The Uninvited (1944)

JULY 17, 2010


This sums up everything I hate about the remake machine pretty nicely: When I was looking for the wiki page for The Uninvited (1944), this came up along with the correct result:

- The Uninvited (2003 film), a 2003 South Korean psychological horror film
- The Uninvited (2009 film) an American remake of the 2003 South Korean psychological horror film A Tale of Two Sisters.

So the 2009 film was a remake of a 2003 South Korean psychological horror film, but not the 2003 South Korean psychological horror film with that name? Well what if someone wanted to remake the 2003 one? What will they have to call it? A Tale of Two Sisters?

I bring it up because it's interesting that The Uninvited (1944) has never been remade, despite being a horror movie that people like. It was turned into a radio play, but in the nearly 70 years since its release, there has been no other telling of the story. THAT, my friends, is pretty goddamn rare.

Oddly enough, I would actually back a remake, because the film starts off great, nearly perfect, but the third act is riddled with exposition and far too many scenes that occur outside of the house. Nothing wrong with a little scope, but when everything is jumbled together, late in the film, it seems a bit awkward. It may have been contrived, but I think I would have preferred if the people with the answers came to the house, rather than its occupants going to theirs. Especially in the third act of a haunted house movie - no one's in danger, and there's no chance of scares!

Also, a modern version might have it be a little more clear why a grown pair of siblings would buy a house together. I don't know about you, but I have plans to buy a house someday, and they do not involve my sister (beyond rubbing it in her face if my yard is bigger or if there's a garage). If you miss the line or two about them being siblings, you might actually mistake them for a married couple (as my wife did, while I just made incest jokes).

Luckily they avoid it being too peculiar by giving the guy a love interest early on (and the sister gets one, sort of, after about an hour). She's played by Gail Russell, a knockout who made me long for time travel so I could follow her career in her own time. I was quite disappointed to learn she died less than 20 years later as a result of heavy alcoholism; but also somewhat surprised to discover she had no formal acting training. Then again, maybe that's why I liked her performance - it had a naturalness to it that most actresses of the era could never quite pull off. A damn shame.

I was also surprised to discover that the film was quite humorous. Ray Milland has a number of terrific one-liners and reactions (I love when he makes fun of his dog for thinking a squirrel will come back through the chimney from which he escaped), and there are a couple of odd moments here and there thrown in for good measure. I particularly liked when, for no real reason, a servant interrupts the would-be villain to tell him that dinner will be late because "the lamb is being awkward". Goddamn awkward lamb, it gets me every time! And even though it's not an intentionally funny moment, I laughed my ass off at the scene where Russell apologizes to Milland for her home not being smoker-friendly. Yeah, what gives, lady? It's only polite to keep ashtrays around so that morons who come over and start smoking in your living room have a place to put their disgusting butts. Guess it was just different back in the day.

The scares also work as best as they can on someone who has seen at least 2000 horror movies made since this one. The first scene where Milland hears the wailing in the middle of the night is pretty creepy, and I genuinely thought Russell's character was in danger of being ghost-tossed over the cliff near the house, so those scenes were pretty suspenseful. And I LOVED the Ouija board scene (which wasn't an actual board but it had the same exact idea), because once the characters had a few letters they would say the name and the ghost would stop there. I hate how people in movies never seem to be startled by a particular name until they get to the last letter (yesterday's The Devil's Curse was an offender, in fact). It's usually like "M...A...T...T...H...E......W!!! Oh no! Matthew!" The Uninvited characters would have gotten it after the 2nd "T", possibly the first.

The movie also has an instance of "Forgotten corpse". Near the end of the film, a man has a fatal heart attack. The other characters continue on with the plot, the ghost is taken care of, and then the two couples talk about their futures together. Everyone's pretty cheery. But the corpse is still in their house. What a fucking buzz kill it's going to be for them when they go back inside and see the poor stiff sitting in the lounge. It's like the end of Meet Joe Black when Claire Forlani sees the newly re-alive Brad Pitt and they chat about her dad... who is lying dead on the ground about 30 feet away (off-screen).

The screening was paired up with The Haunting, and since we were going to the midnight film (Bring It On), we stuck around, even though we had seen it not too long ago. But I'm glad we did, because in my 3rd viewing, I finally "got" why the movie is so well lauded, as it plays so much better on the big screen. The widescreen cinematography feels more alive (if there was such a thing as a "strong candidate" for a converted 3D film, it would be this), and the banging seems more frightening. And like The Uninvited, it's a humorous film, and those moments play much better when magnified, such as Nell and Theo's little ironic jokes after the big door "attack" sequence. And of course I was quite delighted to see Claire Bloom on a 40 foot screen. It made me wish I hadn't revisited it last fall; it would have been great to see it again "for the first time" in its proper format.

I have nothing to say about Bring It On, however. Just not my thing, though I did enjoy a few of the lines, and the "toothbrush flirting" scene is flat out brilliant.

What say you?

P.S. Why the hell isn't this movie on DVD? The Amazon links to an out of print VHS.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. It's not on DVD partially because it's a Paramount film owned outright by Universal (Universal owns 99% of all Paramount films made before 1950). It makes it more difficult for Universal to market, I guess.

  2. It's on DVD now but only in the UK on a region 2 disc.

  3. It's on DVD now: Criterion Collection:


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