"She's not so weak that she can't ruin our lives."
Dave | Tennessee United States | 01/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Evelyn Heath (Anne Baxter) has a weak heart and needs a quiet place to relax, so her doctor, Dan Proctor (Scott McKay), takes her to his home in Maine where his older brother Douglas (Ralph Bellamy) also lives. Big mistake. Because Douglas is happily married and has the perfect family, he becomes the primary target for Evelyn, who gets pleasure from ruining people's lives. She's neurotic, a little psychotic, and quite seductive, and Doctor Dan is madly in love with her. Evelyn strings him along cruelly but because Dan is "so easy" she goes after someone that's actually hard to get. Okay, close to impossible to get would be more accurate, because she tries to seduce the happily-married Douglas once Dan leaves the house.
She convinces everyone in the house that she's innocent and kind-hearted, and being idiots, they are totally blinded to her true personality. But when it becomes obvious that everyone's misery in the house is being caused by angel-faced Evelyn, Douglas' wife Ann (Ruth Warrick) puts her foot down and tells Evelyn to move out. But knowing that she has both Proctor brothers on her side, Evelyn puts up a fight and causes furthur misery for the now divided family. Once Douglas realizes how sinister Evelyn really is, he gets back with his wife and tells Evelyn to get professional help. Evelyn's response is to try to marry Dan, who loves her so much he doesn't care how nuts she is. Eventually, it's up to Aunt Martha (Aline MacMahon) to stop Evelyn before she ruins more lives.
"Guest in the House" is totally predictable and at times ridiculous. There were several moments when I laughed at the ludicrous dialogue or over-the-top acting. But I gotta admit, I was really entertained by the unintentional humor of the movie. Plus there were two great character actors in supporting roles, Margaret Hamilton (best known as the wicked witch in "The Wizard of Oz") and Percy Kilbride (you known him best as "Pa Kettle"!). Anne Baxter's performance as a mentally disturbed femme fatale in "Guest in the House" certainly wasn't oscar-calibre, but it wasn't that bad either. She did the best she could given the limitations of the screenplay and the director. The idea that she'd throw herself at Ralph Bellamy is absurd, but hey she did play a neurotic nut! Oh yeah, and in this movie you get to see the very sexy blonde Marie McDonald in a swimsuit! It's too bad that her career never really took off. She died in 1965 from a drug overdose.
It's good to finally see this obscure film noir released on DVD officially, although the Alpha DVD is nothing to cheer about. As the previous reviewer mentioned, this is NOT the original 121 minute version and is actually about 97 minutes long. I can only hope that the cut footage is not lost forever. The picture quality of the DVD is acceptable but shows plenty of age-related flaws/scratches. The audio quality is very poor. Since Alpha Home Entertainment made no effort to restore the original print they could've at least included English subtitles on the DVD so we can "see" what the actors are saying! There might be bootlegs available of the original 121 minute version, but good luck finding any. For right now, this version is all we've got. Recommended mainly for hardcore film noir fanatics like me!"
"Conniving Women, Clueless Men"
Nicholas A. Salerno | Scottsdale, AZ USA | 01/23/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
""Guest in the House" belongs to that period in which Hollywood discovered Freud and produced such films as "Spellbound" and "Shadow of a Doubt." But unlike those films, here the Freud is watered down to grade-school level, beginning with another unprofessional shrink who falls in love with the patient.
"Guest in the House" also belongs to the evil-woman sub-genre of Film Noir. The men are generally clueless, easily duped, even stupid, while the women are the real forces in the narrative. As the titular heroine, Anne Baxter's Evelyn is cousin to Merle Oberon in "Temptation," Joan Fontaine in "Ivy," Ann Todd in "Madeleine," and Susan Peters in "The Sign of the Ram." There's one major difference: while the others gave restrained performances, Baxter wildly overacted. One hesitates to blame Baxter since she more than demonstrated her abilities in such films as "The Magnificent Ambersons," "The Razor's Edge," and "All About Eve," but here she is way over the top. The fault must lie with the director or directors who seem to have given her no help at all, but then, the film had a troubled production history, with at least three directors and as many screenwriters having a hand in it.
Also in the cast are Ralph Bellamy, Ruth Warrick, Margaret Hamilton, Percy Kilbride, and Marie "The Body" McDonald. The latter would have done better to spend her money on acting lessons rather than self-promotion
Perhaps the real problem is that the film is studio or stage bound. Since "Guest in the House" is based on a play, you might expect it to have been opened out when it made the transition to film, but except for a few very brief outdoor scenes, the film is all interiors. Evelyn's comeuppance, for instance, is revealed only in a reaction shot by Aunt Martha (Aline MacMahon). Still, if you remember the film from childhood or the airing a decade or so ago on the Nostalgia Channel, you'll probably stick with it to the end despite the full plate of ham.
The new Alpha Home Entertainment DVD of "Guest in the House" is a DVD which one settles for as the only available version, rather than one which is welcomed with joy. It is a mangled 96+ minute version rather then the full 121 minute original. The clarity of the images is acceptable, but there are so many cuts and splices that the film jumps and lurches from shot to shot and scene and scene as if the editor had gone mad while working. As a result the whole film, including the often brilliant black-and-white photography of Lee Garmes, suffers
And someone should have told Alpha Video that it's Anne Baxter and not Ann Baxter.