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A few words about...™ The Uninvited -- in Blu-ray

A Few Words About Blu-ray Criterion Universal

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#1 of 26 Robert Harris

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Posted October 26 2013 - 01:27 PM

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Lewis Allen's 1944, heavily atmospheric haunted house drama, The Uninvited, is one of the most element ghost stores to hit the silver sheet.

As always, I'll not give away a shred of the plot. Suffice to say that I've been waiting to see this in a quality home video release, and the time -- thanks to the folks at Criterion -- has finally arrived.

We're fortunate that Universal (the owner of the pre-1949 Paramount productions) was able to harvest a superb image, even from a third generation element. Audio, is likewise a quality affair.

Those seeking horror and jolts aren't apt to find it here. This is an elegant ghost story -- atmosphere and texture over blood and gore. Quality all the way.

A great film, and a special treat for those who've not seen it.

Image - 4.5

Audio - 4.5

Highly Recommended.

RAH
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"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#2 of 26 schan1269

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Posted October 26 2013 - 01:32 PM

Sssshhhhh...

 

Nobody tell Epstein that RAH recommends this...(kidding)

 

Yes it is a great movie.



#3 of 26 Dr Griffin

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Posted October 26 2013 - 01:53 PM

I bought this on release day but I've never seen it. It sounds like it's my kind of movie. I'm a fan of The Innocents (1961) which is very creepy.



#4 of 26 ROclockCK

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Posted October 26 2013 - 02:47 PM

Lewis Allen's 1944, heavily atmospheric haunted house drama, The Uninvited, is one of the most element ghost stores to hit the silver sheet.

 

It appears you're getting hooped by the whims of auto-correct too these days Mr. Harris.  :P

 

Until my viewing of Criterion's Blu-ray this week, I hadn't seen The Uninvited since borrowing a library VHS copy back in the mid-90s. My strongest lingering impression from that first viewing on tape was the production itself. By the early/mid-forties, American big studio films, especially moodier pieces like this carefully designed, composed, and lit for monochrome cinematography, just seemed to move with the grace of fine book illustrations. In most shots, it's almost impossible to find an area of the frame not afforded this painterly attention to detail. On that level, I thought Criterion's Blu-ray was marvelous, even more so considering the 3rd generation source. I mean, if you had not mentioned that, I wouldn't have been tipped-off by the presentation here...at no point did I feel I was watching make-do elements.

 

However, I wasn't quite as impressed by the film itself this time around. The words 'too neat' come to mind, as well as 'too literal' in terms of the ghostly manifestations. Compared to something like The Haunting which I saw immediately afterwards (unfair I suppose since 20 years separated these pictures), the impact of The Uninvited seemed constrained by its loosier-goosier observance of the dramatic unities of time and space...which unfortunately not only made this film feel less claustrophobic, but also less creepy and mysterious. I don't have a rough footage count handy, but there seemed to be almost as many scenes set outside that house and its grounds as within. For me, ghost stories just work better when there's a stronger sense of our main characters being cut-off and trapped when grappling with the effects of the otherworldly.  

 

As you say though, The Uninvited was an "elegant" film, and I certainly enjoyed watching it again via this Criterion Blu-ray. With this particular sub-genre of horror though, I just think less is almost always guaranteed to deliver more.


Edited by ROclockCK, October 26 2013 - 02:49 PM.


#5 of 26 JohnMor

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Posted October 26 2013 - 04:35 PM

Such a great film.  Even better than I remembered it.  Beautifully underplayed, and as Steve pointed out, gorgeously photographed.  And of course, "Stella By Starlight" is always a treat.



#6 of 26 JoHud

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Posted October 26 2013 - 04:57 PM

I really wouldn't compare this to genuine horror film like The Haunting directly.  It's much more in the vein of the gothic melodramas of of 40s like Rebecca, Jane Eyre, or The Black Narcissus.  There are horror-like elements to be sure, and the supernatural themes certainly edge it more in that territory, but it doesn't focus as much an chills as a film like The Beast With Five Fingers even though there are certainly some to be found in The Uninvited.

 

I just recently watched it and I agree that it was a very good feature.  I found the story to be engaging and the special effects and set design to be particularly well done.


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#7 of 26 JohnMor

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Posted October 26 2013 - 05:18 PM

I agree, The Uninvited is spiritually more akin to Rebecca than The Haunting, if you'll forgive the bad pun.  



#8 of 26 Robert Crawford

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Posted October 26 2013 - 05:34 PM

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I agree, The Uninvited is spiritually more akin to Rebecca than The Haunting, if you'll forgive the bad pun.  

Not to me, as Rebecca isn't a ghost story.  Mrs. Danvers/Miss Holloway comparisons, but that's it for me.


