Blu-ray Review The Uninvited (1944) Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Oct 16, 2013.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Messages:
    14,544
    Likes Received:
    2,943
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough
    XenForo Template The Uninvited (1944) Blu-ray Review

    While many ghost-themed films from the 1930s and 1940s tended to use the possible presence of spirits in either a comic (Topper) or deceitful (Hold That Ghost) way, Lewis Allen’s The Uninvited gave us the real McCoy: a serious vehicle in which ghosts played dramatic roles in a melancholy mystery concerning their reasons for haunting an old mansion. The film’s utter lack of camp and its adult treatment of its poltergeist problem have earned it a die hard fan base, and the film is entirely worthy of such celebration. It’s a polished movie with effective performances and sensational atmosphere for telling its ghoulish story.

    Posted Image


    Studio: Criterion

    Distributed By: N/A

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

    Audio: English PCM 1.0 (Mono)

    Subtitles: English SDH

    Rating: Not Rated

    Run Time: 1 Hr. 39 Min.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray

    keep case

    Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)

    Region: A

    Release Date: 10/22/2013

    MSRP: $29.95




    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    Siblings Roderick (Ray Milland) and Pamela (Ruth Hussey) Fitzgerald see a large empty house overlooking the sea at Cornwall and simply must have it. Commander Beech (Donald Crisp), who once lived in the home, accepts a ridiculously low offer on the pretext of wanting to provide for his twenty-year old granddaughter Stella (Gail Russell), but once the Fitzgeralds move in, they see why the house was so hard for Beech to unload. The place seems haunted possibly by the ghost of Beech’s deceased daughter Mary with an upstairs gallery room ice cold to walk into and one which instantly wilts flowers and that the household pets won’t go near and intermittent crying in the dead of night. The ghost seems determined to do harm to Stella who’s been forbidden to enter the premises by her grandfather, but she disobeys him because she and Roderick are falling in love, and with Stella’s doctor (Alan Napier) and Pamela also becoming close, it becomes imperative for the riddle of the ghost to be solved.Based on the novel by Dorothy Macardle, the screenplay by Dodie Smith and Frank Partos is an intriguing psychological mystery which is surprisingly adult in texture for 1944 (there’s certainly a more than implied lesbian subplot that got by the censors of the time, even more implicit than in Rebecca) and unfolds with a smooth elegance despite occasionally clunky dialogue. (Do people really repeat and repeat the names of the people they’re talking to during conversation?) Special effects are used sparingly (a lot of the spooky ambiance is conveyed by the brilliant acting of the cast), but are most impressively ethereal when they finally do make an appearance. The production design of this fabulous ghostly mansion is brilliant, and its large, dark-shrouded rooms lit only by candles and oil lamps aid immeasurably in establishing the place as one of mystery. Most effective is the séance sequence with its homemade Ouija board and the bits of information that are revealed during it (the solution to the mystery is actually contained within it for those who are clever enough to be paying attention), and Lewis Allen’s direction which had efficiently ambled during the film’s first half now begins to rev up and take flight as various plot strings begin to tie up.Ray Milland is at his lilting best as the high-spirited composer who writes a serenade for his love (the famous “Stella by Starlight”) and grounds the picture with his determination to get to the bottom of the mystery. Gail Russell in her first really important movie role does nicely as the agitated Stella. Donald Crisp is fairly one-note as the gruff grandfather, but Ruth Hussey as the devoted sister makes a believable pairing with Milland as the two siblings work together to get to the bottom of their house’s miseries. Cornelia Otis Skinner as psychologist Miss Holloway who knows more about Stella’s mother than she’s willing to tell dominates all of her scenes. One look at the enormous painting of Mary Meredith that she has on the wall of her office silences any questions one might have about Holloway’s motives for her selective silence. Barbara Everest is delightful as the sassy maid Lizzie, and Dorothy Stickney has a memorably daffy cameo as the addled Miss Bird.


    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film is presented in its theatrical 1.37:1 aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p using the AVC codec. This is a very film-like presentation with a satisfying light grain structure and wonderful sharpness through most of the presentation. The grayscale offers notably crisp whites and black levels that are generally good (but don’t quite plumb the depths of inkiness). Shadows in those darkly lit rooms are effectively ominous. There are no age-related artifacts which betray the film’s almost seventy years of existence. The film has been divided into 13 chapters.



