ladies in Retirement 1941 where Ida Lupino has to take care of her two dotty sisters Elsa Lanchester and Edith Barrett as the Creed sisters… They’re wonderfully Cukoo!!! I did a little piece on this gem a while back…
Robert Siodmak’s The Dark Mirror 1946 with Olivia de Havilland playing twins Terry & Ruth Collins, Gene Tierney gorgeous yet cunningly homicidal in Leave her To Heaven 1945, Laraine Day is totally unhinged in The Locket 1946, Joan Crawford as Louise Howell has a nightmare filled flashback in Curtis Burnhardt’s Possessed 1947.
“she is shown as alienated and stricken with psychological torture”– {source Marlisa Santos The Dark Mirror; Psychiatry and Film Noir 
Then again in Anatole Litvak’s story actually set in a mental institution with Olivia de Havilland stuck in The Snake Pit 1948, Vivien Leigh is the consummate delusional Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire 1951Marilyn Monroe gives a riveting performance as the deranged babysitter–(oh god kid just be quiet for Nell) in Roy Ward Baker’s Don’t Bother to Knock 1952, Joanne Woodward is in emotional conflict with three different personalities all herself…in The Three Faces of Eve 1957.
Don't Bother to Knock
Eleanor Parker gives a stunning portrayal of multiple personality disorder in Hugo Haas’ Lizzie 1957, I’ve written about Liz Taylor almost getting her frontal lobe sucked out at the request of her domineering Aunt -(Katherine Hepburn) just to hide her son’s sordid secret life in Suddenly, Last Summer 1959, Jean Simmons tries to find happiness in a loveless marriage that isn’t her fault in the engrossing Home Before Dark 1958, Ingmar Bergman’s Striking minimalist piece about mental turmoil in his beautifully photographed Through a Glass Darkly 1961, William Castle’s groundbreaking gender bending Homicidal 1961.
Three Faces of Eve
Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve 1957
Homicidal
Joan Marshall is Homicidal 1961 in William Castle’s answer to Psycho
Carroll Baker is a traumatized rape survivor in Something Wild 1961 and what I found to be a misogynist romp wasting several wonderful actresses who were offered these humiliating roles in The Chapman Report. In particular Clare Bloom who deserved better with her talent -as a nymphomaniac struggling with her sexual desires until she ultimately commits suicide in The Chapman Report 1962 and good old William Castle’s once again with his Strait-Jacket 1964 starring one of the ultimate Grande Dames Joan Crawford this time wielding an axe in addition to her nightmarish flashbacks.

Now… none of the 4 women I am covering here are homicidal or dangerous, all these women are experiencing a psychic struggle with issues that speak from their place in the world as women… who are defining somehow in their own way, what their identity means to them… Well, perhaps Lilith is a bit more volatile in terms of how she wields her sexuality and influences men & women both! But she is a divine innocent albeit-nymphomaniac living in a dreamy world of her own –not a homicidal vamp who devours men and spits them out… She is an innocent without malice. The men do the damage to themselves…

“And her eye has become accustomed to obvious ‘truths’ that actually hide what she is seeking. It is the very shadow of her gaze that must be explored”--Luce Irigaray

still-of-max-von-sydow,-harriet-andersson-and-gunnar-björnstrand-in-såsom-i-en-spegel-(1961)-large-picture
Max von Sydow,, Harriet Andersson and Gunnar Bjormstrand in -(1961)-Through the Glass Darkly directed by Ingmar Bergman
Twentieth Century Fox-Inside the Photo Archive
Gene Tierney as the murderously deranged Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven 1945

Seance on a wet afternoon 1964 previous post HERE

rideau-de-brume-1964-02-g
Kim Stanley gives an unnerving performance as a delusional and dangerous woman who plots to kidnap a child so she can claim her psychic powers then located her…

And of course the two titans of Grande Dame Guignol fêtes courtesy of Robert Aldrich…

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962 & Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte 1964

what_ever_happened_to_baby_jane_
repulsion3
Roman Polanski’s very post-modern almost Brechtian/Picassoesque ode to insanity starring Catherine Deneuve in his Repulsion 1965 –
There’s always Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964) showcasing an unstable female in distress brought on by childhood trauma. Considering Hitch’s lavish colors, and overt psychological embellishments that have created a pulpy romanticized landscape, that at times obfuscates the mental turbulence rather than letting it surface on it’s own. I chose to set this film aside and instead include the more off the beaten path of psychological leaning-‘women’s pictures.’ 1964 seemed to be one hell of a  year for Women in Distress by virtue of the female psychological crisis, once again to reiterate -not the ‘hysteria’ kind, mind you.”
Marnie (1964)
Tippie Hedren and Louise Latham in Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964)
“From the socially conservative 1950s to the permissive 1970s, this project explores the ways in which insanity in women has been linked to their femininity and the expression or repression of their sexuality. An analysis of films from Hollywood’s post-classical period (The Three Faces of Eve (1957), Lizzie (1957), Lilith (1964), Repulsion (1965),Images (1972) and 3 Women (1977)) demonstrates the societal tendency to label a woman’s behavior as mad when it does not fit within the patriarchal mold of how a woman should behave. In addition to discussing the social changes and diagnostic trends in the mental health
profession that define “appropriate” female behavior, each chapter also traces how the decline of the studio system and rise of the individual filmmaker impacted the films’ ideologies with regard to mental illness and femininity.”

