The Uninvited REVIEW
1944 | PG | 95 minutes | £14.99
Distributor: Exposure Cinema
Director: Lewis Allen
Cast: Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Gail Russell, Donald Crisp
This mystery about a haunted house and family secrets is a favourite of both Martin Scorsese and Guillermo del Toro. It was also one of the first films to take the supernatural seriously; previously, ghosts had either been treated as a matter for comedy or explained away as trickery.
Ray Milland is composer Rick, who moves into a clifftop house on the Cornish coast with his sister, and soon has reason to regret not getting a survey done. His studio room feels unnaturally cold, flowers mysteriously wilt, and soon the siblings are being woken at night by the sound of a woman crying…
If you’ve seen Rebecca, you might experience déjà vu (indeed, The Uninvited was marketed as being in the same vein as Hitchcock’s film); there are similar elements, the key one being the ongoing influence of a dead woman in a painting.
It’s quite understandable that cinematographer Charles Lang won an Oscar for the film’s atmospheric looming shadows, and the visual effects for the wispy, billowing apparition still stand up extremely well. Back in the ‘40s the British censors deemed them sufficiently unsettling to warrant a cut.
That doesn’t mean The Uninvited will give you sleepless nights, though: the tone is quite light. The supernatural occurrences are also leavened by a romance subplot between Rex and young neighbour Stella; the daughter of a previous inhabitant of the house who took a dive off the cliff…
Stiff-upper-lip attitudes (Rex is particularly unflappable), elements of light relief (like a comedy housekeeper) and jolly music further undercut any sense of threat. But this remains a milestone film that any serious student of supernatural cinema should see.
Two radio adaptations from the ‘40s (both starring Milland – the sound quality on the first is sadly rather poor), a gallery of stills and posters, and the trailer. The DVD also comes with an informative 24-page booklet.
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman
Read our review of ghost chiller When The Lights Went Out, set in Yorkshire in the ’70s.
Read our review of Ray Milland-starring classic B-movie The Man With The X-Ray Eyes.
Read more of our DVD reviews.