THE UNINVITED. (1944) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

uninvited

THE UNINVITED. (1944) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘UNEASY FREEHOLD’ BY DOROTHY MACARDLE. DIRECTED BY LEWIS ALLEN. SCORE BY VICTOR YOUNG.

STARRING RAY MILLAND, RUTH HUSSEY, GAIL RUSSELL, DONALD CRISP, ALAN NAPIER, CORNELIA OTIS SKINNER, DOROTHY STICKNEY AND BARBARA EVEREST.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I read the book that inspired this film in February of this year, and it was the best horror book I’d read in ages, if not ever. It scared the bejeesus out of me. I was half-afraid to keep going and yet for a million quid I couldn’t have stopped. It scared me as much as Shirley Jackson’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, and that’s saying something.

The film of THE UNINVITED is a beautifully atmospheric gothic haunted house film, and the two lead parts are well acted by Ruth Hussey and the marvellous Ray Milland (THE PREMATURE BURIAL, DIAL M FOR MURDER, THE LOST WEEKEND).

It’s an important film historically because it’s the first one to portray ghosts as credible and legitimate entities, rather than just comedy spooks played for laughs. Having said that, the film is nowhere near as scary as the book, which was disappointing for me. It’s still a bloody good film though, and lovely to look at. Here’s the lowdown anyway.

It’s the late ‘Thirties, for a kick-off. Roderick and Pamela Fitzgerald are two London siblings with Irish roots. They are holidaying together in Cornwall with their little terrier Bobby when they accidentally happen across a gorgeous old empty house on the edge of a cliff. They fall in love with it instantly and decide to buy it.

Pamela, a sensible girl with a tendency towards bossiness, is the driving force behind the siblings deciding to pool their savings and bury themselves in the country. Pam has decided that it’s the perfect place for music critic Roderick to pen the kind of music he’s always wanted to write, instead of just reviewing other peoples’ work. Ahem…!

This is a change from the book, in which he’s a journalist on a newspaper who’s trying to write a book on the side, a dreary old tome that gives him no joy and which, during the course of the novel, he gleefully throws over for a play.

I personally prefer Roderick as a writer rather than a musician. As a writer myself, I love reading books and watching movies about people who want to write things but are having trouble with it. Heh-heh-heh. I just like knowing that success doesn’t always tumble easily into other writers’ laps either…!

Anyway, Rodders and Pamela buy the house, Windward, at a knockdown price from a local toff who resides in the town of Biddlecombe. He’s a retired gent called Commander Beech, who admits as they’re hammering out a price that previous tenants of the house have experienced what he delicately terms ‘disturbances’ while living there. Well…!

Roderick and Pamela aren’t the least put off by this news. In fact, Pamela is positively aglow with excitement while the cynical Roderick just laughs it off. There’s no such thing as ghosts, right?

The Commander’s sheltered little grand-daughter Stella is the only person who doesn’t want the house sold, as it’s the house where she lived for the first three years of her life with her parents, who are now both dead.

But the Commander seems to want shut of the house, with the proceeds of the sale going straight into a bank account for Stella. The sale goes through. Pam and Rodders move in to the enchanting old house on the cliff, along with Bobby the terrier- leave that squirrel alone, Bobby, you little fecker, you!- and their painfully ‘Oirish’ cook, Lizzie. Ah shure, begob and begorrah and shure all you can do is pull the divil by the tail and all the rest of it.

Of course, the siblings gradually discover that the Commander’s reluctant words of warning about ‘disturbances’ may not be a load of old hogwash after all. One of the rooms in the house, the room in which Stella’s artist father did his painting, is cold and unwelcoming and imbues anyone who enters it with a terrible feeling of depression and hopelessness. I feel the same when I walk into my bedroom and see the masses of wrinkled clothes piled up there awaiting ironing, lol.

The sound of a woman bawling her eyes out with unhappiness wakes both Pam and Rodders in the night, but there’s no unhappy woman to be found anywhere on the premises. Lizzie’s cat refuses point-blank to climb the staircase in the eerie, candle-lit house- no electricity, can you imagine that?- and Lizzie herself swears she saw someone on the landing who definitely didn’t belong there.

