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Melissa_W
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THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

Please use this thread for discussion of the two movie adaptations of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.  This is a SPOILER FRIENDLY thread :smileyhappy:
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debbook
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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

I just added the original The Haunting to my Netflix queue. I have already seen the remake
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Ryan_G
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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

Well after over a week of phone calls and web searches I finally found a copy of the remake that was available and wouldn't need to be put on a wait list for.  I got it today for $6 from a used cd/dvd store.  It was the only store in town that had a copy.
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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

I've got the original in my queue; I'm debating whether to re-watch the remake but it's sort of burned into my consciousness as one of the worst movies I've ever seen so I might not have to re-watch.

 

(PS - I've been out of town for a week so I'm doing some catching up)


debbook wrote:
I just added the original The Haunting to my Netflix queue. I have already seen the remake


 

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Peppermill
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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

I just placed holds for both the original and the remake. 

 

I don't like to watch horror movies, but I am curious as to how the set designers will have constructed the house.  I have been unable to fully imagine it from the descriptions Jackson provides.

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Ryan_G
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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

I've rewatched both movies and have a bit to say about them but I will wait for everyone else to watch them.

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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

Since my friend didn't know what she might have done with my video of the newer movie, I ordered the DVD the other day (along with some of those Criterion sale DVDs!), so hopefully it will be at my parents' by Saturday ('Fast & Free shipping' uses a carrier that doesn't leave packages at my condo).  I do have the video of the more faithful earlier movie.  I'll try to watch them this weekend, but not sure I'll have the time, as Saturday will be mostly taken up with a luncheon celebration of my parents' 60th anniversary (which was in June, but we had to wait for my brother and his family to come up from Florida).
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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

Dulcinea -- Congratulations to your parents!  What a milestone in their lives! 

 

(We enjoyed a similar festivity with friends last summer.  Events like this usually mean lots of stories -- joyful, sad, and everything in between.)

 

Ryan, et al -- please don't wait for me to see the films before commenting.  I may not receive copies to view until after the month is past.  But thank you for your thoughtfulness.

 


dulcinea3 wrote:
Since my friend didn't know what she might have done with my video of the newer movie, I ordered the DVD the other day (along with some of those Criterion sale DVDs!), so hopefully it will be at my parents' by Saturday ('Fast & Free shipping' uses a carrier that doesn't leave packages at my condo).  I do have the video of the more faithful earlier movie.  I'll try to watch them this weekend, but not sure I'll have the time, as Saturday will be mostly taken up with a luncheon celebration of my parents' 60th anniversary (which was in June, but we had to wait for my brother and his family to come up from Florida).

 

 

 

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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

I watched the original movie and also the commentary on it which included the director, actors and the writer. There was some very interesting remarks made in the commentary and I think it worth the time to watch it.

 

Here are some of the comments:

 

The movie was actually filmed in England, even though the setting is New England. Most of the actors were contract actors whose contracts were held by MGM; but MGM would only authorize a million dollars to make it (remember 1963) while an English subsidary of MGM authorized 1.1 million so it was made in England.

 

The director, Robert Wise (who also directed West Side Story, among others), wanted to shoot with a wide angle lens. The widest available at the time was a 35mm. He contacted someone who was developing a 28mm lens. The lens developer said it wasn't ready to use as it caused odd distortions. Wise chose to use the 28mm lens which gave many of the wide shots the odd look of lines not being quite parallel--which of course was the exact look of Hill House described in the book.

 

The writer said that half way through the script, he suddenly saw that the film could be seen not as a ghost story but a picture of a woman's descent into madness. He and Wise visited Ms Jackson to get her comments. According to the writer, Ms Jackson said she had never thought of it in that way, but that it was an interesting and possible interpretation.

 

 

Although the emphasis and story line are slightly changed in the movie, more was definitely made of Theodora's psychic gifts, incuding her ability to know what Eleanor was thinking. In addition, in the commentary, they revealed that they felt Theodora was sexually attracted to Eleanor; that Theodora's quarrel with her roomate that made her accept the Hill House offer was in fact a quarrel between lesbian lovers. They pointed to all the physical touching and hugging between Eleanor and Theodora in the book.  To me, this was just two scared women comforting each other and even in the film I didn't see the romantic connection between the two. The actress Julie Harris, who played Eleanor, said she kept herself aloof from the other three main actors during filming, because of the on-film hatred between herself and the Theo character and to help make herself feel more of an outsider as she felt Eleanor had been. The actress playing Theo commented that it was a challenge to play a woman attracted to another woman given the sensibilities of the early 60's.

