The scariest thing in The Haunting is Rosalie Crutchley's smile. Crutchley was an English actress who exploited her deadpan mien, playing sinister and forbidding characters in scores of films and TV series. (I remember her fondly as the melancholy Judith Starkadder in the 1968 BBC production of Cold Comfort Farm that ran on Masterpiece Theatre in the States in 1971.) In The Haunting she plays the dour housekeeper of Hill House who warns the group of unwanted guests that she doesn't stay in the house at night, and that she won't be able to hear them if they cry out for her. Then she bids them good night with a monitory rictus of a smile. Otherwise, I find The Haunting more a study in missed opportunities than anything else. Things that go bump in the night are scary (except around my house, where it's likely to be one of the cats), but things that go wham, wham, wham! in the night, as they do in The Haunting, are more annoying than frightening. The music cues by Humphrey Searle constantly telegraph an upcoming scare, and the Hill House interior crafted by production designer Elliot Scott and set decorator John Jarvis is so fussily overdone that that it's distracting: I kept wondering what that tchotchke or that dado was instead of feeling threatened or oppressed by it. Worst of all, Nelson Gidding's screenplay gives us no character with whom we feel a strong emotional connection, essential if we are to fear for their lives. Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris) is supposed to be the film's central consciousness -- she is the one who arrives at the house first and is presented as the most physically and emotionally vulnerable -- but her hysterical voiceovers become tiresome. I haven't read the Shirley Jackson novel on which the film is based, and it's possible that she brings her characters more to life than Giddings and Wise do, but the whole premise of putting these people in a haunted house -- i.e., to do parapsychological research -- is bogus, no matter how often it's copied. I find it peculiar that the movie is celebrated as one of the most frightening of all time by people like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, who have ably demonstrated their own superior ability to scare us.