— from FRAMING FEMININITY AS INSANITY: RE PRESENTATIONS OF MENTAL ILLNESS IN WOMEN IN POST-CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD by Kelly Kretschmar

WOMEN ON THE VERGE… OF A BREAKTHROUGH!

Psyche 59
Curt Jurgens carries Samantha Eggar after she has fallen off her horse. There is more going on that Patricia Neal’s blind eye can see

Psyche 59 (1964)

Patricia Neal and Sammantha Eggar in Psyche 59
Patricia Neal and Samantha Eggar in Psyche 59 (1964)

The Pumpkin Eater 1964

the-pumpkin-eaters-27498_3
Ann Bancroft and Peter Finch are a married couple in crisis. Having perpetually popped out a myriad of children she is yet again pregnant. Will this keep him home this time…? The Pumpkin Eater (1964)

One Potato Two Potato 1964

onepotatoetwopotatoe1964_85738_678x380_11212014041259
Barbara Barrie falls in love and marries Bernie Hamilton. Once her ex-husband realizes that his child is being brought up by a black man, times get even tougher for the couple

Lilith 1964

lilith7_t500x373

THE WOMEN!!!

Barbara Barrie

Barbara+Barrie2

Patricia Neal

tumblr_m2lppoR2UK1rt5rzxo1_1280

Anne Bancroft

2-the-graduate-anne-bancroft-1967-everett

Jean Seberg

Jean Seberg

LET’S BEGIN WITH…!

Alison Crawford (Patricia Neal)“Love has to stop somewhere along the line otherwise it’s almost like… like committing suicide “

PSYCHE 59 (1964) Alexander Singer (A Cold Wind in August 1961 with Lola Albright and Scott Marlowe) directs the remarkable Patricia Neal as Alison Crawford, a woman struck down with a form of psychosomatic or hysterical blindness. Alison is aware that the affliction is all in her mind since the doctors can’t find anything organically wrong with her sight. Her ‘hysterical blindness’ and memory loss of the events leading up to her accident follows a fall down the stairs while she is pregnant. When she awakens she is unable to see.

CapturFiles_9
Alison “My Brain won’t accept the images that my eyes make.”

What is happening for Alison is that she is subconsciously blocking out the truth about her husband and her younger, coquettish sister Robin.

She is now living a very quaint life with her husband played by the austere Curd Jürgens (I love him as the devilishly urbane concert pianist Duncan Mowbray Ely in The Mephisto Waltz 1971).

CapturFiles

CapturFiles_6

CapturFiles_7

Aside from her intense husband Eric, Alison’s very sexually charged sister Robin (Samantha Eggar) has now come to live with the couple after a divorce. Robin hovers very close to Eric like a carrion bird waiting to pick the bones of Alison’s troubled marriage. While Alison doesn’t have any cognitive memory of what led up to her fall, it’s obvious to us that she can sense the strong attraction between her husband and younger sister. At one time, her younger sister Robin and Eric and been involved before Alison caught and married him. Robin hasn’t stopped lusting after him. Slowly Alison’s memory comes back as the flashes and images of what she experienced right before she lost her sight literally comes into view.

Singer builds the tension in the air slowly, methodically until it all comes to a head set against the skillfully contained cinematography by Walter Lassally (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner 1962, Zorba the Greek 1964, To Kill a Clown 1972).

IMDb tidbit-Patricia Neal was offered the lead in The Pumpkin Eater, but it was not 100% confirmed she would get the role. She then opted, to her later regret, to make Psyche 59 (1964) instead, since it was an official offer.

Neal gives a restrained yet powerful performance of a woman who is trapped in self imposed darkness by her fear of the truth…

There is very subtle theme of self-brutality that exists for each of the characters, Alison’s self imposed sightlessness, Eric’s indignant stoicism is palpable as he walks through the story like a trapped stray dog, He is agitated by Robin’s presence, because he can not resist her.

Robin, her younger sister who must have been quite young at the time of her relationship with Eric begs the question of appropriate behavior on his part. Robin is constantly asserting a seductive influence on Eric right in front of the disadvantaged Alison.

CapturFiles_10

She is both a hyper-sexual narcissist and a bit self-destructive at the same time, either way she gets off on playing the seductress torturing Eric, right in front of her sister, dark sunglasses and delicate pout. Although Alison suffers from blindness, she maintains a certain dignity that although as all three characters seem like she is, one of the trapped animals in a psycho-melodramatic forest, we get a sense that she will one day regain her freedom and spread her wings and fly away from it all truth in hand.

