There’s a scene in Lewis Allen’s The Uninvited where young Stella, the bright-eyed young thing at the crux of this ghost story, comments to beau Roderick Fitzgerald on a reckless car ride that being scared is, in fact, quite fun. This is completely analogous to the tone of this much-loved, and unavailable classic (one of the most demanded titles on TCM’s yet-to-be released on DVD list), a movie that gently reveals its spirits, and prefers buttoned-up chills to décolletage and spilled guts.As the Classic Movie Digest says:
What’s morphed into gruesome household terror in films such as The Amityville Horror or Poltergeist, where “the uninvited” wreak hysteria and total panic, is treated with unusual level-headedness by the Fitzgeralds. Frightened but not necessarily threatened, Pamela and Roderick have a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boy approach to their home invasion, determined to solve the mystery and protect Stella (whom Roderick’s grown quite fond of). True to the period in Hollywood history, this is where The Uninvited bridges horror and comedy, keeping the mood light with humorous asides and Roderick’s song compositions (he’s a struggling musician) while orchestrating atmospheric chills; bodiless crying in the night, a dimly lit séance with a homemade spirit board, doors and windows opening or closing without human intervention.
The Uninvited is somewhat reminiscent of Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940), not in storyline as much as in atmosphere and character. Like Rebecca, the setting is a large stately house on the coast of England. The house is filled with the memory of it's former mistress, Mary Meredith (heck, it's filled with her very spirit, as she's the one haunting it), and there's even a creepy, dark haired mystery woman, who is unyieldingly devoted to the memory of the dead woman, such as Mrs. Danvers was in Rebecca. More than one film analyst has noted the obvious lesbian theme related to this character, Miss Holloway. It is a role that Gale Sondergaard would have excelled in.
The movie is chilling without the use of modern special effects, though the one camera trick that is used, the spectre of Mary Meredith, is very effective. The atmosphere is instead achieved through expert black and white cinematography by Charles Lang, whose masterful use of light and shadow earned him an Oscar nomination. Also a top asset for the film was it's haunting, romantic score by Paramount's resident composer, Victor Young, which includes the lovely tune Stella by Starlight.
Stella is abnormally obsessed with her dead mother. In the end, however, she is delivered. I love the Irish Catholic housekeeper, who after the creepy séance scene roundly scolds the characters about the dangers of the ouija board, calling it a "heathen instrument made to call devils out of hell." Her words are all too true.Share