Un­de­sir­able res­i­dence

SFX - - Reviews -

RE­LEASED 15 Oc­to­ber 1944 | PG | blu-ray

Di­rec­tor lewis allen

Cast ray Mil­land, ruth Hussey,

Gail rus­sell, alan Napier

This haunted house tale oc­cu­pies a spe­cial place in hor­ror his­tory. It’s re­garded as one of the first Hol­ly­wood films to treat its rest­less spir­its se­ri­ously, as au­then­tic phe­nom­ena rather than sim­ple pranks or un­earthly cues for broad screen com­edy.

We’re among the “mist and sea fog and eerie sto­ries” of the Cor­nish coast, where a house waits on a cliff. Ray Mil­land and Ruth Hussey are the Fitzger­ald sib­lings, re­lo­cat­ing from Lon­don. Buy­ing the aban­doned pile, they soon dis­cover its less ap­peal­ing fea­tures: mys­te­ri­ous sob­bing in the night, an op­pres­sive, soul-crush­ing room where flow­ers in­stantly wilt. The house has an un­quiet legacy, tied to the death of a lo­cal woman.

The Un­in­vited gives its ghosts dra­matic grav­ity but it’s an odd col­li­sion of tones: for ev­ery mo­ment of gen­tle dread there’s a flash of screw­ball ban­ter or out­right slap­stick. There’s a healthy serv­ing of gothic ro­mance, too, and clear echoes of Re­becca in the “haunted shores” of Corn­wall. But it works, held to­gether by crisp, hand­some cin­e­matog­ra­phy and ap­peal­ing per­for­mances.

It was a star­mak­ing ve­hi­cle for Gail Rus­sell. Crip­pled by nerves, she turned to al­co­hol dur­ing the shoot, dy­ing of liver dam­age in 1961. She’s lu­mi­nously alive in this, the true ghost on screen.

Ex­tras A smart, en­joy­ably tan­gen­tial “vis­ual es­say” (27 min­utes) by Michael Almereyda (who re­cently di­rected Mar­jorie Prime); two ra­dio adap­ta­tions from 1944 and 1949, both also star­ring Ray Mil­land; trailer; a book­let fea­tur­ing a crit­i­cal es­say and a 1997 in­ter­view with di­rec­tor Lewis Allen. Nick Setch­field

Gives its ghosts dra­matic grav­ity

The stu­dio added ex­tra spec­tral ef­fects to the film at the last mo­ment, only for the Bri­tish cen­sor to re­move them.

Twist: it turned out they were made out of wax.

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