Directed by Lewis Allen [Other horror films: The Unseen (1945)]
This is a classic that I’ve not seen until now, and it was great to sit down and finally watch it. Quite a solid film with a decent mystery, it’s pretty easy to see how this influenced ghost films in the following decades, into today.
A large house on the English coast was a fine choice for the setting, and I also like that it is just a house (albeit a large one) as opposed to a castle or mansion. It makes it seem a bit more relatable to those of us who have never set foot in a castle or mansion, and shows that even us lowly poor people can be haunted.
The Uninvited also really started off great with a little voice-over talking about ghosts and the like, all set to the beautiful scenery we’d been exploring for the next hour-and-a-half. It reminded me a little of Return to Glennascaul, a 1953 horror short narrated by Orson Welles. The atmosphere started off strong, and never really let up.
Ruth Hussey and Ray Milland made a fine brother and sister (and I have to say that it’s quaint to have siblings buying a house together as opposed to a couple), and Milland (who has been in plenty of horror films, such as Frogs, X, Terror in the Wax Museum, The House in Nightmare Park, and Premature Burial) was pretty witty at times, giving us some pretty amusing lines.
Playing an older gent with a stick up his ass, Donald Crisp (who I actually saw earlier this very month in the 1941 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) was pretty solid, and playing his granddaughter was Gail Russell (who apparently died at the young age of 36 due to a long bout with alcoholism). Russell got a bit hysterical at times, but she was cute, so I’ll give her a pass (it also helps that it makes sense with the story). Alan Napier was also #beast in this.
I loved the mystery here, as Milland and Hussey are trying to figure out the whole true story behind the murders that took place at their new house. It reminded me of many more modern ghost films in which the protagonists have to solve the old crimes before they can really understand what’s going on (such as The Changeling or Dark Water), and I thought it was done wonderfully here, with a solid sense of atmosphere.
The 1940’s wasn’t the strongest decade for horror, and in fact, I’ve long-thought that it was among the weakest, but The Uninvited belies that and ends up being a sometimes-amusing, sometimes-spooky film that it well worth seeing.