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 PHILADELPHIA STORY. (1940) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

phila wedding

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. (1940) BASED ON THE 1939 PLAY OF THE SAME NAME BY PHILIP BARRY. DIRECTED BY GEORGE CUKOR. STARRING KATHARINE HEPBURN, CARY GRANT, JAMES STEWART, JOHN HOWARD, RUTH HUSSEY AND HENRY DANIELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Billed as ‘a sophisticated romantic comedy,’ THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is just that, a romantic comedy about- and possibly even for- rich, connected people. No peasants may apply, lol.

Not everyone watching it will be able to relate to Tracy Samantha Lord’s elegant swimming pool-and-tea-in-the-conservatory lifestyle, and I suppose not everyone watching it will sympathise with her haughty, aristocratic fault-finding manner which presupposes that no-one, husband or lover, will be able to live up to the almost excruciatingly high standards she’s set for herself. And, most importantly, for other people as well. On the other hand, she’s played by Katharine Hepburn and it’s a good strong performance, so I say just relax and go with the flow…

Beloved American actor James Stewart plays Macaulay Connor (I nearly wrote Culkin there!), a promising young newspaper writer who fancies himself as the next Ernest Hemingway, with his short-story-writing and his big literary dreams.

He’s disgusted, therefore, when his Editor Sidney Kidd, played by Henry Daniell- here for once in a non-villainous role- orders him to Philadelphia to cover the society wedding of the year, that of wealthy socialite Tracy Lord to a chap called George Kittredge.

What am I, some kind of shitty gossip columnist, he wails to his Editor but it’s no dice. Off to Philadelphia he must obediently trot, if he wants to keep his job, that is. As the accompanying photographer Elizabeth Imbrie points out, they’ve all got to eat, haven’t they, and for that they need jobs. I daresay that even the great Ernest Hemingway himself had to boil the odd egg and butter the odd slice of toast to go with it in order to stave off the hunger pangs.

When Macaulay, known to his friends as Mike, and Liz get to the Lord estate, they’re a bit bedazzled by all the grandeur. Liz (who, by the way, is head-over-heels in love with Mike but he’s too thick to know it) rather politically incorrectly remarks that she half expects to see ‘picaninnies’ floating around the place.

No doubt what she means by this is that the Lord house, with its ‘south parlour,’ resembles nothing so much as a modern-day Tara-from-GONE WITH THE WIND-style plantation.

The gangly reporter Mike, sorry, serious writer Mike, who’s already actually published a book of his short stories, is a little out of his depth amidst such obvious wealth and position. Liz is none too comfortable either, although she implies she’d swap places with Tracy Lord in a heartbeat.

Tracy herself is polished, sophisticated and able to greet the two newshounds with a professional ease that contains no real warmth. It’s born of years of practice and means little in terms of sincerity.

Mind you, she resents deeply that it was her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), who managed to insinuate the pair of journos from SPY magazine into the Lord house in the first place. Now they’re staying in her home to cover her wedding- a little blackmail goes a long way- and there’s nothing she can do about it.

Tracy and Dexter split up two years earlier when Tracy could no longer tolerate his drinking and he was no longer willing to put up with her Little Miss Perfect holier-than-thou attitude.

He blames her for his drinking, saying that the worse she behaved to him the more he drank. Talk about seeking to blame others for your own failings. If he’d gone to AA at all, they might have taught him to ‘own’ his own drinking and take responsibility for it, the creep.

Tracy and Dexter fought like cat and dog and they eventually broke up. Tracy’s annoying younger sister Dinah gleefully recounts how Dexter ‘socked’ her sister in the kisser before he left- and she even expresses a hope that he might do it again some day- but don’t worry folks. He didn’t actually hit her, he merely shoved her so that she fell over. Well, that’s all right then.

There’s still a major spark between the pair though. Dexter- and indeed Macaulay- are both wondering what the hell the spirited Tracy is doing getting married to the undoubtedly worthy but undoubtedly stodgy and rather dull George Kittredge.

He’s not of Tracy’s ‘class,’ you see, and he doesn’t know how to ride properly or even to wear jodphurs properly like a proper rich person. Oh dear, how shocking. Tracy needs someone she can spar with, not this dull older man who’ll probably be in bed by nine-thirty with a cup of cocoa and a lurid paperback thriller, the closest he’ll probably come to experiencing any real thrills himself. Miaow…!

Tracy is intrigued by Mike, who’s becoming more smitten with Tracy by the hour, much to poor Liz’s distress. Tracy checks out Mike’s book from the local library and falls in love with his words. What’s someone who can write like that doing covering a society wedding for SPY magazine, she demands to know. It’s clear she’s never had to work for her own living.

There’s a lot of talk amongst the men in the film, including Tracy’s own father, of Tracy’s being like a cold, untouchable statue of a goddess who doesn’t have any real human feelings and is utterly devoid of the milk of human kindness.

They imply she’s not a real human being at all, just a perfect automaton without any faults or human frailties. She’s accused of having no understanding of, or patience with, these human frailties and human imperfections that other people have but she apparently doesn’t.

Tracy is hurt by these assertions, especially coming from her father who is a randy philanderer who has hurt Tracy’s mother immeasurably with his dalliance with a dancer. Tracy, seemingly, has forced her mother to live up to her own exacting standards by kicking the Dad out, which he certainly deserves but it makes Mrs. Lord desperately unhappy.

Maybe Tracy’s standards are okay for Tracy herself, but not for everyone. Maybe she shouldn’t try to impose them on other people? Is that the lesson she’s supposed to learn in this highly popular and successful ‘comedy of re-marriage…?’

So, who does ‘Red’ wed, in the end? The rather judgemental George Kittredge, who at the end of the film pronounces that Tracy’s ‘class’ are on the way out and good riddance to every man Jack of ’em?

The starstruck Macaulay Connor, who’s too stupid to know that he has a good woman in love with him already in the form of photographer Elizabeth Imbrie, who’s obviously had to fend for herself in a way that the uber-privileged Tracy never has?

Or will it be the dashing C.K. Dexter Haven, the gadabout yacht designer who was Tracy’s first real love and the man she drove away with her criticisms and her overbearing attitude that holds that she’s right and everyone else is wrong…?

Personally I feel like Tracy, who must be worn out from uttering all that sparkling dialogue in Katharine Hepburn’s trademark haughty voice, could benefit from some time alone to work out how she really feels about each man, but what do I know? I’m just some schmuck.

The stage is set, as it were. The wedding guests are already seated, the pastor is ready with his ‘Do you, Tracy Samantha Lord, take this man to be thy awfully wedded etc.,’ and the pianist has already struck up the first few familiar bars of the Wedding March.

Tracy has clearly got to marry someone, in order to give the guests the show they’ve come for. Which man will it be? Will it be one of our Big Three, or is there even a fourth suitor possibly waiting in the wings? (There isn’t. That’s just some red herring I threw in to stir things up.) Well, watch out anyway, folks. Here Comes The Bride…

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