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DVD Review: THE UNINVITED (BLU-RAY)



Studio: The Criterion Collection
Year: 1944
Cast: Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp, Gail Russell
Director: Lewis Allen
Release Date: October 22, 2013
Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes)
Run Time: 01h:39m:26s
Genre(s): horror

“Oh, how I do hate living in a London flat.” - Pamela Fitzgerald (Ruth Hussey)

THE UNINVITED (BLU-RAY)

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The restoration work here will likely be very impressive, as it seems like The Criterion Collection has given this classic spookfest the Blu-ray treatment that it deserves.

Movie Grade: A-

DVD Grade: A-

During the last two or three years, the craze in horror has focused on ghosts, or some form of the supernatural, and their subsequent haunting of various houses. We’ve seen such paranormal issues happen in films like The Others, the sadly, ignored The Awakening, and, yes the four (and counting) Paranormal Activity films, which, despite their many detractors, still keep this guy biting his nails during them. While these films tell mostly original stories, they can attribute at least some of their inspiration and success to the 1944 film, The Uninvited. This black and white shocker has stood the test of time and still earns the distinction of being one of the best ghost movies of all time. Now, everyone can see for themselves just how great The Uninvited is on The Criterion Collection’s spiffy new Blu-ray release.

Perhaps I simply wasn’t prepared for the large amount of comedy in The Uninvited, as, through the years, I’d heard it touted for being an atmospheric creep fest from beginning to end. At first, the comedy, and light-hearted score turned me off, causing me to actually check the Blu-ray case to make sure I was watching the right film. Fortunately, I pushed through the first 10 minutes or so, and director Lewis Allen’s (Desert Fury, Suddenly) atmosphere took hold, and I was truly able to see what all of the praise was about. It turns out that the lightness of these early scenes only aids in the effectiveness of the scares, as, when they come, we’re even more taken aback and chilled to the bone now that this rather cheery rug has been pulled out from under us.

Screenwriters Dodie Smith and Frank Partos find their story working in wonderful harmony with Allen’s tone, as they introduce us to Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister, Pamela (Ruth Hussey). They have just bought a beautiful, old, ocean-side house from Commander Beech (Donald Crisp), but, not long after moving in, they discover that this steal of a deal might actually be a haunted house. In his attempts to discover the source of the house’s various bumps in the night and other noises, Roderick meets Stella Meredith (Gail Russell), Commander Beech’s young, adult granddaughter, and the two grow very fond of each other. It’s this burgeoning relationship that adds another layer to the story, elevating it from simple ghost story to a romance-laden horror film where lives that we truly care about are at stake. Of course, we wouldn’t care as much for the characters if it wasn’t for the outstanding performances by the cast, and while great work by Milland, Hussey, and Crisp are no surprise, a stellar job by the then-unknown Russell (who, tragically, died in her mid-30s) enables the entire ensemble to tell this wonderful story in the most professional and effective way possible.

Criterion has employed a new, 1080p digital transfer to present The Uninvited in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, and the results are stunning. Given Criterion’s reputation, it isn’t surprising that this is the best that the film has ever looked on home video. What is most impressive, though, is just how great things look, even with most of the grain and dirt having been cleaned up for this transfer. I didn’t notice a single problem with compression either, and the overall image clarity is pretty amazing, considering that the movie is nearly 70-years-old. The audio is an English LPCM 1.0 track that is, unsurprisingly, lacking in dynamic range. What it does exhibit, though, is a great deal of depth that only strengthens the overall mix, allowing the crystal-clear dialogue to seamlessly interact with the score.

While somewhat light on extras for a Criterion Collection disc, there are still some good supplements here, beginning with Giving Up the Ghost, a 27-minute visual essay on The Uninvited. Narrated by filmmaker Michael Almereyda (helmer of the 2000 version of Hamlet), this piece tells us everything we ever wanted to know about the making of The Uninvited. There’s also a pair of radio adaptations of The Uninvited, with the first by the Screen Guild Theater and having aired on August 28, 1944, and the second by the Screen Director’s Playhouse, and having aired on November 18, 1949. Also here is the trailer for The Uninvited.

Posted by: Chuck Aliaga - December 28, 2013, 11:46 am - DVD Review
Keywords: ghostly, bizarre, haunted




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