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Film / The Uninvited (1944)

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The Uninvited is a 1944 horror film directed by Lewis Allen and starring Ray Milland.

Rick and Pamela Fitzgerald (Milland and Ruth Hussey) are fully-grown siblings who for some reason still live together and take vacations together. While on vacation in Cornwall, they stumble upon Windwood Manor, a beautiful old house on the coast with a commanding view of the ocean. It is unoccupied, and when they find the owner, Commodore Beech (Donald Crisp), he is willing to sell for a surprisingly low price. Rick and Pamela move in, and Rick soon finds himself falling for Beech's lovely granddaughter, Stella (Gail Russell).

The reason for the bargain price becomes apparent soon enough: the house is haunted. There are ghostly chills, inexplicably fading lights, the smell of mimosas coming from nowhere, and the sounds of a weeping woman. Eventually Rick and Pamela discover the tragic backstory of the house. It seems that the Commodore's daughter Mary married an artist named Meredith. Mr. Meredith was an artist, and one of his models was a "Spanish gypsy" named Carmel. Mr. Meredith and Carmel had an affair, which scandalized the town. Seventeen years prior, when Stella was only three, events climaxed when a jealous Carmel tried to throw little Stella off the cliff. Mary saved Stella but fell off the cliff herself to her death. Carmel died of pneumonia thereafter. Now the spirit of a vengeful Carmel seems to be focused on Stella.

The Uninvited is one of the earliest "scary ghost" films ever made. Previous ghost movies either played ghosts for comedy (Topper) or revealed the ghosts to be a trick or hoax (The Cat and the Canary).

Not to be confused with 2009 horror film The Uninvited, which is completely unrelated (it's a remake of Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters), or the 1997 sci-fi TV series.


  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Minor example; in the book, it's explained that Pamela spent the past five years caring for their terminally ill, emotionally abusive father, which is why she doesn't have her own household or feel quite up to getting one.
  • Agent Scully: Rick rather strongly resists the idea of the house being haunted, insisting that "this business can be scientifically explained," lamely hypothesizing that the sound of the weeping woman is caused by the radio catching a stray signal. Eventually he gives up.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Miss Holloway, the woman who once was a nurse in the Meredith household, is coded as a lesbian who was in love with Mary Meredith. She seems way too fond of Mary, having named her sanitarium after Mary and hung a huge portrait of Mary in her office. She refers to Mary as "darling". In fact, a lesbian relationship between Holloway and Mary is strongly implied.
    "Mary was a goddess, her skin was radiant, and that bright, bright hair...The nights we sat talking in front of that fireplace, planning our whole lives. It wasn’t flirtations and dresses we talked about. We were no silly, giggling girls. We intended to conquer life."
  • Bilingual Bonus: After the spirit of Mary manifests itself at the seance and claims that it is there to protect Stella, the wine glass is flung across the room and Stella is possessed by the spirit of Carmel, who starts angrily muttering in Spanish. Carmel is actually saying The Reveal.
    "Oiga, le le pongan oidos que esta mintiendo...ladrona...ladrona de mi cariño..." ("Listen, listen...don't believe it...don't give ears to this lying...thief...thief of my love...")
  • Chiaroscuro: Many scenes at night in the spooky old haunted house lit only by candles.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Rick and Pamela's dog refuses to climb the stairs to the second floor of the house, where the presence of the ghosts is strongest. Eventually it flees the house altogether. Lizzie the housekeeper's cat also refuses to go upstairs. The cat comes back at the end when Mary's ghost has been dismissed.
  • The Film of the Book: Adapted from the 1941 novel Uneasy Freehold (published in the U.S. as The Uninvited) by Irish author Dorothy Macardle.
  • Ghostly Chill: Rick says in the opening narration that "You get to recognize a peculiar cold, which is the first warning." Sure enough, the presence of spirits in the house is signaled by a mysterious chill in the studio.
  • Ghostly Goals: Type A and Type B in the same house. Carmel turns out to be Type A, trying to protect her daughter, while Mary is the evil Type B trying to lure Stella over the cliff.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "In some queer sort of way, I always knew it."
  • Haunted House: Well there had to be a reason why Windwood Manor, a splendid old house with a stunning view of the ocean, sold for only £1200.
  • Hot Gypsy Woman: In the backstory, as Carmel the Spanish gypsy and artist's model became Mr. Meredith's lover.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Rick airily dismisses Pamela's fear of ghosts in the house, saying "It's just silly to be upset." Then when a draft pushes the door open he panics and dives under his covers.
  • I'm Not Afraid of You: After the truth is revealed, Rick sends the others away. He confronts the spirit of Mary, telling her that they're not afraid of her anymore and she has no power over them. Mary's ghost departs in defeat.
  • Love Triangle: Between Mr. Meredith, Mary Meredith, and Carmel. Possibly a Love Dodecahedron if you throw in a relationship between Miss Holloway and Mary.
  • Old Retainer: Lizzie, the Fitzgerald family maid who comes with the siblings to the house and is none too thrilled about the supernatural happenings.
  • Ouija Board: A homemade version in which Rick puts little cubes with the letters of the alphabet on a table, with "YES" and "NO" written on pieces of paper, and a wine glass as the planchette. It's supposed to be a fake seance in order to convince Stella to leave the house behind, but the ghosts show up and make it a real one.
  • Posthumous Character: Mary Meredith and Carmel, who are both discussed at length and remembered by the main characters, despite both being dead for 17 years.
  • The Reveal: Mary wasn't Stella's mother, Carmel was. And Mary was the one who tried to throw Stella over the cliff, not Carmel.
  • Tempting Fate: When Rick takes Stella sailing, he claims that he never gets seasick, bragging that he has "a stomach like Gibraltar." Cut to Rick severely ill in the boat while Stella is steering.
  • Title Drop: Rick tells Stella he'll take her to London away from the ghosts, to an apartment where there won't be any "unseen, uninvited guests."
  • Unfinished Business: Once Stella realizes that Carmel was her mother, the ghost of Carmel is free to leave the house.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: For 17 years everyone has believed that a jealous Carmel tried to hurl Mary's daughter Stella over the cliff, while it was actually the other way around. Stella was Carmel's daughter and it was a jealous Mary who tried to chuck the little girl over the cliff.
  • You Can See That, Right?: After hearing the sound of the sobbing ghost, Pamela asks Rick "You're hearing it too?"