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Blu-ray Reviews

The Uninvited (1944) Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 19 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted October 16 2013 - 02:03 PM

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.


Cover Art


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


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#2 of 19 OFFLINE   Virgoan

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Posted October 16 2013 - 02:47 PM

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.


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#3 of 19 OFFLINE   Doug Bull

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Posted October 16 2013 - 03:31 PM

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 of 19 OFFLINE   JohnMor

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Posted October 16 2013 - 04:10 PM

Next week this will be mine!



#5 of 19 OFFLINE   Charles Smith

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Posted October 16 2013 - 04:13 PM

I'll wait a couple more and add it to my B&N haul, but definitely, mine mine mine.


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#6 of 19 OFFLINE   David_B_K

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Posted October 16 2013 - 06:20 PM

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.


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#7 of 19 OFFLINE   ahollis

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Posted October 17 2013 - 10:56 AM

Thanks. Looking forward to Tuesday. I'm going to wait to watch THE HAUNTING until this arrives and double feature it.

Edited by ahollis, October 17 2013 - 01:14 PM.

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"Get a director and a writer and leave them alone. That`s how the best pictures get made" - William "Wild Bill" Wellman


#8 of 19 OFFLINE   Jacksmyname

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Posted October 22 2013 - 01:29 PM

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.


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#9 of 19 OFFLINE   Mark Collins

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Posted October 22 2013 - 05:17 PM

Loved the movie and will watch it again.  I thought it looked great as I watched it tonight.



#10 of 19 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 23 2013 - 07:17 AM

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.


 

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#11 of 19 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted October 23 2013 - 07:38 AM

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.


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#12 of 19 OFFLINE   Rob_Ray

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Posted October 23 2013 - 07:46 AM

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 of 19 OFFLINE   rich_d

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Posted October 23 2013 - 08:34 AM

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 ...

 

Spoiler

 

The audience went nuts.



#14 of 19 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted October 23 2013 - 08:43 AM

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.

 

I only want this movie when it makes it to $10-15 used. But that goes with a lot of movies.



#15 of 19 OFFLINE   JohnMor

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Posted October 23 2013 - 08:56 AM

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.  


Edited by JohnMor, October 23 2013 - 08:56 AM.


#16 of 19 OFFLINE   Clyde's Place

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Posted October 27 2013 - 12:08 AM

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.

Spoiler
 

For those who are interested, here's the video discussion on YouTube.



#17 of 19 OFFLINE   Dr Griffin

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Posted October 27 2013 - 02:05 PM

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.

 

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#18 of 19 OFFLINE   Will Krupp

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Posted October 28 2013 - 05:36 AM

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 of 19 OFFLINE   Mark Collins

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Posted October 29 2013 - 08:17 PM

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. 







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