CapturFiles_12

CapturFiles_13
Alison “We must be near the marshes” Robin “We just passed it … Coming to the old windmill soon…its still turning.. nothing’s changed” Alison “There’s a factory there now, Don’t protect me Robby. Don’t make up windmills.”

CapturFiles_15

CapturFiles_17

Based on the novel by Françoise des Ligneris, with a screenplay by Julian Zimet (who wrote Horror Express 1972 and one of the best atmospheric little horror obscurities The Death Wheelers 1973 formally called Psychomania about a group of British motor cycle thugs and their pretty birds who dabble in the occult. Beryl Reid and George Sanders being one of their relatives, they learn the secret of immortality. But you have to die first to obtain it.)

Psyche 59 is an interesting psychological mood piece, almost post modernly impressionistic with it’s stark and polished black and white photo work. And Patricia Neal who had just won an Oscar for her role as Alma Brown in Hud 1963 and gave a command performance in 1957 as Marcia Jeffries in A Face in the Crowd is just exceptional as Alison who is trying to navigate the dark world surrounding her.

CapturFiles_18

CapturFiles_20

The film is strange and at times subtly cruel yet Neal’s character relies on our visual journey which becomes quite painful at times yet beautiful as she begins to emerge. In the film Patricia Neal’s relationship with Curd Jürgens has an eerie parallel to real life marriage to writer/spy Roald Dahl, but I don’t want to get into the sensationalized tidbits of public people’s wreckage.

The Film also stars Ian Bannen as Robin’s poor befuddled boyfriend , Elspeth March and Beatrix Lehmann plays Alison’s staunch and science fiction reading grandmother-wish I had one of those!

CapturFiles_22

CapturFiles_23

CapturFiles_25

CapturFiles_26

CapturFiles_27

CapturFiles_29

Continue reading “4 Outstanding Actresses: It’s 1964 and there’s cognitive commotion!”

Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) “No one will come any further than town, in the dark… in the night”

WELCOME TO JO GABRIEL & THE LAST DRIVE IN’S –500th POST!

 CapturFiles 2

“Ghosts are the outward sign of an inward fear”-Ambrose Bierce

“Everything is worse…if you think something is looking at you.”
― Shirley Jackson

doors open

From- Cinematic Hauntings edited by Gary J. and Susan Svehla chapter The Haunting by Bryan Senn

“Adult in concept and wide in scope. The Haunting is designed not only to appeal to those who approach the supernatural from an intellectual level, but also to the legions of movie patrons who delight in a genuine ghost story.”-The Haunting press book

Halloween is around the corner, I hear the rusty gates creaking, rattling of skeletons, the flapping wings of jolly bats, smell the candy corn and Hershey’s kisses and the owls are hooting, the spooks are spooking, and I sense the chill of night seeping through the curtains as the best holiday of the year is upon us!

What better way to honor such a ghoulishly ghostly and creepy eve than to explore one of the all time great movies, ghost story not withstanding in honor of my 500th post… yes long winded me has finally reached a milestone.

Robert Wise The Haunting-cast

How do you begin to write about a film that continues to share the spot of favorite movie in my world alongside Rosemary’s Baby? What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Robert Wise’s masterwork that is The Haunting 1963. How do you even give suitable tribute to a timeless masterpiece that defies genre and deserves to be upheld as un-remakable.

Incidentally I was reading Pam Keesey’s terrific essay The Haunting and the Power of Suggestion: Why Robert Wise’s Film Continues to ‘Deliver the Goods’ to Modern Audiences. Keesey points to a comment that Stephen King makes, while admiring Wise’s film he remarks, “Something is scratching at the ornate, paneled door… Something horrible… but it is a door Wise elects never to open.” Once again Pam Keesey cites Wise’s influence as written about in Edmund G. Bansak’s wonderful Fearing the Dark: The Val Lewton Career, one of my favorite books in my library. Wise finally found a film that could pay homage to his mentor Val Lewton.

haunting1

“Lewton trademarks–the reverence for the underdog, the focus upon humanist concerns, the alliance between danger and darkness, the depiction of fate as an unstoppable force, and, of course the preoccupation with things unseen.”-Bansak

Sorry, Stephen King, but we don’t always need to see the monster– Val Lewton understood that well, and managed to create some of the most compelling moments of terror for us, just by suggesting, and triggering our own innate fears of the unknown. This is one of the most essential working mechanisms of Wise’s The Haunting that has withstood the perils of time.

haunting

Robert Wise worked as an editor among Val Lewton’s magic team of artists. He learned the secret to any good work of fantasy/horror/suspense/noir is to suggest BUT not reveal what is the heart of the narrative on the screen itself but allow our own subconscious fears and anxieties to do its work. Much credit has to be given to Nelson Gidding’s   (I Want to Live! 1958, The Andromeda Strain 1971) remarkable screenplay.

