The fifth film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was 1944’s Guest In The House. Before I get around to actually reviewing the film, there two important things that I need to share.
First off, according to the imdb, when Guest In The House was released into theaters, it ran a total of 121 minutes. The version that was released on video — the version that I watched for this review — only runs 100 minutes. Having watched the film, it’s hard for me to guess what could have been included in those 21 minutes. There’s no major plot holes in the 100 minute version or any unanswered questions. It’s hard for me to imagine that there could be anything in those 21 minutes that would have made Guest In The House a better film than the version that I watched last night. If anything, even at just 100 minutes, the version that I saw still felt too long!
Secondly, Guest In The House was re-released several times. At one point, the title was changed to Satan In Skirts! That has got to be one of the greatest titles ever! Seriously, Guest In The House is such a boring and mundane title. But Satan in Skirts — I mean, that sounds like something that you just have to watch, doesn’t it?
Anyway, Guest In The House is about a guest in the house. Shocking, right? Evelyn (Anne Baxter, playing a character similar to her classic role in All About Eve) is a mentally unstable woman with a heart ailment and a morbid fear of birds. She has recently become engaged to Dr. Dan Proctor (Scott Proctor) but she spends most her time writing nasty things about him in her diary.
Dan takes her to visit his wealthy Aunt Martha (Aline MacMahon). Also staying at Martha’s is Dan’s older brother, an artist named Douglas (Ralph Bellamy). Douglas is married to Ann (Ruth Warrick, who also played Kane’s first wife in Citizen Kane). Also living at the house is Douglas’s model, Miriam (Marie McDonald).
(“I used to have to hire one model for above the neck and one model for below the neck,” Douglas explains as Miriam poses for him, “But you’re the whole package!”)
When Evelyn has a panic attack upon seeing a bird, Douglas calms her down by drawing a woman on a lampshade. (Yes, that’s exactly what he does.) This leads to Evelyn becoming obsessed with Douglas. Soon, she is manipulating the entire household, trying to drive away Dan and Miriam while, at the same time, try to break up Douglas and Ann’s marriage….
So, does this sound like a Lifetime film to anyone? Well, it should because Guest In The House is basically a 1940s version of almost every film that aired on Lifetime last year. Normally that would be a good thing but, unlike the best Lifetime films, Guest In The House isn’t any fun. It should be fun, considering how melodramatic the storyline is. However, Guest In The House takes a prestige approach to its story, marking this as one of those films that was made to win Oscars as opposed to actually entertaining audiences. Other than a few time when Evelyn imagines that she’s being attacked by invisible birds, the film never allows itself to truly go over-the-top.
Lovers of The Wizard of Oz might want to note that the Wicked Witch of the West herself, Margaret Hamilton, plays a maid in this film but, in the end, Guest In The House is mostly just interesting as a precursor to Anne Baxter’s performance in All About Eve.