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.