The Uninvited (PG)★★★½
This 1944 movie is an unusual viewing experience – it starts out like a light comedy but acquires darker tones by the halfway point and turns into a genuine ghost story with a tragic dimension.
Composer Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) come across a beautiful, empty cliffside mansion in England and decide to buy it. They track down its owner, Commander Beech (Donald Crisp) and make him a modest offer – all they can afford – and are surprised when he accepts. Beech’s granddaughter Stella (Gail Russell) doesn’t want them to buy it.
Then a series of mysterious happenings – strange sensations, odd scents, and a heart-rending sound of a woman sobbing – unsettles them and they try to find out about the history of the place and its former inhabitants.
While the film is old-fashioned – right down to a lush musical score by Victor Young that includes the instrumental Stella by Starlight – and restrained, the somewhat sordid backstory does come across, especially with the appearance of the sinister Miss Holloway (Cornelia Otis Skinner). It’s well made and the cast is very good. There might be a bit too much emphasis on the lighter aspects but they do provide relief from the unhappier doings.
The complete lack of extras is disappointing: the US Criterion edition has a booklet, radio adaptations and a featurette – but the film is certainly worth seeing.
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