Finally, one of the best, and most awaited ghost/haunted house stories is given the million dollar treatment by Criterion. This 1944 film had me sneaking upstairs (against explicit instructions by my parents to "go directly to bed") to watch the late show with a blanket nearby for the scary parts. Honestly its not really scary, no mater what my 12 year old self still thinks, but it's one of the creepiest and well produced supernatural movies from Hollywood.
Ray Milland (Rick) is the perfectly suave leading man who falls in love with the beautiful Gail Russell, (Stella) a young 20 year old daughter of the mystery spirit who maybe haunting "Windward House", that sits perched upon a tall cliff on the haunted Cornish coast in England. [Oh, yeah, very Gothic!] Milland and his sister (Ruth Hussey) buy the house while on vacation at a heavily discounted price from the stern Commander Beech (Donald Crisp). His granddaughter, Stella, becomes upset with the sale until she is invited to visit the house, by Rick and his sister. From this point on it's "Katie bar the door!" as the house comes alive with mysterious scents, moans, cold spots, and murderous attempts on the life of young Stella.
The movie was produced by Paramount, based on the novel by Dorothy Macardle. It was directed by Lewis Allen and is in glorious black and white. For an on-the-set, studio produced film, it seems very realistic. (Check out the village scenes and the 1937 headlines of Soviet Airmen flying over the pole.) The suspense is well handled and for one of the first times, Hollywood treats hauntings as actually happening instead of laying it on some human pranks at the end of the movie. The ghost is handled respectfully, and in an almost English cinema type trait, you don't see the spirit until the last 30 minutes of the film. The movie has humor, thrills, and romance, and even hints at a "love that may not speak its own name".
I love this film. Take a chance. Invite your female friends over for the evening, pop some popcorn, turn out the lights, power down your cell phones, and have a few blankets next to the sofa, just in case.
"The Uninvited" is a stylish film that owes much of its look to "Rebecca," as well as the Val Lewton films that were contemporaneous with this 1944 release from Paramount. "The Uninvited" is a genuinely scary haunted house tale that takes its ghosts seriously...very seriously, indeed. For me, this film, "The Innocents" and "The Haunting" (1963) make up THE trilogy of well-made movies about ghosts, and I'm ecstatic about the fact that "The Uninvited" has received the much-deserved Criterion treatment. Hot Dog!!
Unlike the ghost stories produced today, this story is brightly lit, has no shaky camera work, no grotesque masks or the special effects the current generation expects. It has good acting, a sense of humor and what was, at the time, a unique story line. I saw it as a kid on late night TV, and loved it. Then I didn't see it again for MANY years. Loved it again. So, I finally bought it. Nice old fashioned ghost story.
Although I'm not a big fan of Ray Milland, this is just an all around good ghost story. The cinematography is an asset, the lighting in the house, the menacing yet inviting ocean shots just add too the story. Gail Russell's first film, she is so convincing that you can almost feel her passion as well as her terror. Criterion did their usual good job at bringing "The Uninvited" to Blu-ray. The transfer was near immaculate and the audio was excellent. The only problem was when it was shipped there wasn't any shrink wrap on the case itself, so it "came apart" inside the mailer, and bounced around until it landed at my doorstep. It wasn't damaged, but could very easily have been. The case itself was damaged, as was the booklet.