Two Great Haunted House Classics
The Uninvited (1944) was based on a novel by Dorothy McCardle, sometimes dismissed as a "lady's gothic" writer but at her best she was a very, very good storyteller.
Ray Milland made a few really good horror films & turned in great performances. X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963) & Premature Buriel (1962) are the best. The low-mark was Frogs (1972) & his performance was fairly good even in that piece of poo.
Sadly, in his autobiography, Milland mentions none of his horror films, though he alludes to one of them (filmed in Australia) without being specific -- & he only makes the allusion as evidence of wasted time & talent.
As a young actor he was a leading man, then he had a profitable television career. But in the last phase of his long career he seems to think it was a humiliating come-down to only be wanted for exploitation films.
It's too bad he couldn't take as much pride in them as, say, Vincent Price, or Bette Davis. The horror films will always be liked by fans & he should've valued that. Some aging actors just get bitter while others remain chipper in much worse circumstances.
The Uninvited is in fact a classy romantic ghost story. A haunting soundtrack & stunning black & white photography, in addition to a fine level of acting, sustains mood & atmosphere.
In Cornwall, a composer (Milland) & his sister (Ruth Hussey) purchase a long-vacant house known as Windward, on a cliff overlooking the sea.
Almost immediately they begin to notice odd things about the house, which over time become more insistently spooky. Gail Russell plays the love-interest, whose grandfather (Donald Crisp) demands she never enter the house wherein she lived until age three, when her mother died.
The menace & mystery is sustained until near the end when resolution both reveals the ghost & calms her. It's a beautiful, beautiful film.
The Changeling, (1979) based on a story by Russell Hunter, was filmed partly in Port Townsend Washington near where I live. I go there now & then & the lighthouse that they dug under is there.
Changeling I enjoyed for its two central acting performances by George C. Scott & Trish Van Devere, its excellent photography, & some good "detective work" mystery stuff.
A music teacher (Scott) moves to the Pacific Northwest & moves into a grand old house, only to discover it is haunted by the misery-ridden & angry ghost of a child.
With recourse only to sound plotting, mood, & character, a seriously chilling tale unfolds of menace & cruelty.
Scott, probably best known for his performance as the super-general Patton (1970), would seem odd casting for a film that requires so much fear, empathy, & vulnerability. But Scott was a great actor, & the casting couldn't've been better.
The cinematography especially inside the house is tremendous, & the house itself comes alive with spookiness. The ominous mood becomes so intense that a sweeping shot of a staircase is enough to cause chills.
The story is somewhat weakened by a burn-the-house climax which I associate with Ladies' Gothics of the 1960s; it's like they just couldn't think of a good ending so resorted to the commonplace burn-the-house-down conclusion.
Nevertheless, the film as a whole has a superb moodiness such as can make a bouncing ball seem full of meaning & menace, & can render a wheelchair horrific. It's one of the most convincing haunted house films after Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963).
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