Strangest of all is the effect the house has on Stella, the Commander’s beautiful young grand-daughter who, by now, has captured the much older Roderick’s heart completely and utterly. The age difference doesn’t seem to bother anyone, so who are we to judge them, some eighty-odd years later? It’s none of our business, I say. Leave ’em alone.

The Commander, largely unaware of the growing attraction between his grand-daughter and Roderick Fitzgerald, doesn’t want Stella going to the house on the cliff for other reasons, reasons that have nothing to do with a possible romance with Rodders Fitzgerald. It’s the house he’s worried about, and he’s right to be worried.

The house seems to be simultaneously both a dangerous place for Stella to be, a place of violence and terror and malignant forces who want to do her harm, and also a place of peace and happiness where she’s convinced the loving spirit of her mother still lingers.

But Stella’s mother, of whom Stella’s childhood memories are all happy, warm safe joyous ones, would hardly wish to do her daughter harm, would she? In that case, then, who is the malicious influence lurking in the shadows at Windward who wants to see Stella throw herself off the cliff and dash her brains out on the jagged rocks below?

Could it possibly be that two spirits haunt the mysterious, isolated house on the cliff, one the benevolent ghost of Stella’s loving mother and the other…? Who exactly is the other, and what is he or she so pissed off about that only the taking of Stella’s young, barely-begun life will pacify them?

That’s what Rodders and Pamela have to hurry to find out, with the help of the nice Dr. Scott from the neighbourhood (Rodders and Stella aren’t the only two players in this little drama who feel the sting of Cupid’s arrows; watch where you’re aiming that thing, you tubby little cherub, you!) and a very unpleasant and maybe even slightly demented woman from Stella’s past called Miss Holloway. Let’s just hope the siblings are in time…

The ghostly manifestations in the book are terrifying. The light coming from the darkened nursery late at night, the murmurs, the crying, the sickening, ghastly cold that actually drains a person of their physical strength and will to carry on and the figure materialising out of the mist, it’s all the stuff of nightmares and, trust me, I had a fair few after reading THE UNINVITED.

The movie doesn’t quite manage to convey the same sense of dread and horror, but it’s still a gorgeous film which I would have been perfectly happy with if I hadn’t first read the book, lol. The lesson here is obviously this. Never read books…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE PREMATURE BURIAL. (1962) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

premature burial couple

THE PREMATURE BURIAL. (1962) BASED ON A STORY BY EDGAR ALLAN POE. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ROGER CORMAN. SCREENPLAY BY CHARLES BEAUMONT AND RAY RUSSELL. AN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURE.

STARRING RAY MILLAND, HAZEL COURT, RICHARD NEY, ALAN NAPIER AND HEATHER ANGEL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a visually gorgeous gothic horror film,  a superb addition to Roger Corman’s cycle of Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations for American International and the only one, if I’m not mistaken, not starring horror legend Vincent Price.

I’m not sure why Roger Corman opted to switch one leading man for another at this point but the film still works. It’s a wonderfully Gothic piece of dramatisation, with a setting as atmospheric and fog-wreathed as in all the other Poe films of this period.  

Ray Milland, an excellent actor whose film LOST WEEKEND is one of the best ever made on the horrors of alcoholism, plays the lead role here of Guy Carrell. Guy is a wealthy aristocrat who’s got a bee in his bonnet the size of Notre Dame Cathedral about being buried alive.

Now, you can’t really blame him for that, I suppose. No-one likes the idea of being buried alive, of waking up in their coffin underground, with the lid sealed down and the gathering population of worms sharpening their tiny knives and forks and tucking their napkins into their shirts, while others print up tiny menus that all carry only the one dish.

So, what’s given poor sensitive, touchy Guy the fear of being buried alive? Well, he’s convinced that his Pops, Daddy Carrell, was buried alive in the family crypt while under the influence of catalepsy, a terrifying condition that simulates death.

