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Seeking respite from the bustle of London life, writer Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland, Dial M for Murder and The Lost Weekend) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey, The Philadelphia Story) move into a neglected clifftop mansion and set about making it their home. However, it isn't long before an unnerving presence makes itself felt: an eerie chill lingers in the rooms and distant wailing is heard at night. Despite Roderick's cynicism, it becomes increasingly clear that the house is haunted - but why in such a snug haven would the dead trouble the living?
For more about The Uninvited and the The Uninvited Blu-ray release, see the The Uninvited Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 16, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Lewis Allen
Starring: Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp (I), Dorothy Stickney, Barbara Everest, Alan Napier
» See full cast & crew
The Uninvited Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 16, 2013
Lewis Allen's "The Uninvited" (1944) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film; two radio adaptations, from 1944 and 1949, both starring Ray Milland; and new visual essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda, featuring an interview with cultural anthropologist Erin Yerby. The release also arrives with a 26-page illustrated booklet featuring: Farran Smith Nehme's essay "Spirits by Starlight", and Tom Weaver's "An Interview with Lewis Allen". In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A"locked".
While vacationing on the Cornwall seacoast, Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend, Dial M for Murder 3D) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey, Philadelphia Story, I, Jane Doe) fall in love with a very beautiful but lonely old house. They meet the owner, Commander Beech (Donald Crisp, How Green Was My Valley, Ramrod), who offers to sell it to them at a price that seems too good to be true. Convinced that they are getting the deal of the century, the siblings quickly agree that they finally have a good excuse to leave London.
But immediately after they move in, Roderick and Pamela discover that they are not alone. Late at night they can hear a woman crying, while during the day they can smell an unusually strong mimosa perfume. Roderick meets Commander Beech to discuss the history of the house, but quickly realizes that it is tied to family secrets which the old man is reluctant to share with him.
While looking for logical answers that explain the disturbances, Roderick befriends Commander Beach's 20-year-old granddaughter, Stella Meredith (Gail Russell, Angel and the Badman, The Lawless). When the old man realizes that the two have become close, he immediately forbids her to set foot in the house. But Stella declares that she is old enough and responsible enough to make her own decisions and enthusiastically accepts Roderick's invitation to have dinner with him and Pamela. When she eventually enters the house, it becomes clear that the hosts are not the only ones who are happy to see her.
What makes Lewis Allen's The Uninvited a fascinating film to behold is its mature attitude towards the supernatural elements of its narrative. It is structured as a conventional thriller but it has the atmosphere of a classic Gothic picture. The result is a calm but at the same time quite spooky film that can easily appeal to a pretty diverse group of viewers.
Lensed by the great cinematographer Charles Lang (Frank Borzage's A Farewell to Arms, Joseph L. Mankiewicz's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir), the film frequently impresses with tremendous panoramic vistas. Shadow and light are also treated with a degree of seriousness that seems a lot more appropriate for a lush noir film. The second half, in particular, has some wonderfully shot sequences that give the film its identity.
Unfortunately, the acting is a mixed bag. Milland is handsome in front of the camera, but it is difficult to tell if he actually cares about his character. The majority of the time it feels like he is simply reciting memorized lines. Hussey is a good follower, but occasionally she looks confused by her own decisions (see the sequence where the siblings realize that they are not alone in the house). For awhile Russell looks appropriately naive, but during the second half of the film her abrupt mood swings are simply unbelievable. Crisp is the only actor whose emotions look real, but his character is easily forgettable.
Still, the unique atmosphere and the lack of conventional finale place The Uninvited above other similarly themed films from the same era. See it very late at night and you are guaranteed to have a terrific time with it.
Note: In 1945, a year after it was completed, The Uninvited earned an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography.
The Uninvited Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Lewis Allen's The Uninvited arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This new digital transfer created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from a 35mm safety duplicate negative made from a nitrate composite fine-grain. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Digital Vision's Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter, and flicker.
Scanning supervisor: Russell Smith.
Colorist: Lee Kline/Criterion, New York.
Film scanning: Universal Studios, Universal City, CA."
Excluding a couple of extremely light vertical lines that appear on the right side of the image frame early into the film, the presentation is very pleasing. Where there is an abundance of natural light, detail and clarity are very good. The outdoor shots, in particular, look very good. The darker footage also boasts pleasing depth.Also, there are no big contrast fluctuations. The best news, however, is that there are no traces of problematic degraining and sharpening corrections. I should also mention that there are no traces of fading. Unsurprisingly, when projected from start to finish the film remains tight around the edges and the balance between the blacks, grays, and white is never compromised. Finally, there are no serious compression issues to report in this review. All in all, this is a very competent presentation of The Uninvited that should make its fans quite happy. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Uninvited Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Unsurprisingly, dynamic intensity is quite limited. However, clarity is very good while depth is sufficient. The presence of the ghosts inside the house is also easily felt. The dialog is stable, free of problematic background hiss, and easy to follow. For the record, there are no pops, cracks, audio dropouts, or distortions to report in this review.
The Uninvited Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Uninvited Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Based on Dorothy Macardle's novel Uneasy Freehold, Lewis Allen's The Uninvited works best if seen very late at night. It has its fair share of obvious flaws, but its atmosphere is indeed terrific. Criterion's technical presentation of The Uninvited is very good. Also included on this release is a very interesting visual essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda. RECOMMENDED.
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