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Thursday, January 30, 2014

THE UNINVITED (1944)

A sober-sided Haunted House pic that takes its ghosts seriously, and to still scarifying effect. Unusually for the period, this Paramount chiller is luxly produced, a modern Gothic (more REBECCA/’40 than THE OLD, DARK HOUSE/’32), very light on spectral effects, with Ray Milland & Ruth Hussey’s brother & sister quickly accepting paranormal reality in order to delouse their new house of unwanted spirits. Milland is fighting because he’s fallen for local girl Gail Russell who was born there and now seems possessed by it; Hussey’s more along for the ride, though she does wind up with Alan Napier’s tall, sensible doctor. Creepier than any ghost is stage actress/monologist Cornelia Otis Skinner in a rare film appearance as Miss Holloway, a friend to Russell’s late mother and a blatant rip-off of REBECCA’s Mrs. Danvers. It makes a fine debut for helmer Lewis Allen though he owes much to art director Hans Dreier & to the candle-powered chiaroscuro of lenser Charles Lang.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Out in a glittering DVD transfer from Criterion, the film offers a fine opportunity to appreciate the top-notch process work Paramount regularly turned out under the supervision of Farciot Edouart. It’s a name that sticks out in the credits and a man who, so they say, took many technical tricks with him to the grave.

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