Robert Wise, while working on West Side Story, picked up a copy of Shirley Jackson’s ghost story. In an interview in Midnight Marquee #37 Wise recalled, “I was reading one of the scary passages–hackles were going up and down my neck–when Nelson Gidding (screenwriter)… burst through the door to ask me a question, I literally jumped about three feet out of my chair. I said, ‘If it can do that to me sitting and reading, it ought to be something I want to make a picture out of.”

Wise wasn’t sure he’d get to direct the film, noted in Bright Lights #11–“I called nervously to see if it might be available…{…}because usually by the time a book comes out in New York, the big movie companies have scouts back there, story departments, and they grab it up and it’s gone. I found out this one hadn’t been picked up.”

According to Bryan Senn in an interview in 1995, “I persuaded United Artists to buy the book rights for me and finance a screenplay. And I got Nelson Gidding, who did I Want to Live! (1958) for me to do the screenplay. When we got it done however United Artists got a little cold on it and didn’t want to proceed with it. So I talked to my agent about it. I had left a contract with MGM a few years before; I got out of the contract early but I had to promise to give them another film.

THE HAUNTING, Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn, Julie Harris, Richard Johnson, 1963.
THE HAUNTING, Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn, Julie Harris, Richard Johnson, 1963.

The studio wasn’t keen on a supernatural horror thriller, nor of the idea of not using big named stars for the picture.Wise wanted to use classically trained actors like both British Shakespearean actors Richard Johnson and Claire Bloom and American actress Julie Harris.Wise also wanted to work with Russ Tamblyn again whom he worked with in 1961 on West Side Story. Tamblyn was reluctant to do the part after reading the script but threat of suspension from the studio urged him to take the role. Years later he recounts it being one of his favorite roles.

Luck will out and Wise needing to go over to England for a command performance of West Side Story, was able to use MGM’s little studio outside London called Boreham Wood Studios which gave him a bigger budget to work with.

And I can say without any doubts, that I’m with Robert Wise- when I was little, watching The Haunting even during the day, sun shining outside, my heart would pound and I would feel a restless shudder as I sat quietly watching what I consider to still be one of the scariest films of all time. And though I’ve seen it again and again, I still feel said hackles up the back of my neck. The shivers of fear and dread, and a true sense of terror that grips you every single time!

The confluence of artistry, Robert Wise’s sensibility that he synthesized from working with Val Lewton, Jackson’s incredible ghost story, Gidding’s compelling script, the collective of ensemble performances by all the great actors involved, the effective score by Humphrey Searle, and idiosyncratic and visually disorienting cinematography by Davis Boulton (Stage Fright 1950, I Thank A Fool 1962) The sense of place and the incredible performances that inhabited that uncanny space.

Photo of Richard Johnson, Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn, and Julie Harris in the movie The Haunting, 1963. Photo/Art by:anon
Photo of Richard Johnson, Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn, and Julie Harris in the movie The Haunting, 1963. Photo/Art by:anon

All these elements went in to create one masterfully crafted visual narrative, psychological maneuver, tale of terror and one memorable landscape of uncanny dread and paranoia.

The Haunting

Richard Johnson as Dr Markway

The house itself was set in England and not the story’s old money New England territory. While there are numerous tales of haunting in England, Jackson’s story was set in New England and Wise wanted to stay close to the novel’s reality. It wasn’t hard to find the right house in England however, the more daunting task was getting the roads closed off so Julie Harris could drive her car on the wrong side of the road for the scene where she travels to Hill House. Robert Wise explained in Fantastic Films, that “We wanted a house that basically had an evil look about it” He finally found the perfect house in Warwickshire, a 200 year old manor house called Ettington Park, Wise felt that its, “facing of mottled stone with gothic windows and turrets” was exactly what they needed.

The house possessed an “unexpected, even frightening, authenticity” According to Russ Tamblyn, “It was definitely a strange place, especially the grounds. The house itself, had a history… oh, children who had been murdered, and a twelve year old who had committed suicide, some other woman who had fell out of a window.” Not to mention the little cemetery out in the back which was supposedly haunted. People had seen ghosts there.

Dr. John Markway: [voice-over narration] “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 film is powerful in the way it brings us into it’s mystifying grasp. We hear the velvet tones of Richard Johnson narrating us, greeting us if you will to join the haunting. His voice-over the visual montage of past events that reveals to us the menacing house. The inception of it’s evil roots, a domineering man Hugh Crain had built Hill House for his wife and daughter, “in the most remote part of New England he could find.” In a freak or strange accident the wife had “died seconds before she was to set eyes on the house.” Her carriage crashed against a tree, her lifeless arm hanging out of the carriage in close up. Crain’s second wife floats down the dark Victorian style hall (Wise was the editor on The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), the figure of the wife moving swiftly through the darkness reminds us of that film-This impression is also confirmed in More Things Than are Dreamt of edited by Alain Silver & James Ursini ) then tumbles down a flight of stairs breaking her neck.