 

The film was a financial success, but was not regarded as an instant classic. Instead, the film's popularity continued to grow over the years. Wise felt that at least part of that was the fact that because they did not use a lot of special effects--no ghost was shown--the film did not become dated.

 

 

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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

Ok I know own both movies again and have watched both during the month. 

 

I love the origional.  I think it is fairyl faithful to the book and the acting is superb.  I also quite frankly think it's sacrier than the remake.  For some reason this story works better in black and white with minimal effects.  The psychological aspect is scary enough for me.  The special effects in the remake almost take away from the fear factor.

 

The knocking was more intense and longer in the origional and I think the back story takes away from the remake as well.  I like movies/books that present a moment in time without all the blah, blah, blah of what causes the current events.  It's the biggest reason I liked Cloverfield.  It was a monster attacking a city.  They didn't try to explain where it came from or what it was.

 

Now if you can take the house in the remake, film it in b&w, and the actors and storyline from the origional you would have a great movie.

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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

[ Edited ]

I finally sat down and watched the original The Haunting this week - and now I can't even bring myself to re-watch the 1999 remake.  I had to take it out of the Netflix queue.  That's how wide the gulf is for me.

 

With the original, the script adaptation still keeps the watcher wondering if Eleanor is quite nuts (and everyone else is developing some sort of group hysteria) or if, in fact, Hill House is truly haunted.  You also still feel some of the 1950s morality because the movie's time period hasn't been updated by 40 years.  The acting is also top-notch.  If Hitchcock had been able to direct (his adaptation of du Maurier's The Birds premiered in 1963), I think this might have been a perfect adaptation from book to screen.

 

Which leaves the remake so far behind.  Ugh.  I really was unimpressed the first time I saw it (on TV) and now I'm really unimpressed having read the original.  Aside from the fantastic set-piece of a house (I agree with Ryan here - the 1999 house with the 1963 script and cast on B&W would have been excellent), the screenwriter just took the basic idea of paranormal research in a "haunted house" and ran off with it in an entirely different direction.  The 1999 adaptation leaves no asperions as to whether Nell is nuts or not - because the Ghost of Hugh Crain makes a massive appearance at the end of the movie - and adds in some very icky horror movie effects.  And then there's that Christ-like sacrifice at the end when Nell sacrifices herself so that the dead children can all go to heaven.  Where the first movie plays as psychological thriller the remake is just another horror cliche.

Message Edited by Melissa_W on 07-31-2009 03:09 PM
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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

I didn't receive the more recent movie in time to watch it last week (I may not go to my parents' again until next weekend, by which time it should be there), but I did watch the earlier movie last weekend.  In fact, I was watching it at the time I read streamsong's excellent post, so I was able to look out for some of the things she mentioned having heard about in the commentary (now I'm tempted to get the DVD, as I only have the VHS).

 

I did notice some shots where the wide angle made it look a bit distorted.  I also did notice some subtle references to the sexual tension between Eleanor and Theo.  Eleanor seemed to be shocked and repulsed by her perception that Theo was gay.  When I read the novel, I actually did suspect that Theo was gay or bisexual.  Jackson seemed to very deliberately not mention the sex of her 'friend'.  However, I didn't think that Theo was actually all that attracted to Eleanor.  I felt more that Theo was self-centered and wanted both Eleanor and Luke to be attracted to her, and was jealous of any indications that they were not.

 

I do think that this movie version is excellent.  Everything is suitably creepy, and the voiceovers by Julie Harris are an effective way of conveying Eleanor's innner monologue that we read in the novel.  Mrs. Dudley was great, too, in her warnings about 'in the night, in the dark', with that little smile afterwards, just as described in the book.  I do get annoyed when they make small changes that don't seem to achieve anything, and cannot understand why they needed to change almost every character's last name.  And the later part with the doctor's wife was totally changed.  Her popping up at unexpected times and places and scaring the heck out of Eleanor was a bit distracting.  I also think it would have been better not to make it look like something was taking over the steering as Eleanor was driving away - that made it seem more like an external ghost was trying to keep her there.  My own reading is that what happens at the end is internal to Eleanor - she drives into the tree, not that she loses control of the car.  But I do think that overall this movie was quite faithful to the intentions of the novel.

