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USA 1944
Directed by
Lewis Allen
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Uninvited, The (1944)

The Uninvited is relatively unusual for Hollywood of the time in that its quality production values and top drawer casting initially suggests a psychological thriller whereas it is in fact a straight-forward old fashioned ghost story,

Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey play Roderick and Pamela Fitzgerald, brother and sister who buy a house on the Cornish seacoast from a Commander Beech (Donald Crisp) despite the attempts of his grand-daughter Stella Meredith (Gail Russell) to dissuade then and rumours of ghostly visitations.  Sure enough before long an unseen woman is heard sobbing in the night and it appears to be the ghost of Stella’s mother who died tragically when the latter was three years old.

Although on the surface the film appears to be in the same league as Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) as it tantalizes us with the story of a buried past and tortured psyches, instead of making these the subject of human machinations The Uninvited has the past literally coming back to haunt the present.  All the old B-grade devices are here such as below stairs moanings, a spooked cat, doors opening and shutting without human agency, a seance amidst flickering candles and so on but it only when an ectoplasm appears that we finally accept that this is actually the road that we are going down (apparently the ectoplasm was added to the US print in order to “materialize” the story and was not in the British print).

It is not a hybrid that really works. The film has all the usual accoutrements that characterized the better quality productions of the periods – well-dressed and spoken idle rich in lavish settings (Rick is supposed to be a penniless composer but somehow his similarly unemployed sister manages to convert an empty house into an art director’s wet dream in a matter of single scene change)  - which as a kind of high-toned framework for a creaky ghost-story which is unpacked more through expositional dialogue than mise-en-scène and performance. 

Cary Grant could have carried the role off (he could have called on his experience in Topper) but Milland who at 37 seems far too old to be a suitable amorous interest for the 20 year old Stella, brings nothing of note to the character whilst Cornelia Otis Skinner’s Miss Holloway is a straight lift from Judith Anderson’s Mrs Danvers but not half as chilling.

Although the film has its moments, overall it is only averagely effective.

FYI:  There was a 1945 sequel, The Unseen, which in my case is true.

Available from: Shock Entertainment




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