I’m not keen on the idea of a family crypt myself, having all your horrible dead relatives buried in tombs in the basement of your house. Why can’t they go in the ground in a dreary churchyard miles away, like normal people?

It would have been bad enough being around them while they were alive, without knowing that their rotting corpses are mouldering away beneath you in the family crypt. It’s enough to give you the willies, that is.

Still, it was the aristocratic way, you know. That was how the poshos did it back then, maybe still do for all I know. Probably couldn’t bear to relinquish anything that belonged to them, even if it was in a state of advanced putresence, lol.

Anyway, Guy is obsessed with the notion of being buried alive, just like he thinks his Paw was, much to the concern of his beautiful new younger wife Emily, his young doctor friend and advisor Miles and his older sister Kate Carrell. He won’t go on honeymoon with Emily, because he’d rather stay at home building himself one kickass mofo of a crypt on the grounds of his estate…

This crypt is really quite remarkable. It’s like a small house with a purpose-built coffin filled with tools for breaking out if one should have the misfortune to wake up and find oneself buried alive. There are stores of food and wine so you don’t starve to death while you’re trying to gain, as Guy himself rather splendidly puts it, ‘egress’ from his frightening hand-made mausoleum.

There’s even stores of deadly poison for killing yourself if all else fails and you can’t manage to break out of your tomb. It’s really the most ingenious of contrivances, this tomb, but it’s also the product of a very sick mind. Guy’s wife, sister and doctor are convinced of this once they realise that Guy has practically set up shop in this awful crypt, painting his horrible disturbing paintings and waiting for death.

‘What you fear has already happened, Guy,’ says Emily sharply to him when she’s had enough of his nonsense, ‘because you’re already buried alive.’ She’s right, too, you know.

Guy is being plagued in other ways as well, by the constant popping-up in his vicinity of two sinister grave-diggers who seem to wish him ill, and he’s hearing a creepy tune, Ireland’s Molly Malone of all things, coming from nowhere that’s making the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. He seems to be associating it with death and his old favourite thing to do or to have done to you, premature burial.

So when the worst happens and the thing that Guy fears more than anything else in the world comes to pass, it may not just be the catalepsy that’s put him there. There’s a foul agency at work here and I shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that it might have small feminine hands and genteel girlish fingers…

I love Alan Napier as Emily’s doctor father, Gideon Gault. He does a Peter Cushing here in that he takes delivery of newly dug-up corpses which he intends to dissect for medical purposes. Dr. Frankenstein, much? When he comments with a chuckle that Guy Carrell will be of more use to medical science dead than alive, he may even be right.

Guy is wasting whatever life and talents and time he’s been given. By obsessing night and day, day and night on what might possibly happen to him in his afterlife (which we’ll all find out, soon enough), he’s actually missing out on his one chance to live his actual life. He’s squandering his life. Other people would kill to have what he has, and he’s just throwing it away like so much rubbish.

The sets and costumes here are all stunning and luxurious-looking, as they always are in these Roger Corman productions for American International. The bedrooms, the living-rooms and the family crypt are all decked out in the most fabulously rich autumn colours of russet, brown, orangey-brown and the deepest of reds.

And the Carrolls’ beautiful, atmospheric gothic gardens and estate have got more mist than an X FACTOR final. And that, folks, as any self-respecting X FACTOR fan will tell you, is a whole helluva lotta mist…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE LOST WEEKEND. (1945) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ray milland & jane wyman - the lost weekend 1945

THE LOST WEEKEND. (1945) DIRECTED BY BILLY WILDER. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY CHARLES R. JACKSON. STARRING RAY MILLAND, JANE WYMAN, PHILIP TERRY, HOWARD DA SILVA, DORIS DOWLING, MARY YOUNG AND FRANK FAYLEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

That a film of this calibre was made as early in cinematic history as 1945 is a fact that constantly staggers me. This is a powerhouse of a screenplay, but don’t just take my word for it. Ask the Academy, the Academy that bestowed upon it the Award for Best Screenplay in the year of its release.

