Sunday, September 22, 2019

the uninvited: ghosts like us

I love old black and white movies, especially mysteries and horror movies. I was watching one of my all-time favorites, The Uninvited, a ghost story starring Ray Milland recently (it's a really superior film - I highly recommend it if you've never seen it) and I started to wonder where the idea for the movie had come from. Was it an original screenplay? A short story? A novel? A quick internet search revealed that the film, directed by English director Lewis Allen was based on a 1941 novel written by Irish author Dorothy Macardle. If I had these idle thoughts a few years ago I would have been out of luck, as the book had long been out of print. But luckily The Uninvited, or as it was originally titled in Britain, Uneasy Freehold, is now available in a reprint paperback, and even luckier, it is also a great ghost story in print.

Siblings Pamela and Roddy Fitzgerald (Ruth Hussey and Ray Milland) suspect they might not be alone in their new home

Brother and sister Roderick (Roddy, played by Ray Milland in the film) and Pamela Fitzgerald (played by Rich Hussey in the film) are on their way back to London from Devon (Cornwall in the film) when they are drawn to an old, abandoned house on the side of a cliff. The house is in great condition and unbelievably inexpensive. The pair decide to buy it and leave the city for the country. They soon discover the reason why it's a bargain. The house, called "Cliff's End," has a reputation for strange sounds and occurrences. The siblings try to unravel the history of the house and soon discover it may be centered around their lovely neighbor, Stella Meredith (Gail Russell in the film).

Trying to contact their uninvited guest

The film version definitely streamlined some of the characters (most notably, Dr. Scott), but it is as subtle and full of dread as its source. What struck me the most was how people talked to one another. People were just so much more polite and refined in their language. There is nothing stuffy about how these characters speak, they come across as very real people, they're just . . . more willing to listen to one another? The book is good at presenting how the average person might deal with a supernatural experience, and what it might really mean when you've sunk all your savings into a haunted house.
The Uninvitedhas compassion for its protagonists and even its ghosts. A great read.

This post also appears on Cannonball Read 11


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