    Audio Rating: 3.5/5

    The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix offers a good but not great presentation. Victor Young’s superb score is presented with excellent fidelity for the period, but it never overpowers the dialogue or eerily effective sound effects that set the atmosphere for the film so wonderfully. However, there is light to moderate hiss that can be heard in quieter moments of the movie (more in the second half) and some attenuated noise which the engineers weren’t quite able to make completely disappear.


    Special Features Rating: 3/5

    Giving Up the Ghost (26:59, HD): a video essay by Michael Almereyda (with added comments by ghost expert Erin Yerby) which hits on the film’s high points and also analyzes Ray Milland’s lengthy film career with clips from Criterion’s recently issued Ministry of Fear among many other stills and poster art and Gail Russell’s sadly brief film career.Radio Broadcasts (29:25, 29:50). Both abbreviations of the film, the 1944 radio version stars Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey; the 1949 adaptation (the more effective of the two) also stars Milland in his movie role.Theatrical Trailer (2:03, HD)Twenty-Five Page Booklet: contains cast and crew lists, some stills from the movie, an analytical essay on the movie by critic Farran Smith Nehme and a 1997 interview with director Lewis Allen by author Tom Weaver.Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.


    Overall Rating: 4/5

    It doesn’t have the romantic pull of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (which is essentially a romance and not a mystery), but The Uninvited is a crackerjack ghost story beautifully produced and expertly acted. Highly recommended!


    Reviewed By: Matt Hough


    Support HTF when you buy this title:

     
    Doug Bull likes this.
  2. Virgoan

    Virgoan Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2007
    Messages:
    456
    Likes Received:
    180
    Location:
    Oakland CA
    Real Name:
    Ron Pulliam
    Another of my all-time favorite films. Gorgeous black-and-white photography. A glorious old house. A dog and a cat who don't like the house's upstairs. Lots of mystery and suspense. A sapphic doctor (that is MY take on the good doctor and her devotion to the memory of Mary). Wonderful lead actors.

    It all works and has the added joy of a beautiful Victor Young score with an unforgettable theme.
     
    Lromero1396 likes this.
  3. Doug Bull

    Doug Bull Advanced Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2001
    Messages:
    1,544
    Likes Received:
    642
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Real Name:
    Doug Bull
    I had nightmares for many years after seeing this as a child.

    Great to see that after all these years it's still hasn't lost any of it's power.

    Thanks for the great review Matt.
     
  4. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2004
    Messages:
    4,065
    Likes Received:
    1,296
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Real Name:
    John Moreland
    Next week this will be mine!
     
  5. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    Messages:
    5,185
    Likes Received:
    1,163
    Location:
    Nor'east
    Real Name:
    Charles Smith
    I'll wait a couple more and add it to my B&N haul, but definitely, mine mine mine.
     
    Lromero1396 and JohnMor like this.
  6. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2006
    Messages:
    1,931
    Likes Received:
    379
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Real Name:
    David
    Great review. We've waited years for a release of this film in something other than a laserdisc. Looks like the wait was worth it. This will make for a nice Halloween feature.
     
    Lromero1396 likes this.
  7. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2007
    Messages:
    6,534
    Likes Received:
    1,510
    Location:
    New Orleans
    Real Name:
    Allen
    Thanks. Looking forward to Tuesday. I'm going to wait to watch THE HAUNTING until this arrives and double feature it.
     
    Jacksmyname likes this.
  8. Jacksmyname

    Jacksmyname Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2011
    Messages:
    308
    Likes Received:
    76
    Real Name:
    Jack Walder
    Thank you for the review, Matt. I've loved this film since I first saw it, over fifty years ago. Still my absolute favorite of the genre.
     
    rich_d likes this.
  9. Mark Collins

    Mark Collins Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2008
    Messages:
    2,506
    Likes Received:
    527
    Real Name:
    Mark
    Loved the movie and will watch it again. I thought it looked great as I watched it tonight.
     
  10. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
    Owner

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 1997
    Messages:
    46,407
    Likes Received:
    4,357
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    I am going to be the Debbie Downer of this thread.

    I bought this blindly based on everyone's recommendation.

    Really didn't care for it.

    I am guessing that had I seen it during my childhood, as many
    of you had, I would probably have the same attachment to it
    that you do.

    Just didn't do anything for me.

    Going to try Twilight Time's The Other, next, and see if I like
    that better.