“The audience is thrown into the point of view of the second Mrs. Crain as she stumbles down the stairs and blurred, twisted shots approximate the last things she saw in life. Finally a grim but striking deep focus wide angle captures her sprawled at the foot of the main stairs, eyes wide in fright and her corpse in the lower foreground of the frame and behind her shadowy killer, the house itself.”–source More Things Than Are Dreamt Of -edited by Silver & Ursini

second mrs crain

After Crain dies in England, his only daughter Abigail “grew up and grew old” In Hill House, eventually hiring a village girl to be a paid companion, “it’s with this young companion the evil reputation of Hill House really begins” When the companion took a farmhand out onto the veranda while her mistress banged on the wall with her cane and died calling for help. The companion inherited Hill House only to be driven to suicide by the unseen menacing atmosphere of the place. She walked up to the top of the spiral staircase in the library and hung herself. “they say that whatever there was–and still is–in the house eventually drove the companion mad.”

For Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) Hill House is a chance to prove himself. Eleanor has been chosen to be part of the research team because of the shower of stones that had fallen on her house when she was a little girl. Possibly possessing the powers of psychokinesis, the ability to materialize her inner demons, anger and nightmares. Pointedly when Eleanor says, “Suppose the haunting is all in my mind?”

Haunting-Eleanor foreground

From Silver & Ursini’s edited chapter Modern Classics- in More Things Than Are Dreamt Of- “The harp, the knockings, the writing on the wall-all these have a visual and aural presence in film which contradicts any inclination of the viewer to believe that Eleanor is doing this herself; and yet the word on Markway’s questionnaire which Luke doesn’t understand ‘psychokinesis’, makes it possible that she is. Even the interruption of her most flirtatious moment with Markway permits two readings. The house, her possessive, predestined lover, strikes at the harp strings out of jealousy and the need to control her. Or, like Henry James’ repressed governess in Edmund Wilson’s reading, Eleanor does it herself out of fear of sex. Both are possible.”

Having read an interesting essay that touches on Robert Wise’s 1963 ghost story from Hidden Horror the chapter on Carnival of Souls by Prof. Shelly Jarenski- She makes a few interesting comparisons to Carnival of Souls 1962 Such as the prelude… “… And we who walk here… walk alone.” in my malleable childhood mind, both the prelude and the coda stayed with me like a creepy lullaby or maudlin soliloquy. Jarenski asserts “The film’s core themes are encapsulated in that line uttered by the misfit heroine Eleanor Lance.” I would totally agree with her assessment. The Haunting not just merely being a ghost story, is a story about an alienated loner, a ‘misfit heroine’ who is in dire search for relief or release, possibly from this world. We too are witnesses to a lonely disillusioned woman (I loathe to use the word: spinster) most likely a virgin who is longing to make a connection.

halls

Jarenski writes, “Words like ‘we’ or ‘walking’ does create an “ominous ambiguity.“ That Eleanor will either join the collection of lost souls in Hill House or be doomed to walk alone for all eternity in ‘isolation and despair.’

Asserting that Carnival of Souls can be understood as a corollary to the more ceremonious and celebrated The Haunting because “It portrays what being part of the community of the dead, while simultaneously feeling utterly alone, looks like.”

In More Things Than are Dreamt Of- Silver and Ursini point out the idea that The Haunting is much more than just a ghost story. As Shirley Jackson wrote in her novel, “During the whole underside of her life, ever since her first memory Eleanor had been waiting for something…”

Theodora affectionately known as Theo has been recruited to help in the research because of her extremely honed powers of ESP. This becomes established before Dr. Markway introduces everyone around the breakfast table. While Mrs. Dudley regurgitates her soliloquy of fear & gloom, Theodora takes mental inventory of Eleanor’s psychic bag, and when Eleanor asks how she knew what she was thinking, Theo cheekily replies “You wear your thoughts on your sleeve.”

The Haunting (1963) could be said to be the penultimate example of ‘nothing up that proverbial sleeve’, and ‘it’s what you don’t see’ cinematography. The visual narrative is what makes it timelessly heart-pounding to watch and what gives it an artistic atmosphere of misdirection, anxiety, hysteria, dread, romanticism, and well, yes, that “haunting’ feeling.

CapturFiles_26

CapturFiles_67

CapturFiles_68

Nell and Theo

Memorable scenes of veiled terror lurking in the corners, or beyond the massive wooden door frames. The allusion to the various cold spots underscored by trilling piano keys. Stark frames that capture a portion of the house, as if itself a live entity. Dr. Markway refers to the house being ‘born bad’. The manifestation of the angry and tyrannical Hugh Crane who built an evil house. There are so many moments of The Haunting that have stayed with me for years. And I must admit that I usually watch it several times a year, like one makes pot roast because the craving strikes you at that moment. “It’s time to watch The Haunting again,” is heard in our house. I can never forget the moment when Julie Harris as Nell awakens from a frightening moment where we hear a child’s muffled laughter swiftly turning to a menacing scream. She tells Theo that she’s breaking her hand, she’s holding it so tight. The camera only focuses on Nell and her outstretched arm in the darkness, swallowed up in her ornate room, like a fly in a spider’s web. When she can no longer bare Theo’s tight grip, she screams “Stop it!” and turns the light on, only to find in horror that she’s been holding a ghostly hand. “Who’s hand was I holding?” Theo is shown across the room, still lying in bed unaware that Nell had been going through any nightmarish ordeal.