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#9 of 26 JohnMor

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Posted October 26 2013 - 05:51 PM

Well one can quibble about the definition of ghost (literal vs. figurative), as the specter of the first Mrs. De Winter certainly pervades Rebecca. I view The Uninvited as more of a gothic mystery than a haunted house story.  And it certainly is far more romantic (in the literary sense of the term) than The Haunting.  There is no mystery or romance in The Haunting.  Both are great films, but aside from being set in haunted houses, I see no stylistic or thematic similarities, any more than I do between The Haunting and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

 

Of course, to each his own, this is just how I view the correlation of the films in question.


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#10 of 26 Robert Harris

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Posted October 26 2013 - 05:53 PM

Well one can quibble about the definition of ghost (literal vs. figurative), as the specter of the first Mrs. De Winter certainly pervades Rebecca. I view The Uninvited as more of a gothic mystery than a haunted house story.  And it certainly is far more romantic (in the literary sense of the term) than The Haunting.  There is no mystery or romance in The Haunting.  Both are great films, but aside from being set in haunted houses, I see no stylistic or thematic similarities, any more than I do between The Haunting and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

 

Of course, to each his own, this is just how I view the correlation of the films in question.

 

Bringing up the beautiful Ghost and Mrs. Muir, can lead us to Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid.

 

RAH


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"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#11 of 26 JohnMor

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Posted October 26 2013 - 05:57 PM

Bringing up the beautiful Ghost and Mrs. Muir, can lead us to Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid.

 

RAH

 

And The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.


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#12 of 26 ROclockCK

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Posted October 26 2013 - 11:36 PM

...or unfortunately, The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow. Now that's a horror!

 

During this viewing of The Uninvited I was simply more aware of the very thing that RAH noted...its abiding "elegance". I can buy that it was intended to be more of a mystery, but still not convinced it was completely effective as a ghost story. Somehow it landed in a grey area between genres.

 

Nothing wrong with that, of course. It just didn't grip me as viscerally as other gothic supernatural tales (e.g. Jack Clayton's The Innocents). Nevertheless, an expert period production and terrific disc.



#13 of 26 cineMANIAC

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Posted October 27 2013 - 05:40 AM

I blind-bought THE UNINVITED because the film was always appearing on great unreleased ghost story/horror film lists over the years. I guess I'll temper my expectations a bit now that I know it's not something akin to "The Haunting". I hope I still get to watch this on or before Halloween - Amazon lost my order and I had to request a replacement. 


 

 


#14 of 26 ROclockCK

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Posted October 27 2013 - 12:37 PM

Don't take my personal reservations to heart cineMANIAC. Nothing wrong with either the movie or disc. I'm definitely in the minority in terms of my qualified enthusiasm for The Uninvited as a tale of the supernatural. 



#15 of 26 Jacksmyname

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Posted October 27 2013 - 02:39 PM

Watched my copy on Thursday when it arrived (couldn't wait til Halloween).

VERY pleased!



#16 of 26 Dick

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Posted October 27 2013 - 06:13 PM

It appears you're getting hooped by the whims of auto-correct too these days Mr. Harris.  :P

 

Until my viewing of Criterion's Blu-ray this week, I hadn't seen The Uninvited since borrowing a library VHS copy back in the mid-90s. My strongest lingering impression from that first viewing on tape was the production itself. By the early/mid-forties, American big studio films, especially moodier pieces like this carefully designed, composed, and lit for monochrome cinematography, just seemed to move with the grace of fine book illustrations. In most shots, it's almost impossible to find an area of the frame not afforded this painterly attention to detail. On that level, I thought Criterion's Blu-ray was marvelous, even more so considering the 3rd generation source. I mean, if you had not mentioned that, I wouldn't have been tipped-off by the presentation here...at no point did I feel I was watching make-do elements.

 

However, I wasn't quite as impressed by the film itself this time around. The words 'too neat' come to mind, as well as 'too literal' in terms of the ghostly manifestations. Compared to something like The Haunting which I saw immediately afterwards (unfair I suppose since 20 years separated these pictures), the impact of The Uninvited seemed constrained by its loosier-goosier observance of the dramatic unities of time and space...which unfortunately not only made this film feel less claustrophobic, but also less creepy and mysterious. I don't have a rough footage count handy, but there seemed to be almost as many scenes set outside that house and its grounds as within. For me, ghost stories just work better when there's a stronger sense of our main characters being cut-off and trapped when grappling with the effects of the otherworldly.  

 

As you say though, The Uninvited was an "elegant" film, and I certainly enjoyed watching it again via this Criterion Blu-ray. With this particular sub-genre of horror though, I just think less is almost always guaranteed to deliver more.

That's an interesting way of seeing the film, Steve. Not to challenge your opinion, but keep in mind that the film is as much of a 40's romance as it is a ghost story, probably at the insistence of Paramount. This was among the first Hollywood films not to explain away the supernatural element as just a hoax (Bob Hope's THE GHOST BREAKERS from the same studio suggested a real ghost presence five years earlier). For that reason alone, I have great respect for it. It's a little slow insofar as its supernatural aspects are concerned, but is fully engaging if you don't apply contemporary standards to it. There is a wonderful creepy atmosphere to it, and Gail Russell was one gorgeous lady (so tragic she didn't live out a full life). Victor Young's music, even ignoring the famed "Stella By Starlight" theme, is lush and eerie. The photography excels.

