Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Forgotten Film: The Uninvited

As a rule, I'll watch some or all of a decent movie again if it is replayed on network or cable television. That is, if I'm channel-surfing and not pressed for time. So-so or terrible films don't get repeat showings, ever, in my home. I avoid them like the plague (e.g., Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). Now, the truly great ones I'll see again and again (this is something that generally causes my wife's eyes to roll, btw). However, there are a small handful of films that certainly qualify for the great category but I've only seen them once due to circumstances beyond my control. For this forgotten post, the 1944 British ghost story, The Uninvited, qualifies nicely on these terms. In my mind, this film is one of those haunted stories that used to be so original and plentiful way back in the day, but aren't anymore (I don't count the U.S. studio trend of remaking Asian ghost stories being anywhere close to original -- it's why I suggest Ju-on to friends instead of The Grudge).

The Uninvited (not to be confused with the 2009 film of the same name, which was itself an American remake of the South Korean Janghwa, Hongryeon film, aka A Tale of Two Sisters) starred Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp, Gail Russell, and Alan Napier (who, if you're old enough, will recognize as Alfred from the 60's Batman TV series). It told the tale of a brother and sister (Milland and Hussey) who buy a house on the Cornish seacoast only to find that it's very much of the haunted variety. Incidentally, outside of the moors, locating this story (and manor) at the edge of a foggy cliffside is a perfect setting for a tale like this one. Essentially, ghost stories are mystery thrillers. IMO, this type of story is why they resonate more broadly with people who usually aren't into the horror genre. Those normally not into the more chilling works of H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, or Stephen King are more apt to manage their way through and enjoy a classic ghost story than the other ilk. This explains why the superb crime/mystery writer Michael Koryta could effortlessly swing over to the supernatural with his latest work, So Cold the River (a recommended read, if Jen and I say so), and seemingly never skip beat with his readers.

As a kid I watched this Lewis Allen-directed film in the late 60's on a black & white television set during one afternoon at my grandmother's house. It scared and thrilled me to no end, all the while I was glued to the set that day. The Uninvited is one atmospheric yarn to say the least (enough that the daylight hour outside gave me little relief as I watched the film). As well, its well-plotted and clever story was accompanied by a great cast that performed splendidly. I believe it's one of the best ghost stories ever put on film (along with classics like The Innocents, The Haunting, and The Changeling). However, opposed to those I've just mentioned, The Uninvited has yet to be released to disc. Oh, there is a VHS tape version out there, but it's a little pricey (even if you still have the old equipment on hand to play it). This is essentially why I've only seen it only once (if it played on the Turner Classic Movies or American Movie Classics networks, I keep missing it). Luckily, I'll get to rectify this situation tonight.

The New Beverly Cinema, the Los Angeles revival movie theater director Quentin Tarantino saved and now owns, will be showing The Uninvited on a double-bill with The Haunting tonight and tomorrow, using a new 35mm print for this occasion. From the New Beverly web site:



You can see why I can't miss this. While both are vintage, this pair of films is among the best in the haunted house genre and in a class of their own. Nonetheless, this revival showing will grant me a chance to watch this forgotten film once more (and perhaps introduce it to my teen son, if he wants to hang out with his old man and a gem of a ghost story, that is).

I hope you all have a great weekend (I know I will).


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14 comments:

  1. I LOVE this movie. I used to watch it every time it was on TV, and even rented the VHS a few times. Ray Milland is one of my favorite classic film actors. This movie was spooky as hell.

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  2. Welcome, Julie. Yes, it is very much so I as remember it. One spooky flick. Thanks very much for the comment and your RT!

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  3. Ah, this is a real classic of a spooker. Been a few years since I saw it (same goes for The Woman In Black ghost story) and your mention compels me to seek it out again.
    Ghost stories on celluloid - if done with style - have a real longevity, and I'd add The Stone Tape and Mario Bava's Kill, Baby...Kill! as fellow heavyweights.

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  4. Btw, just added So Cold The River to my reading list.

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  5. Yes, this and chilling Woman in Black are classics! I know you've mentioned The Stone Tape before, so I'm picking up the DVD-R of this Amazon is offering because of your recommendation. I've also queued up K<span>ill, Baby...Kill! on Netflix, too. Thanks so much for adding to this with your comment, Steve.</span>

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  6. Let me know what you think of it, Steve. I agree with our reviewers that have enjoyed this novel. Thanks.

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  7. This is one I've always wanted to see.

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  8. This one is well worth catching whenever it shows up on cable or network TV, Naomi. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that someone will finally release it to disc. Thanks.

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  9. I most heartily feel that re-watching is part of the movie love affair!

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  10. You're are soooo right about that, Rachel. Thanks.  8-)

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  11. I've never seen this film.  Great writeup on it.  I'd love to see it.  Thanks for sharing this with us.  I really appreciate your wonderful comment on my post about OHMSS.  I always love talking Bond with others.

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  12. Thanks very much, Keith. Always a pleasure talking about the Bond films and going to your blog site, my friend.

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