Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: The Criterion Collection's 'The Uninvited' Blu-ray


One of Hollywood’s first real ghost stories (i.e.: one in which the ghost turns out to be an actual ghost and not some shyster pulling a caper) has inexplicably never been available on DVD. The precise reason for this oversight is hard to determine, though I’ve read rumors that a lack of interest in lesser-known classic films is to blame. This theory is a bit tough to swallow since so many classic and not-so-classic old movies have made it to DVD and because The Uninvited is often spoken of in the same breath as The Innocents, The Haunting, and cinema’s other great spook shows. Deservedly so, because Lewis Allen’s adaptation of Dorothy Macardle’s novel Uneasy Freehold has so much going for it: pleasing interplay between stars Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey as siblings who buy a haunted house; a charmingly naive performance from newcomer Gail Russell as the granddaughter of the house’s former owner and Milland’s love interest; a neat blend of romance, humor, and chills; and a really scary ghost that critic Farran Smith Nehma suggests may have inspired the spirits that swoop out of the Ark at the climax of Indiana Jones’s first adventure.

Fortunately, The Criterion Collection has rendered the often-asked question “Why isn’t The Uninvited on DVD?” obsolete with an all-new digital restoration available on DVD and Blu-ray. As is common in films of the forties, the image is soft, particularly in blemish-concealing close-ups, but it’s also clean with no serious flecks or scratches. This isn’t the kind of sharp-detail picture that will knock your socks off, but the film certainly looks good, especially in the shadowy nighttime scenes that showcase deeper blacks.

Criterion includes several supplements, the most substantial being a 26-minute “visual essay” by Michael Almereyda, the director of such features as Twister and Nadja and a really great episode of “Deadwood.” The essay is interesting yet odd because it isn’t really about the film but the careers and troubled personal lives of Milland and Russell with a strange detour about “real life” spiritualists. There are also two radio plays of The Uninvited, both starring Milland, and in the accompanying booklet, an essay about the film by Smith Nehma and an interview film historian Tom Weaver conducted with Lewis Allen in 1997.

Get The Uninvited on Blu-ray or DVD on Amazon.com here:
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