For, Oct. 18, 2013

The boutique DVD/Blu-ray label Criterion Collection has released a pair of vintage spooky titles just in time for Halloween, one a forthright ghost story and the other a spoof of witch tales, both films that have long been sought by fans, and both marking their disc debuts.

"The Uninvited" (1944, b/w) has a brother and sister (Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey) purchasing a seaside home for a surprisingly reasonable price, and they make friends with the seller (Donald Crisp) and his daughter (Gail Russell). But it isn't long before the siblings begin to understand why the house sold so cheaply — it's haunted.

This is a very straightforward ghost yarn as Milland and Hussey, with assistance from Russell, who seems on occasion to be possessed by the spirit of the spectre, try to solve the riddle of the house being haunted, and to determine if the ghost might be that of Russell's late mother, who died in the home. Smart, eerie, chilling and bolstered by especially evocative black-and-white cinematography, which earned an Oscar nomination for Utah native Charles B. Lang.

"I Married a Witch" (1942, b/w) is a funny spoof of the witch sub-genre of horror movies, providing a terrific role for Veronica Lake, who distinguishes herself nicely as a witch burned at the stake in colonial Salem at the behest of a pious Puritan (Fredric March). Centuries later, she is freed during modern times (1942) and mistakes a 20th century man for her persecutor, a gubernatorial candidate (March) who is about to marry a socialite (Susan Hayward).

The great Robert Benchley also adds to the fun. And though "I Married a Witch" was directed by Rene Clair, producer Preston Sturges' fingerprints are all over it. A delightful treat for Halloween and especially for underserved fans of Lake.

Both films have been beautifully restored and feature supplemental materials, along with booklets. Each is available in a DVD or Blu-ray set.