CapturFiles_74

CapturFiles_75

CapturFiles_76

CapturFiles_77

CapturFiles_78

In other moments, the visual perspective seems to warp all we see, pulling us into the dis-ease of Hill House.From the moment Eleanor pulls up to Hill House, the point of view is skewed so that we are watching Eleanor who is also being watched by the house. It’s a startling moment as she realizes, “It’s staring at me.”

And of course there’s the eerie and otherworldly invisible assault on the two women as something unseen pounds on the doors with a ‘cannonball’ Disembodied laughter, scratching, growling and Baroque style brass doorknobs with Medusa’s face that turn ever so slowly, as if something trying to gain entry into the room.

CapturFiles_48

CapturFiles_49

CapturFiles_55

CapturFiles_51

CapturFiles_50

CapturFiles_54

CapturFiles_60

CapturFiles_59

CapturFiles_61

CapturFiles_63

CapturFiles_53

CapturFiles_52

CapturFiles_64
Eleanor ‘Nell’s’ name has been scripted on the wall in ‘something like chalk’

 

CapturFiles_65
And then the ghostly message written on the ostentatious wallpaper in ‘something like chalk’ outside the dining room-“Help Eleanor -Come Home!”

Hill House’s expression of love, the seduction by way of written message in ‘something like chalk’ both frightens Eleanor yet stimulates her because someone or something was finally paying attention to her. as Alain Silver and James Ursini point out the house’s dark secrets, “represent the intimacy which Eleanor has never had with any other being…”

There’s also emphasis of a powerfully imposing use of matrix work utilizing the inherent designs of the interiors itself, textiles and wallpaper and wood carvings to create diabolical faces watching back at us. The stone and bronze cherubs and gargoyles that inhabit Hill House, the myriad of mirrors and long winding hallways mixed with the turbulent sky outside the towering Hill House.

CapturFiles_16

Matrix

The iconic scene where the door seems to expand as if breathing was actually two technical people who used 2×4’s to push into the middle to create the effect. It’s that simple and yet, is one of the most lasting scenes in film history.

Based on the book by Shirley Jackson The Haunting of Hill House, which is a hell of a read, but as a rarity, the film invokes the uncanny of the story even better than the novel.

hhh4

“SCREAM…no one will hear you! RUN…and the silent foosteps will follow, for in Hill House the dead are restless!”

I’ve had any number of people over the years say to me, ‘You know, Mr. Wise, you made the scariest picture I’ve ever seen and you never showed anything. How’d you do it?” And it goes back to Val Lewton, by the powers of suggestions” Robert Wise in Fearing the Dark: The Val Lewton Career

Robert Wise made The Haunting in 1963 as a way of paying homage to his mentor, Val Lewton, who had died 12 years earlier.

The always poised Richard Johnson plays the very earnest Dr. John Markway a researcher in the paranormal who wants to use Hill House an imposing Gothic New England house as the main epicenter for his studies in the supernatural. Based on the legend of all the ghostly going’s on surrounding said place, Markway gets Mrs, Sanderson (Fay Compton) to agree to lease the house to him for one year. Though she is the voice of caution- Mrs. Sanderson: “The dead are not quiet in Hill House.”

CapturFiles_7

CapturFiles_6
The great Fay Compton as the crusty waspy Mrs. Sanderson-warning Markway that the dead are not restful at Hill House.

CapturFiles_9

Markway initially amasses a collection of names of potential participants in his experiment as we see he chalks their names on his blackboard. Eventually the names drop off and there are only two women who arrive to help him uncover the truth behind the legend of Hill House… is it truly haunted?

Theodora: “Haven’t you noticed how nothing in this house seems to move until you look away and then you just… catch something out of the corner of your eye?”

CapturFiles_37 It wants you Nell... the house is calling you
Theo sensing a presence says-“It wants you Nell… the house is calling you.”

Mrs. Sanderson sends along her cocky nephew out of the Midwest, Luke (Russ Tamblyn) to accompany Dr. Markway since one day Luke hopes to inherit Hill House. The exterior of Hill House is an actual Hotel called the Ettington Park Hall Hotel in Stratford Upon Avon in England. The interior sets were brilliantly designed by John Jarvis.

