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  Uninvited, The Ghost House
Year: 1944
Director: Lewis Allen
Stars: Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Gail Russell, Donald Crisp, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Dorothy Stickney, Barbara Everest, Alan Napier
Genre: Horror, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: On the coast of Devon and Cornwall music writer Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) is walking the dog on the rocky cliffs with his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) when they notice a lovely old house built nearby. As they approach they see a squirrel - and so does their dog which races after it and in through an open window, forcing Roderick and Pamela to follow, climbing inside and tracking their pet. Soon Pamela has forgotten the squirrel as she is so impressed by the empty house, and as the two of them are looking for somewhere to live she wonders if it is for sale, little knowing it already has a tenant...

Universal were still known for their horror films during the nineteen-forties, but they were more monster movies that they specialised in, your Draculas, Frankensteins, Wolf Men and Mummies, so for an outright ghost story, and not your usual comedy haunted house chiller either, The Uninvited was something different. Not that they entirely shied away from humour as there are plenty of lighthearted gags included, but as the dread takes hold the laughs seem increasingly out of place, almost to the point of disrupting the carefully concocted, spooky atmosphere.

Rest assured this is not a laugh riot at any point, it's just that it appears as though the studio did not want anyone too scared and endeavoured to brighten what is an oddly gloomy tale otherwise. The script was based on the novel by Dorothy Macardle, and adapted by Frank Partos and Dodie Smith, who is still famous as the author of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, perhaps the reason why the Fitzgeralds' pets play the role they do in the narrative. In some ways this is the predecessor to the eighties hit Poltergiest, which also combined humour and scares, but this is a classier affair.

Roderick and Pamela manage to buy the house at an unconventionally low price, and we find out why soon enough although the Commander (Donald Crisp) they have purchased it from has a granddaughter, Stella, who warns them away without making it clear why. Stella was played by Gail Russell, a fragile beauty in one of her first films, an experience which so traumatised her due to her terrible shyness that she had a breakdown soon after completing it. Yet this vulnerability works wonders for her character, leaving you as concerned for Stella's safety as Roderick and Pamela become.

The girl serves as Roderick's love interest as well, and he wishes to bring her into the full blossoming of womanhood while everyone else wants to keep her under figurative glass, especially the Commander. But what is her connection to the unnerving crying that the Fitzgeralds hear every night in their new home? And why do the pets refuse to go upstairs? And what did the housekeeper see that scared her so much? The Uninvited is as much a mystery as it is a chiller, so although there are the trappings of such things, like the expected seance or the floating apparition, it's up to Roderick to work out what is happening and why someone - or something - would be delighted if Stella flung herself over that cliff. In spite of its uncertain tone, it does appeal and Russell's subsequent tragic, early death has only enhanced its attraction. Music by Victor Young.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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