With the Easter bunny just a hop away, Classic Film fans, you’ll be wanting something to put on your calendar for the following weekend – so why not this month’s screening of The Uninvited? Hardly any studios were making this kind of film in the 1940s and, as one commentator writes, ” to watch The Uninvited is to wonder why the hell not!”
This supernatural mystery/romance, directed by Lewis Allen, was nominated for Best Black and White Cinematography at the 1945 academy Awards and remains a favourite with film buffs. Spanish director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim) chose it in a USA Today interview as one of his six favourite “fright flicks” (Aug 22, 2011) and Martin Scorsese put it on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time.
A composer (Ray Milland) and his sister move into a seaside house that has been abandoned for many years on the Cornish coast. Their enchantment with the house diminishes as they hear of the previous owners and meet the daughter (now a young woman), who is a neighbour and lives with her grandfather. After unexplained sounds during the night, it becomes clear that the house is haunted and their relationship with the daughter (whom the brother is falling in love with), proves complex. They are compelled to solve the mystery of the haunting but as they do so, supernatural activity at the house increases to a frightening level.
This was among the first Hollywood feature films to portray a haunting seriously. Previous film ghosts had been played for laughs, or were revealed as practical jokes or else were tricks to obscure illegal activity.
Welsh-born Milland had been an ‘A’ list star since The Jungle Princess (1936) with Dorothy Lamour, and had played Bulldog Drummond and also one of the three valiant brothers in Beau Geste (1939). But he was yet to play his most memorable role as an alcoholic in Billy Wilder’s groundbreaking The Lost Weekend(1945), a searing performance that won him an Oscar.
Here he plays a handsome and dapper young sophisticate and brings gravitas and romance to the stellar black and white photography (see attached). Besides Milland, at his devil may care best, there Ruth Hussey (too attractive and refined not to be married). The cast also includes a stiffly, upper crust Donald Crisp, stage actress Cornelia Otis Skinner, as the eerie Miss Holloway and beautiful, young Gail Russell, who is “introduced” in her role as the daughter of the dead Mary Meredith.