 

I agree that "less is more," a lesson most modern filmmakers have completely forsaken. I think THE UNINVITED ushered in many subsequent films that used implication and minimal special effects to suggest the supernatural. The most famous "real ghost" triumvirat of course is THE UNINVITED, THE INNOCENTS (1961) and THE HAUNTING (1963). But there others, including THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973) and THE CHANGELING (1979). Recently, THE CONJURING seems to adhere for the most part to this formula, although it deals with demons, as did NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1958). Talented and imaginative directors - few and far-between these days - can still produce the goosebumps.

 

It takes balls not to show the audience too much, or anything at all...this is serious risk-taking. Back in 1944, the sinewy spirit seen only at the end is indistinct, and scarier for it. As has been pointed out on this forum and numerous horror forums, it's what you don't see that is the most threatening and scary.

 

THE UNINVITED was the precursor for the very finest ghost stories cinema ever gave us.


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#17 of 26 ROclockCK

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Posted October 27 2013 - 07:06 PM

It takes balls not to show the audience too much, or anything at all...this is serious risk-taking. Back in 1944, the sinewy spirit seen only at the end is indistinct, and scarier for it. As has been pointed out on this forum and numerous horror forums, it's what you don't see that is the most threatening and scary.

 

THE UNINVITED was the precursor for the very finest ghost stories cinema ever gave us.

  

And I cut The Uninvited some slack on that point Dick. As you say, there was no direct antecedent for its tragi-romantic approach to the supernatural...prior to that, ghostly manifestations were mostly used as comedy relief or a con man's trick for easy plot development.

 

What later films introduced to the ghost story with much more conviction was the "psychological" element. The Haunting and The Innocents are the most obvious examples of attempts to understand the human factor in terms of susceptibility to otherworldly incursion and influence. But back in 1944 with the war still raging, the world was in general a more black and white place...even if Allen and company had wanted to take this tale into darker, creepier, less neat and tidy psychological territory, the Studio would have surely balked. So as the first of a kind, its place in film history is assured, but IMO, the better and best of that kind came much later as the concept of the 'ID' crept into our language.  

 

Nevertheless, as an 'A-class' production marshalling the very best craftsmanship of the era, The Uninvited remains a big "Wow!" Man, I've always wanted that skylit, ocean-facing studio...  ;)


Edited by ROclockCK, October 27 2013 - 11:28 PM.


#18 of 26 JohnMor

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Posted October 27 2013 - 07:21 PM

I'm not sure you can get much darker than

Spoiler
  What changed over the years was mostly an ability to be more graphic.  The concept of the ID was over 20 years old even at the time The Uninvited was made, but not all stories of hauntings have a psychological basis.  Some have always been simple revenge stories, going all the way up through more modern films, like Ghost Story and What Lies Beneath.  I totally understand what you are saying about which you prefer, however.  


Edited by JohnMor, October 27 2013 - 07:21 PM.


#19 of 26 ROclockCK

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Posted October 27 2013 - 08:17 PM

What changed over the years was mostly an ability to be more graphic.  The concept of the ID was over 20 years old even at the time The Uninvited was made

 

That's why I used the words "crept into our language" John...suggesting the gradual growth of wider popular understanding. I mean, if the concept of the ID would have been such a given for movie audiences in 1944, then why was it necessary for Walter Pidgeon to take nearly a page of dialogue to explain it in Forbidden Planet...12 years later? ;)

 

...but not all stories of hauntings have a psychological basis.  Some have always been simple revenge stories, going all the way up through more modern films, like Ghost Story and What Lies Beneath.  I totally understand what you are saying about which you prefer, however.  

 

Then we'll have to agree to disagree on that point John, because I believe most of the good ones - and all of the best ones - do just that.

 

Unfortunately, both of the examples you've chosen are the very opposite of what I prefer in terms of the approach to subject and filmmaking style, simply because whatever their others merits as films, they follow the modern practice of showing too much via FX...once again, being too literal. In this category, I would even include Poltergeist too, because despite its enormous entertainment value, funky-interesting characters, and for the 80s amazing FX work, it's pretty much all in your face "ooga-booga"-style, all of the time*. 

 

As already mentioned, The Conjuring would be a good start though...I thought that was one of the better recent attempts at portraying the 'unseen' on screen. 

 

* Plus its haunting didn't really make corporeal sense...but that's another story for another thread. :unsure: 



#20 of 26 ShellOilJunior

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Posted October 28 2013 - 04:43 AM

An excellent blu-ray. The creepiest thing about the film to me are the sounds.

 

It's a shame what happened to Gail Russell later in her short career.







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