Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Uninvited (1944)

I often avoid "ghost" movies if they look too spooky, but I was very interested in THE UNINVITED as the leads are played by three actors I particularly enjoy: Ray Milland, Gail Russell, and Ruth Hussey. We did take the precaution of watching it this afternoon, before it got dark. :) It turned out to be a really wonderful film, which I highly recommend.

Milland and Hussey play Rod and Pamela Fitzgerald, a brother and sister who decide to pool their resources to buy a house on the English coast. It isn't long before they notice spooky goings-on in the house, but the Fitzgeralds try to ignore the unusual happenings and enjoy their new home.

Rod is soon enchanted by beautiful young Stella (Gail Russell), whose parents once lived in the house. It quickly becomes apparent that Stella and the strange happenings in the Fitzgeralds' house are connected, and Rod and Pamela set out to solve the mystery and free Stella and the house from whatever is haunting them. They are aided in their quest by the local doctor (Alan Napier), who has taken an interest in Pamela.

There are many elements which make the film so effective, starting with the performances of the four lead actors. Milland is charming as Rod, a composer and music critic simultaneously falling in love and fighting with ghosts. Hussey conveys her usual warmth and intelligence, and Napier was just right as the doctor who immediately believes the Fitzgeralds and calmly handles spooky lights and noises. (Napier is best-known as Alfred the butler in TV's BATMAN.) Russell is simply one of the loveliest and most haunting -- no pun intended -- leading ladies ever to grace film; how tragic that the stress of handling a film career led to her alcoholism.

The movie isn't a conventional horror film in that there is no gore or anything visually scary, other than a couple of apparitions. It's all about mood, sounds, and animals that run away from home or refuse to go upstairs. A brief seance attempting to find out what's wrong with the house is as close as the movie gets to anything truly unpleasant. There's no ugly music indicating terrible things are about to happen; to the contrary, the score is exquisitely beautiful, including the memorable "Stella By Starlight." The score was composed by Victor Young. The film's resolution is logical and satisfying.

The supporting cast includes Donald Crisp as Stella's grandfather and Cornelia Otis Skinner as a strange woman who appears to have liked Stella's mother a little too intensely.

The film runs 98 minutes and was directed by Lewis Allen. The screenplay was cowritten by Dodie Smith, author of the novels I CAPTURE THE CASTLE and 101 DALMATIANS. I CAPTURE THE CASTLE sits on my shelf of favorite books. (Anyone who has read it can probably recite the opening line by heart..."I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.")

THE UNINVITED can be seen on VHS and on cable at Turner Classic Movies.

Requests for a DVD release at TCM are higher than I've ever noticed for any other movie -- over 2411 at present. This movie deserves a DVD release with informative extras about the making of the film. Sadly, none of the cast is with us any longer.

The trailer is here.

A most enjoyable movie which I'll be watching again in the future.

Update: This movie was released on Region 2 DVD in Europe in October 2012. It is the first authorized DVD released anywhere in the world.

July 2013 Update: Finally, a Region 1 DVD release in the United States! THE UNINVITED will be released by the Criterion Collection on October 22, 2013.

October 2013 Update: I reviewed the new Criterion DVD for ClassicFlix.

October 2019 Update: My ClassicFlix review of the Criterion disc has been updated and published here at my site.


Blogger Irene said...

Your review has really piqued my interest and much to my surprise the LA county library system has 11 copies in various branches - I have requested one :) Also my vote now brings the total to 2413 on TCM.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope you enjoy it, Irene -- as always, I'd like to hear your opinion!

Fingers crossed for that DVD release. :)

Best wishes,

11:19 PM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

I would love to see this one also. I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed. My vote goes to this one on TCM as well.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

I know this post goes back to the 16th but the video did come in and I watched it tonight. I really enjoyed this film and thought Ray Milland was really good. Gave it a kind of light hearted, slightly comic touch. I didn't see the resolve/ending coming though looking back, I should have. I too would like to see this restored and on DVD. Also liked their Irish maid :) Thanks for these reviews of great older movies that I might never have known existed if not for your reviews.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm so delighted you enjoy this movie too, Irene! I thought it was an especially good "find" and am looking forward to seeing it again. It will be interesting to watch knowing how it ends and understand the pieces fitting together a bit better. :)

Best wishes,

8:53 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Theres a dvd coming out in uk this october (2012) it includes a booklet with essays!! Yay!

7:19 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Man, You really hit the greats! My wife and I really enjoyed this film. (We bought the blue-ray version immediately after it became available!) Kudos on a great site... Looking forward to keeping an eye on your material!

SB Watson...

12:26 AM  

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