January 10, 2013

Filthy Review - 'The Uninvited'

The Uninvited (1944)

Review by Jude Felton

You just have to love a good old fashioned ghost story, or should I say haunted house movie. I know I do, and to me the Granddaddy of these has always been Robert Wise’s 1963 shocker, The Haunting. We can all forget about the atrocious remake, it was this film from the 60s’ that managed to put the chills and thrills into the haunted house flick. What I didn’t know, until relatively recently, though was the existence of a film from 1944 called The Uninvited, hence this review. So, I guess that would make The Uninvited the Great Granddaddy of the haunted house movie?

Aside from both being movies about ghosties, and both being very good films, they differ in one main area. In The Haunting, a team enters Hill House intending to discover whether the house is indeed haunted, whereas in The Uninvited the new tenants have no idea as to its supernatural residents. Based on the novel Uneasy Freehold by Dorothy Macardle, the film is directed by Lewis Allen and puts the scares in Cornwall, long before Sam Peckinpah made the county a scary place to visit.

Roderick (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) take a trip down to the Cornish coast to get away from the hectic lifestyle in London. Whilst there they both fall in love with a beautiful seaside mansion, which lays empty, and look to buy it. As luck would have it the house is going incredibly cheaply, so they snap it up. We, the viewer, soon learn why it didn’t cost much; doors closing, a woman wailing and other mysterious events start to happen when the sun goes down, causing Pamela, and eventually Roderick, to question what is going on.

Aside from the main plotline concerning the house itself, the film does bulk up its story with a sub-plot concerning Roderick’s relationship with former resident, Stella, and her overbearing Grandfather, Commander Beach. Everything here though ties into the main story though, and nothing ever feels out of place or forced. Sure, seeing as though the film is almost 70 years old that are elements that seem dated; the fashions and attitudes towards women for example, but it is the haunted house aspect that is still as effective as I imagine it was back in 1944.

This is one creepy film. Of course, plenty of the running time is taken up with lighter, more carefree, moments, but when the chills come they are quite the delight. There’s a wonderful atmosphere about the film, which is also beautifully shot, and there’s some really cool effects at play. That being said there was one moment that was spoiled slightly, by my spying a piece of string that was obviously utilized in one of the special effects. I won’t say where, but I am sure you will notice it when it happens. Don’t be fooled though, this is an incredibly effective film, regardless of its age, and it isn’t one that relies on cheap tactics or jump scares.

The cast are quite delightful, from Ray Milland’s charismatic Roderick, the stunning Gail Russell as Stella, through to the old-fashioned patriarch that is Commander Beach, played by Donald Crisp. They are all quite wonderful, and seem to take the material quite seriously, as even though there are humorous moments to be found, the chills are played for real.

Exposure Cinema has delivered a rather excellent DVD release with The Uninvited, with the film itself being re-mastered and looking quite terrific. Also included in this release are a stills and poster gallery, the original trailer and two original radio adaptations which also star Ray Milland. Accompanying the disc itself is a 24 page illustrated booklet which is quite excellent, featuring a host of photos and posters, as well as several articles in which the film, the cast and more are discussed. It’s a great addition and one that I highly recommend reading.

As for the film itself, it’s a gem and one that I highly recommend to fright fans looking for a change of pace and class. It’s quite wonderful, just don’t watch it with the lights out!

The Uninvited is available now on Region 2 DVD from Exposure Cinema.

1 comment:

DOC TERROR said...

Excellent review my friend. Makes me wish I was region free. Soon enough. I wish I could send you Robert Osborn intro. TCM's website might just have it.