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The Haunting (1963) – Episode 46 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“… I leave before the dark. We live over in town, miles away. … We couldn’t hear you. In the night. No one could. … No one will come any nearer than that. In the night. In the dark.”  Okay, get the picture? Hill House is an inviting and comforting place to stay, right? In fact, you’ll feel so at home, you might never want to leave. Join this episode’s Grue Crew – Whitney Collazo, Chad Hunt, and Jeff Mohr – as they brave a few nights in Hill House with The Haunting (1963)!

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 46 – The Haunting (1963)

Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson), a researcher in psychic phenomena, has gained permission to stay in Hill House, a 90-year-old mansion with an evil, deadly history. Markway invites six people with a variety of psychic abilities to accompany him as research assistants, but only two take the bait: Eleanor (Julie Harris), a woman with a history of poltergeist phenomena, and Theo (Claire Bloom), who has proven ESP abilities. Luke (Russ Tamblyn), a member of the owning family and a skeptic, comes along to keep an eye on his property. Mrs. Dudley (Rosalie Crutchley), one of the caretakers of Hill House, makes an appearance early on to ominously warn the researchers that after dark, they will be alone and no one will come to help them. Almost immediately, Hill House begins to exert its power over the interlopers. They only last three nights and not everyone survives The Haunting.

The film is brilliantly directed by Robert Wise, sandwiched between his Oscar-winning efforts on West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965). Wise, one of Val Lewton’s acolytes at RKO, exhibits mastery of Lewton’s preference for implicit, rather than explicit, danger in The Haunting. The screenplay by Nelson Gidding, adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel, The Haunting of Hill House (1959), deftly establishes the four personalities of the research team members, their interpersonal relationships, and how Hill House interacts with and affects them. The acting, cinematography, and music fit the filmmakers’ vision perfectly, ramping up its nearly unbearable, sinister atmosphere.

Once again, the Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew have a much greater appreciation for the film they discussed than they had going into this episode. Whitney loves the character of Eleanor and Julie Harris’ portrayal. She also likes the way the story walks a tightrope between the supernatural and insanity. On the other hand, Chad is all over the supernatural justification of events in The Haunting and loves the scenes with the inexplicable pounding on the Eleanor’s and Theo’s bedroom walls. Jeff was entranced with the optical distortions created by Wise’s intentional use of a not-ready-for-primetime lens and loved the introductory “history of Hill House” scenes. Of course, Chad managed to, yet again, find a Batman reference. Your Grue Crew highly recommends The Haunting (1963) as one of the top haunted house films in history, and especially now as a comparison to the recent Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House.

The Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule will be Herk Harvey’s one-off classic, Carnival of Souls (1962).

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, or the Gruesome Magazine Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you so much for listening!

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Cat People (1942) – Episode 37 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“They torment me. I wake in the night and the trail of their feet whispers in my brain. I have no peace. For they are in me.” Irena Dubrovna apparently has an icky feeling inside? Join Chad Hunt, Joseph Perry, and Jeff Mohr, along with guest host Whitney Modesta Collazo as they come on little cat feet and sit looking over Cat People on silent haunches. Wait. Does that sound familiar? Anyway, listen to the Grue Crew scratch below the surface of this unmitigated classic!

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 37 – Cat People (1942)

Cat People is the first film in RKO’s plan to release low budget horror films intended to compete with Universal’s output. The studio handed their new effort to first time producer Val Lewton, who had been recommended by David O. Selznick. Lewton enlisted first time screenwriter DeWitt Bodean to write the script and then surrounded himself with an excellent crew led by director Jacques Tourneur and cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca.

Cast as Irena Dubrovna, the film’s central character, Simone Simon’s mysterious and exotic look was key to the success of Cat PeopleKent Smith took the role of her soon-to-be husband, Oliver Reed, with Jane Randolphrounding out the love triangle as Alice Moore, ostensibly Reed’s work colleague. The four main characters are rounded out by Tom Conway as Dr. Judd, a psychiatrist brought in to treat Irena’s obsession with the legend of her family’s curse and her accompnaying fears of intimacy. An able supporting cast, led by Alan Napier as another of Reed’s work colleagues and Jack Holt as Reed’s boss, make solid contributions to the feel and atmosphere of Cat People.

This episode’s Grue Crew all marvel at Tourneur’s and Musuraca’s use of shadows and fog to foster the eerie atmosphere present throughout Cat People and how truly terrifying the film is despite most of the action being hidden in shadows and not explicitly shown. Whitney is impressed by the stress and vulnerability she felt during the swimming pool scene and points out the impact the set design has on creating the film’s mood. Chad emphasizes the sophistication of the film, its tight script, and the existence of the storytelling technique known as the “Lewton Bus.” He also points out three – count ‘em, three – more connections to the Batman TV series. We learn of Joseph’s unrequited love for Jane Randolph (Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, 1948). Jeff and Joseph remark on some of the similarities that Cat People has with film noir and Jeff gets lost in the supporting cast. Of course he did. Needless to say, they all pronounce Cat People to be a must see film!

We plan to release a new episode every other week. On the next episode in our very flexible schedule, we ‘ll be covering Die, Monster, Die! (1965), the film that tied for first place in our latest Patreon Poll.

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era and what films you’d like to hear us cover! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you for listening!