Guest In The House

Guest In The House


Reviewed by: James Benefield

Take it as a cynical lesson in the pitfalls of kindness and trust, or as an overheated melodrama about a rampaging she-devil in human form, Guest In The House is, whichever way you cut it, certainly a spirited slice of 1940s Americana.

Anne Baxter stars as Evelyn Heath, a fragile young woman, who is taken into the home of her doctor (played by Scott McKay) after she is diagnosed with a heart condition. Although it seems like the two are in love, Evelyn’s attention soon wanders to the doctor’s brother, Douglas (Ralph Bellamy). This is in between the discovery of Evelyn’s chronic fear of birds, a hatred of being touched by others and the refusal to let anybody to open in the window in her room.

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The film looks and sounds great; in fact it got nominated for an Oscar for its music. The performances, especially from Anne Baxter, are also solid. The rest of the film, however, is less interesting. One of the main problems is that Baxter’s character is pretty difficult to empathise with. She’s not clever enough in her faintly evil machinations to admire, there’s not enough back-story to warrant giving her any sympathy (the scriptwriters clearly feel her heart condition warrants them underwriting her character) and she does not seem to possess a shred of goodness.

Unpleasantly, there is also a streak of misogyny running through the picture. Ralph Bellamy’s character is an artist who tends to create pictures of scantily clad, and occasionally naked, women. He flirts shamelessly, and insensitively, with one of the models he draws. Evelyn’s clear dislike of this is shown to be a symptom of her mental imbalance. Proctor is a married man, with a child. In the world of the film it is clearly acceptable for him to continue acting like a chauvinist, while the unmarried Evelyn is unanimously condemned for her more salaciously motivated exploits.

Although it attempts film noir status, Guest In The House is ultimately only a partly successful melodrama, which is as watchable as it is due to the excellent performances. It has certain contrivances which are unintentionally humorous, and others that date the film in a pretty unpleasant way.

Reviewed on: 22 May 2009
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Guest In The House packshot
An unhinged house guest spells trouble for a psychiatrist and his family.
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Director: John Brahm

Writer: Katherine Albert (story) Dale Eunson, Hagar Wilde (play) Ketti Frings (screenplay)

Starring: Anne Baxter, Ralph Bellamy, Aline MacMahon, Ruth Warrick, Scott McKay, Marie McDonald, Jerome Cowan, Margaret Hamilton, Percy Kilbride, Connie Laird, Hobart Cavanaugh, Milton Kibbee

Year: 1944

Runtime: 121 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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