Monday, October 28, 2013

#677: The Uninvited

(Lewis Allen, 1944)

The Univited is another perfectly enjoyable old-Hollywood entry in the Collection. But unlike I Married a Witch, I think The Uninvited is very much deserving of its place. This is mainly because of the seemingly effortless way the story is told. Like many non-Hitchcock suspense pictures of the 40s and 50s, it lacks the master's greater significance, but often the pure craft on display is just as impressive. Interestingly, like the modern Hitchcockian masterpiece The Vanishing, The Uninvited was made by people who have relatively routine careers outside of this one artistic success. Director Lewis Allen, who impressively made his feature debut here, had a handful of moderately received pictures over the next decade (only one of which I've seen - Suddenly, starring Frank Sinatra) but gradually shifted into television. Co-screenwriter Dodie Smith, believe it or not, went on to write The Hundred and One Dalmations, the original book the film was based on. Joel McCrea, the best-known actor here, was a second-tier movie star who frequently put in more-than-serviceable performances (and of course heads up the cast of the impeccable Sullivan's Travels) but never really achieved immortality. [Duh, Ray Milland, not Joel McCrea.]

So what makes The Uninvited stand out from the average tight-ship Hollywood program? I think it's the spark of mystery that remains present in the film from the very beginning until the last few scenes. Like many early Hitchcock classics - especially his British pictures, which quite clearly influenced this film - the movie never loses its sense of fun, even when it is often suspenseful and at times downright creepy. It's not a movie that is going to give anyone older than ten nightmares (at least I don't think so...) but it has the potential for subsequent viewings to be just as enjoyable, just as suspenseful, and even more impressive at how well the plot is tied together in a neat little package. The Uninvited is often regarded as the first movie to treat ghosts seriously. If this is the case, it's even more impressive that they were able to thread the supernatural into this standard suspense template without dropping the ball at some point. This isn't an undiscovered masterpiece that is going to make a splash, but it's absolutely deserving of the bigger audience this release will afford it, and I think there will be quite a few people finding this in their regular rotation once they been exposed to it.


  1. Joel McCrea did not star in this film; Ray Milland did.

  2. Grumble, thanks for the catch. I got them mixed up in my head since they were both second tier movie stars...