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dulcinea3
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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

I finally got the DVD of the more recent version, and watched it yesterday.  Once again, I loved the special effects.  Once again, I felt that the story was just so far removed from the novel.  Even the premise for being in the house was changed - instead of wanting to investigate the house and its hauntings, here the doctor was trying to conduct a psychological experiment in fear, but keeping it a secret from the participants by claiming it was a sleep study.  Apparently, they were all insomniacs - I don't think there was any mention of the stones falling on Eleanor's house, or Theo's psychic abilities.  And Luke was not related to the family who owned the house, but seemed to do these sleep studies as a profession.  I don't think that the doctor expected or required the house to be haunted; he just wanted a creepy house.  The entire story about the child labor and Eleanor's being a descendent of Hugh Crain were unique to this movie.

 

So - considering that this is NOT really an adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novel, what we are left with is a creepy story of a house that is definitely haunted (no ambiguity, as in the novel and first movie), and fantastic special effects.  I loved when Eleanor's room appeared to become a face, with the two high windows as evil-looking eyes.  And when the giant stone figure reclining in the pool in the conservatory suddenly came to life, pushed Liam Neeson underwater, and gushed blood.  I like the movie; it's just not really The Haunting of Hill House.

 

BTW, if anybody is interested in reading more Jackson, I would recommend We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which is probably her other best-known novel, and one of the few that actually seem to be available nowadays.  It's been a long time since I read most of her work, but I also found The Bird's Nest interesting, dealing with multiple personality disorder, predating most of the later books I read about true-life cases.  Expect more psychology and less supernatural elements in Jackson's other novels.  Hangsaman is based on a true incident of a missing girl.  The Road Through the Wall is about a dysfunctional neighborhood.  For short stories, there is the famous collection that includes The Lottery.  More recently, a crate of unpublished stories was discovered by her family and published as Just an Ordinary Day.  Her stories include supernatural, psychological, and humorous themes.  Don't be misled by the titles of Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons - these are humorous memoirs about her family.  I would put them in the same category as Jean Kerr's Please Don't Eat the Daisies, and Erma Bombeck's work.  Enjoy!

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Re: THOHH: Week 5, From Book to Screen

I finally got through both movies -- I was so bored by the early version that I turned it off half way through and finally forced myself to finish it today so I could get it back to the library with the later version and quit encountering a $1/day fine!  (So this post may get cut short.)

 

The commentary really helped me appreciate the first version, although even watching it, I think I dozed a bit about a third of the way into it!  All the comment streamsong made about it seem so very apropos.  I also noted some of the statements about the differences between film and stage acting, such as not blinking excessively and acting so as to express the self as the character rather than totally subsuming self into the character. 

 

 

Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed the more recent version, with the screenplay by David Self, although it no longer seemed to reflect the book. The set, with production designer Eugenio Zanetti, was fabulous in places -- but spun out of control for my taste in others.  Again, the commentary, moderated by Catherine Zeta Jones (Theo), was very good.   Producers Susan Arnold and Donna Arkoff each described their legacy to their fathers.  (Samuel Arkoff was associated with "The Amityville Horror;" Jack Arnold, with cult favorites like "It Came from Outer Space" and "Creature from the Black Lagoon" -- all films of genres I avoid like the plague.) 

 

Many of the special effects were apparently computer generated, especially with the moving statues like the griffin.  Jan DeBont was the producer for Dreamworks.  He "wanted the characters not only to be physically lost in the house, but also to feel emotionally lost." The interior set (huge) was built in the Dome on Long Beach, CA, that had once housed Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose.  The Great Hall was 15,000 square feet and 45 feet tall. The 19 foot tall doors leading into the hall were inspired by Rodin's "The Gates of Hell."  DeBont commented "...a lot of people didn't like being on the set at night because it did feel truly scary.  It was a balance of beauty and horror."

 

Liam Neeson -- Dr. Marrow, Catherine Zeta Jones -- Theo,  Owen Wilson -- Luke, Lili Taylor -- Eleanor (Nell)   (The last link has numerous links to other locations and reviews of "The Haunting." )

 

Although I believe most of the interiors were sets, the exterior chosen for its proportionate size was Harlaxton Manor, now situated within a university.

 

The video here provides several views, but is not directly related to the film.

 

Harlaxton Manor itself -- lots of info accessible here.  Watercolor.

 

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy