The Haunting vs. Psycho



With the recent death of actress Julie Harris I was prompted to rent the old classic horror film, The Haunting. Don’t confuse it with the hideous 1980’s remake starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Liam Neeson, the original is far superior. If you haven’t seen it, and you like suspense vs. blood and guts its well-worth the time.

The Haunting was made in 1963, three years after Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho. The heroine of Haunting is plane-jane Eleanor (Julie Harris) Nan to her friends. Like Norman Bates she has been the long-suffering caregiver to her ailing mother; recently deceased. Like Marion Crane she flees in a car, not entirely her own, from her hum-drum/miserable existence, heading for a gothic mansion, deep in the wilderness, that will be her undoing. During the drive both women have an ongoing debate in their heads, pondering this decision and its ramifications for their lives.

Eleanor’s destination is Crane mansion, yes both films have Cranes in them! Shot in glorious black and white, the interiors of the Bates Motel office and the Crane Mansion are filled with stilted images of life. Norman’s office is filled with spooky stuffed, taxidermied birds that watch Marion’s every move. Eleanor is under the surveillance of cold, maleficent statues, gargoyles, and walls that appear to have eyes. Our heroines are being watched by inhuman things!

Both films have the hidden and lost charm of older films. That is, first viewings are deceptive, you think you understand… but do you? It takes multiple viewings for the mystery to unravel, and even then do you really understand?

Next: Haunted House as Mother?


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