The writing translates itself easily into a fantastically tight film about the grim subject of alcoholism that I’ve watched several times now without once getting bored. Let’s take a look at the film and see if I can’t infect you guys with a little of the enthusiasm I feel for it myself. Don’t worry, it’s a nice infection, not the kind that leaves you with rheumy eyes and a shiny red hooter to rival Rudolph’s…!

Ray Milland, an actor who’s also co-starred with the divine Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock’s DIAL M FOR MURDER and the screen adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s THE PREMATURE BURIAL, is utterly superb as the alcoholic would-be writer, Don Birnam.

I say ‘would-be writer’ instead of actual ‘writer’ because he hasn’t written a word since University, when his Hemingway-esque short stories were the pride of the college rag.

Now, some twenty-odd years later, he’s a full-blown alkie, unemployed (and unemployable?), living on his brother Wick’s charity and wallowing in self-pity, self-loathing and self-disgust every day until the pubs open. Then you’ve lost him. Till he’s chucked out at closing-time, that is…

Even his barman and confidante Nat, of Nat’s Bar, knows that Don Birnam’s an alkie. Nat’s not without human feelings, though, and he can’t help his revulsion when Don bails out of a cleansing weekend away in the country with his brother Wick on account of the booze. As in, Don is hoping to get in some serious boozing while the cat’s away.

Desperate for a drink, Don’ll do anything to get one. He’ll beg, borrow, steal, wheedle and cajole until he’s got one. But you can’t stop at just one, of course. Or ‘natch,’ as Gloria would say. You’ve got to have another one, and another one, and so on until you eventually wake up on your own couch without any memory of how you got there. Given all the things that could have happened to Don, he’s lucky it was only the couch…!

Don isn’t so lucky the time over this particular ‘lost weekend’ that he wakes up in the alkie ward of a hospital. You’ll be back, matey, the rather smug orderly tells him. It’s got you in its grip and it won’t quit. I’m paraphrasing here but you get the gist.

Don breaks out of this terrible place, convinced he’ll never get the DTs as the orderly Bim has foretold for him. Another guy in the drunk-tank of the hospital had those. Surely nothing like that can ever happen to him, he’s not a lowlife scumbag loser like those lads at the hospital. But the dreaded DTs follow Don home. After meeting them in person, Don begins to feel like there’s only one way out for a washed-up failure like him…

A word about the ladies in the film. Helen St. James, Don’s girlfriend, is passionately played by Jane Wyman, who later went on to portray the fearsome, ball-breaking business tycoon Angela Channing in glamorous television soap opera FALCON CREST.

Helen adores Don, despite his affliction or maybe even because of it. Maybe she’s the kind of dame who finds herself a mess of a guy and tries fervently to fix him. She devotes herself to Don, probably to the detriment of her own work at TIME magazine. She worries about him incessantly and vows to stay with him regardless of his alcoholism, but she’s deluded. Don is the only one who can fix Don, but Don isn’t ready to man up yet and just quit.

What Don does to Gloria, the feisty but lonely prostitute who frequents and meets clients at Nat’s Bar, Don’s favourite spot, is not nice. Even Nat thinks it’s despicable for Don to make the needy girl think he’s going to take her out on a date when all he’ll ever want from her is a few bucks to buy his next fix of booze. Taking Gloria for a fool is not Don Birnam’s finest hour.

I sympathise with Don up to a point. Not the alcoholic bit, I hasten to add! But I was the bright shining star of the school and college magazines also, who then got all caught up in the business of ruining relationships and having kids and who subsequently never wrote another word for nearly twenty years. I allowed myself to be distracted by the nuts-and-bolts of life instead of just sitting down and damn well writing about it.

Every time I had a spare minute, which luckily wasn’t very often, I hated myself with a passion for not writing. Now I write every day, thank God. But this is why I totally feel Don’s pain. No-one self-loathes like a writer who’s not writing. Trust me, I know. Do make sure you watch this magnificent tour de force of a movie. Your life will be the richer for it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

ray milland & jane wyman - the lost weekend 1945