In honor of Halloween, tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema classic is the spooky gem, The Uninvited, starring Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey. This ghost movie is a sophisticated supernatural film. Based on the novel by Dorothy Macardle (with a few uncredited “lifts” from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca), The Uninvited remains one of the spookiest “old dark house” films ever made, even after years of inundation by computer-generated special effects.
The film was a bit of a breakthrough for Golden Age Hollywood — back then, ghosts were seen as comical creatures, always going West or taking Topper for a ride. Scary spectres stuck mostly to Dickens, or occasional dream sequences.
“The Uninvited,” however, played it straight — and helped establish some of our favorite haunted-house movie cliches (the suspiciously low rental, the dog that won’t enter a room, the “cold spot”). For modern audiences, the movie is more elegantly creepy than truly scary, but it still charms.
By BOSLEY CROWTHER, The NY Times
Published: February 21, 1944
For such folks as like ghost stories—just the plain, haunted-house-at-midnight sort, wherein walling is heard in the darkness and bugbear phantoms emerge from the gloom—Paramount has turned a little number called “The Uninvited,” which came to the Globe on Saturday. Proceed at your own risk, we warn you, if you are at all afraid of the dark. For this fiction about two young people who buy an old seaside house in England, only to discover that a couple of banshees have taken up residence first, is as solemnly intent on raising gooseflesh as any ghost-story weirdly told to a group of shivering youngsters around a campfire on a dark and windy night.
All of the old standbys are in it—flickering candles, the slowly opening door, supernatural agitations and a scent of mimosa now and then. There is also a novel introduction of a demoniacal spell maintained in some fashion in this residence by a lady with a spiritualistic bent. But the intellectual aspects of the story had better be left unquestioned, for there is certainly a glaring confusion in the wherefore and why of what goes on. It seems that the two local genies are making things hideous in the house because of their former, earthy jealousy—but which killed which and how, we didn’t quite catch.
Let that slide, however. The one thing—and the only thing—about this film is that it sets out to give you the shivers—and will do so, if you’re readily disposed. Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey do nicely as the couple who get themselves involved, being sufficiently humorous in spots to seem plausibly real. Gail Russell is wistful and gracious as a curiously moonstruck girl, and Cornelia Otis Skinner is quite chilly as a Mrs. Danvers by remote control. Lewis Allen has handled the direction in such a persistent way that the shocks come at regular intervals. You can snooze, if you wish, in between.
THE UNINVITED, screen play by Dodie Smith and Jack Partos, from a novel by Dorothy Macardle; directed by Lewis Allen; produced by Charles Brackett for Paramount. At the Globe.
Roderick Fitzgerald . . . . . Ray Milland
Pamela Fitzgerald . . . . . Ruth Hussey
Commander Beech . . . . . Donald Crisp
Miss Holloway . . . . . Cornelia Otis Skinner
Miss Bird . . . . . Dorothy Stickney
Lizzie Flynn . . . . . Barbara Everest
Dr. Scott . . . . . Alan Napier
Stella Meredith . . . . . Gail Russell