Both of this week’s big mainstream releases are suffering from bad timing. “The International,” inspired by the BCCI banking scandal of 1991, is about a multi-national bank that is involved in everything from weapons sales to political payoffs and even murder. And “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” based on the best-selling book, is about a young woman who loves to shop for extravagant clothes so much she runs up $16,000 in debt. Both are about problems that, even as fiction, seem almost trivial in light of current economic conditions. Despite the awkward insertion of a massive shoot-out in “The International” to make it more exciting and a line of dialogue about the precarious position of the banks in “Shopaholic” to make it seem more timely, both movies have been so overtaken by events that they seem off-key. It will be interesting to see a year from now the way that movies currently in production reflect current economic and cultural concerns and how well they connect to wherever we are by the time they are released.
The new release called “The Uninvited,” based on a Korean horror film, reminded me of the unrelated (but very spooky) 1944 movie of the same name, starring one of my favorites, Ray Milland.
The original The Uninvited is the story of a brother and sister (Milland and “The Philadelphia Story’s” Ruth Hussey) who move into a mysterious house on the English coast. A series of eerie clues lead them to a story involving a woman who once lived in the house and her young daughter Stella (Gail Russell), now grown up, who still lives nearby.
This is not a horror film but a psychological drama with mystery, romance, and ghosts. When I first saw it as a teenager, I was especially intrigued because it had a rare screen appearance by stage actress Cornelia Otis Skinner, co-author of a book I loved, Our Hearts Were Young And Gay: An Unforgettable Comic Chronicle of Innocents Abroad in the 1920s. It also introduced a song that has become a standard, “Stella by Starlight.”
I watched it again recently and found it still one of my very favorite ghost stories, with appealing characters and very satisfying conclusions to both the romance and the mystery. Fans of “Rebecca” will love this one, so if you’re looking for a good, old-fashioned, non-gory ghost story, this is one of the best.
Many thanks to Liza Levenson and Meredith Stone of the Bannockburn Elementary School for hosting me in the 4th grade yesterday! I loved talking to your students about movies.