Spiral Stairs

We meet Eleanor ‘Nell’ Lance (Julie Harris) in her sister’s living room which doubles as her bedroom. The very hypersensitive Nell is being tortured by her sister, brother-in-law and their precocious brat of a child who insists on playing a child’s record march consisting of inane flutes and snare rattles, causing a pervasive tenor of chaos, madness and dysfunction. Like nails on a blackboard, the little tune serves not only to cause psychic aural conflict and irritate Nell, but it also pulls us into her sense of being trapped in a claustrophobic world where she must break free. Nell steals the family car and hits the road with all her belongings in a box, driving out of Boston out into the light of the New England air toward something, anything even the unknown which would be better than the captivity she’s been experiencing. She is one of the people Dr. Markway has invited to participate in exploring Hill House.

More Things Than Are Dreamt Of edited by Alain Silver & James Ursini- The Haunting of Hill House is a third-person novel with a lot of interior monologues and other first person aspects…{…}Eleanor is neither a para-psychologist nor a believer, but a disheartened spinster yearning for escape and adventure; or as Jackson puts it, ‘During the whole underside of her life, ever since her first memory, Eleanor had been waiting for something…’

Eleanor is the first person to see the ‘vile’ house. Silver & Ursini frame it by Jackson’s occult vision, that Hill House is the cause of Eleanor’s ‘deliverance and destruction’. How Eleanor’s religious discourse  becomes an ironic fate that turns inward on itself for in the end, “journeys end in lovers meeting” Eleanor’s volatile relationship with Hill House is absolutely one of love/hate.

 

Upon her arrival she is confronted by two of the locals who harbor a maniacal animosity toward city people. The Dudleys played by Rosalie Crutchley and Valentine Dyall ( Who was perfectly sinister as Jethrow Keane in Horror Hotel 1960, yet another favorite classic horror film of mine.)

Rosalie Crutchley attributes the films power to Robert Wise’s skillful direction and David Boulton’s sinister cinematography that transformed the benign Ettington Park into the malevolent manor of Hill House. “It was a strange house” the actress told Bryan Senn. Crutchley continues, “which looked threatening from the outside but which wasn’t actually at all. But it was brilliantly shot you see, so that it looked very, very threatening.”

CapturFiles_13

CapturFiles_15
Mr. Dudley: “You’ll be sorry I ever opened the gate.”
CapturFiles_18 Get away from here get away at once. It's my chance I've been given a lasat chance. I could turn my car around and go away from here and no one would blame me. Anyone has a right to run away. But you are running away Eleanor. and there
“Get away from here get away at once. It’s my chance I’ve been given a last chance. I could turn my car around and go away from here and no one would blame me. Anyone has a right to run away. But you are running away Eleanor. and there’s no where else to go”

CapturFiles_19 no where else to go

Mrs. Dudley takes care of the interior of Hill House as no one else in the village dare come near the place, setting out the meals but being very clear about leaving before it get’s dark. The sardonic grin on her face as she divulges to Nell and Theo her little creepy intoned soliloquy… “No one will come any further than town…”

No one will hear you scream… Mrs. Dudley’s expression is somewhat a combination of that intense little fellow, the prairie dog from the viral youtube video where he turns around and stares, and Lewis Caroll’s Chesire Cat.

CapturFiles_25

CapturFiles_32

Anyhoo… Markway leads the other three on a journey of discovery of the unknown. He chose Eleanor ‘Nell’ because of her poltergeist experience that occurred when rocks pelted her family home for a week. Eleanor suffered from a tremendous guilt complex shortly after losing her chronically ill mother whom she cared for passed away and this puts Nell on the edge of breakdown. Theodora is known quite well for her powers of ESP. Luke Sanderson is the skeptical playboy of the foursome…

CapturFiles_33

CapturFiles_43

CapturFiles_70
Markway is filled with glee as they have stumbled onto the proverbial ‘cold spot’
CapturFiles_72 There's got to be a draft
Luke-“There’s got to be a draft!”
CapturFiles_43 Look I know the supernatural is something that isn't supposed to happen-but it does happen... and if it happens to you your liable to have that shut door in your mind ripped right off it's hinges!
Dr. Markway tells Luke-“Look I know the supernatural is something that isn’t supposed to happen-but it does happen… and if it happens to you your liable to have that shut door in your mind ripped right off it’s hinges!”

CapturFiles_42

The ‘Adventurous All’ get together, trading small conversations and observations, while Hill House begins to reveal it’s cold heart. Or is the house truly a bad place? Built by a man who used odd angles, and macabre embellishments, he created one ‘distortion as a whole” as Nell comments. Hugh Crane, a man who was a religious zealot, entrapped his daughter in the foul house until her death as an old maid. She grew up and grew old in the house, where a series of mysterious accidents, suicides and deaths ensued… Hill House is the epitome of “Dark spaces’ or “Bad spaces’.

