When The Haunting of M. made its brief theatrical run in 1979, I had the intention of seeing it, but somehow never got around to it. A few years later while living in Germany, another opportunity to witness the film arose, and this time, I drove through an appropriately atmospheric, drizzly evening to a little two-screen art house that could probably fit inside an average-sized garage, but the ticket clerk solemnly informed me that they were having technical difficulties with their projector and that night’s screening was cancelled.
All I knew about the movie was it’s basic premise. Set during the turn of the century, a family is haunted by a ghost who roams the corridors of their decrepit old estate. The specter is apparently a young man, and he is particularly attached to one of the daughters, whose first name begins with the letter M. The ghost is first discovered hovering in a family portrait, where he gazes longingly at the object of his affection. One of the other sisters then decides to do a bit of amateur ghost hunting in the hope of revealing the haunting.
Being a huge fan of atmospheric ghost stories, I have always heard that The Haunting of M. is one of the most atmospheric ghost stories ever filmed, that it was elegantly spooky and beautifully photographed in a naturalistic Vermeer sort of light.
Unfortunately for me, and for all fans of atmospheric ghost stories, the movie is unavailable, in video or any other medium, a fact that I confirmed during a very pleasant e-mail exchange, some months back, with the director of the film, Anna Thomas. Even she no longer has a copy. She wrote that, sadly, it will probably never be seen again.
Just like the haunting in an old photograph, the movie is a ghost.