    Also thinking about getting Warner's recent release of The Haunting
    as I have never seen that film.
     
  11. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Messages:
    14,544
    Likes Received:
    2,943
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough
    Ron, the film grew on me over time. I didn't see it as a kid; only a few years ago actually, and my first impression was only so-so. Over the years, seeing it more often, I have come to see its really great achievements, and I find it among the best ghost stories around now.
     
    Rob_Ray likes this.
  12. Rob_Ray

    Rob_Ray Screenwriter
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2004
    Messages:
    1,819
    Likes Received:
    1,120
    Location:
    Southern California
    Real Name:
    Rob Ray
    I first saw it on the old laserdisc as a thirty-something adult and had the same reaction as Matt. I think it improves on repeated viewings.
     
  13. rich_d

    rich_d Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2001
    Messages:
    2,025
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Real Name:
    Rich
    I saw The Uninvited back in my college days. Someone wrote a short blurb about the film in (I think) the Boston Phoenix praising the film for its campy wonderfulness.

    So, I saw the film to a packed house of college kids and young professionals. I wouldn't describe the film as "campy" but there is no doubt that some older horror films play differently to a modern audience. I mean ... the granddaughter with her doe-like eyes and her perky breasts with the much older character played by Ray Milland?

    And when ...

    When the girl emerges from crouching down in Milland's two-seater (facing Milland's crotch) saying "oh, what a moment"

    The audience went nuts.
     
  14. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
    HW Reviewer

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2012
    Messages:
    17,112
    Likes Received:
    898
    Location:
    Chicago-ish/NW Indiana
    Real Name:
    Sam
    I only want this movie when it makes it to $10-15 used. But that goes with a lot of movies.
     
  15. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2004
    Messages:
    4,065
    Likes Received:
    1,296
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Real Name:
    John Moreland
    I first saw it when I was about 30 and loved it immediately. I don't think kids would like it that much at all.

    Just saw The Other for the first time on the TT blu and really didn't like it at first. I figured everything out within the first scene and then the film just seemed to go on forever waiting for the characters to catch up. HOWEVER, it really stayed with me over the next few days and kept rattling around in my mind, so I watched it a second time and have come to really like and appreciate it.
     
  16. Clyde's Place

    Joined:
    May 23, 2009
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    6
    I did see this when I was young, but I still appreciate it even more each time I watch so this was a no brainer. Maybe the following will make it a bit more interesting simply because it approaches it from another angle.Turner ran this once during a theme entitled Screen Out, Gay Images in Film. His guest, Richard Barrios, who wrote a book titled Screened Out: Out Playing Gay In Hollywood. I'll put the rest in spoilers for those who haven't seen the film.
    Barrios was of the opinion that Mary Meredith was a closet lesbian who had a thing going with Miss Holloway which would explain Holloway's over the top adoration. Host Osborne insisted quickly that if there was it wasn't intentional and to think so was really a stretch. But the more I thought about it though, the more I decided it was a legitimate explanation but one I hadn't really considered.
    For those who are interested, here's the video discussion on YouTube.
     
  17. Dr Griffin

    Dr Griffin Cinematographer

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    2,425
    Likes Received:
    1,388
    Location:
    The wilds of Pennsylvania
    Real Name:
    Stanley
    I did notice what seemed to be an age related issue: During dark scenes, there is a lot of fluctuation of black levels from frame to frame, almost creating a flickering effect. Daytime scenes are indeed excellent, excepting maybe the opening shot of the sea, where detail and definition suffer. All that aside, considering the 3rd generation of the elements used, Criterion delivered an excellent transfer.

    [​IMG]
     
  18. Will Krupp

    Will Krupp Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2003
    Messages:
    1,575
    Likes Received:
    1,430
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    Real Name:
    Will
    Well, I finally sat down with this over the weekend and absolutely LOVED the way it looked! So happy to have this!

    I'd love to get my hands on a copy of Dorothy Macardle's novel. Has anyone read it?

    As for the Barrios/Osborne disagreement, I thought that it was so obviously stated that there was no other possible explanation unless you simply refused to see it. I didn't think it was even a question except, maybe, whether it was mutual or one sided.
     
  19. Mark Collins

    Mark Collins Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2008
    Messages:
    2,506
    Likes Received:
    527
    Real Name:
    Mark
    I loved it and had it here the day it came out. I want the Haunting but budget restrains will make me have to buy it next year.
     

Share This Page