CapturFiles_97

CapturFiles_38

Dark places

CapturFiles_46

CapturFiles_1b

giphy copy

CapturFiles_1a

CapturFiles_2

CapturFiles_2a

CapturFiles_3

CapturFiles_4

CapturFiles_5
The nurse too busy out on the veranda with the farm hand to hear Abigail pound on the door with her cane, eventually hangs herself after inheriting Hill House

Eleanor Lance: “Can’t you feel it? It’s alive… watching.” 

CapturFiles_35

Hill House does begin to show particular attention toward the vulnerable, fragile and bedeviled Nell. But…

That begs a larger question. Can a house be born bad, or has Nell’s neurotic fixations and need to belong cause her to unravel the mysteries of the place much quicker? Is it just her longing and alienation that has created a certain madness or is it both a ghost story and a story of abject loneliness and psychosis? Much like a Lewton story, there is the feeling of intense loneliness, imbalance in the environment that is either mental or perceived to be reality, and an ambiguity that links these elements to the supernatural world.

CapturFiles_66

There are definitely themes of repressed sexuality exhibited by the presence of the very stylish Mary Quant sporting Theo (Claire Bloom), who it is heavily suggested is a sophisticated Greenwhich Village Sapphic who toys with the uptight Nell. When asked what frightens Theo she glumly replies-“Of knowing what I want.”

The Haunting (1963)

Something that begins to cause friction between the ensemble because Nell has fallen into the well of deep delusion and longing, for Dr. Markway not realizing that he is not just only interested in her as a test subject but he is already married.

the-haunting markway to the rescue

CapturFiles_79
Theodora dressed like a black widow spins her web of jealousy yet revealing the truth about Markway and Nell’s unrequited love.
CapturFiles_80 You're making a fool of yourself over him. I'd rather be innocent than like you. Meaning what? Now who's being stupid and innocent You know perfectly well what I mean. Is this another of your crazy hallucinations. I'm not crazy crazy as
Theo-“You’re making a fool of yourself over him.” Nell-“I’d rather be innocent than like you.” Theo-“Meaning what?” Nell-“Now who’s being stupid and innocent You know perfectly well what I mean.” Theo- “Is this another of your crazy hallucinations.” Nell- “I’m not crazy”
CapturFiles_81 crazy as a loon You really expect me to believe you're sane and the rest of the world is mad. Well why not-The world is filled with inconsistencies, unnatural things, natures mistakes they're called-you for instance
Theo-“Crazy as a loon You really expect me to believe you’re sane and the rest of the world is mad.” Nell-“Well why not-The world is filled with inconsistencies, unnatural things, natures mistakes they’re called-you for instance!”
Theo feels a chill
Nell tells Theodora that “she’s the monster of Hill House.”
CapturFiles_69
Markway sees that Nell is unraveling and threatens to send her packing.

Poor Nell is a tragic Gothic figure, whose famous inner monologues might slightly touch the third rail of hysterical camp, yet somehow manages to become a restrained performance of inner turmoil and madness that perfectly co-exists parallel to the odd and uncanny manifestations escalating in Hill House. With a rainstorm of inner monologues to guide us through the treacherous darkness.

CapturFiles_84
Mrs Markway shows up unexpectedly and asks to sleep in the most rotten heart of the house… Nell obliges by telling her about the nursery… which until now had been sealed.

 CapturFiles_87 the nursery opens

CapturFiles_101 Now I know where I'm going-I'm disappearing inch by inch into this house
“Now I know where I’m going–I’m disappearing inch by inch into this house.”

CapturFiles_88

CapturFiles_89

CapturFiles_90

CapturFiles_91

In Scarlet Street Magazine, Julie Harris stated that she would have played the character of Nell differently. “Well, I would’ve been odder looking as Eleanor,” Harris said. “I think she was too ordinary. I just wanted to be — odder.” That’s okay Julie Harris, who we sadly lost on August 24th of last year, no one could have done a better job of bringing Eleanor Lance to life than you did… Your Eleanor Lance will eternally remain the central tragic figure of the play, as Pam Keesey calls her the ‘persecuted innocent.’

By the end of the film, Luke who is the cynic of the bunch, tells us…” It ought to be burned down… and the ground sowed with salt.”

CapturFiles_93

CapturFiles_95

CapturFiles_99

CapturFiles_100

CapturFiles_102

CapturFiles_103
The poor bedeviled Nell dances with the statue of Hugh Crane.. believing that both he and she have killed Grace Markway..
Mrs Markway at the trap door
Grace Markway ( Lois Maxwell) Doesn’t go untouched by the dark forces that lay behind the stone and silent standing wood… well maybe not so silent!

CapturFiles_104

 CapturFiles_105

tumblr_m9swwgb1GG1qav174o1_500

🎃Happy Halloween gang… and thanks for making all 500 posts a whirling experience!-Your ever lovin’ MonsterGirl

MonsterGirl’s Quote of the Day! The Haunting (1963)

No one comes any further than town, in the dark, in the night. No one will come any further than that; In the dark, in the night. – Mrs Dudley, Robert Wise’s 1963 masterpiece, The Haunting