THE UNSEEN. Paramount Pictures, 1944. Joel McCrea, Gail Russell, Herbert Marshall. Screenplay by Hagar Wilde and Raymond Chandler, based on the novel by Ethel Lina White. Directed by Lewis Allen.

   The sum total of this film adds up to much more than the film itself does.

   To begin with, it is the follow-up to director Lewis Allen’s major surprise hit, the classic ghost story, The Uninvited (reviewed here ), even down to casting perpetual lost waif Gail Russell as the heroine, here a governess in one of those mysterious households dear to the Gothic formula ever since Jane Eyre.

   Then there is the screenplay co-written by none other than Raymond Chandler and based on a novel by Ethel Lina White, who among others wrote the novels which Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes and Siodmak’s The Spiral Staircase were based on.

   Then too, there is a cast lead by Joel McCrea and Herbert Marshall, along with such steadfast character actors such as Norman Lloyd and Tom Tully. Even the children playing McCrea’s daughter and wayward son are good actors.

   The plot is that an old dark abandoned mansion sits next to McCrea’s in the city. McCrea once worked for the late owner, known as the Commodore. Deserted now, McCrea’s children insist they see mysterious lights in the house but no one believes them.

   As the film opens, the children spy an old woman walking by the house one night. She sees lights and a figure in the house, and is chased down by the figure. The next day headlines reveal an old woman was killed in an alley nearby. Meanwhile McCrea’s son finds the old lady’s gold watch outside the old house and conceals it so the police don’t know the connection.

   Governess Gail Russell arrives to the cold McCrea household where he questions her qualifications and motives and tells her his children are impossible. McCrea is bitter over his wife’s death and the suspicion that hangs over him because of it, as his close friend, doctor Herbert Marshall explains.

   Add to the mix the conniving ex-governess who has an almost hypnotic hold on the boy and the Commodore’s nosy widow (or is she), plus a few red herrings, and you should have the makings of at least a competent little Gothic outing.

   Alas, not so. The Unseen is flat, unconvincing, indifferently acted and directed, and the screenplay has little to say that will hold much interest. The motive for all the goings on is absurd, and the finale unconvincing as the sudden romance between McCrea and Russell.

   It is currently available on YouTube in six parts in a rather poor print. Unless you are a completest or a Masochist, I suggest you leave it there.