Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Ghost

This is a fairly obscure little gothic treat with Barbara Steele as the unfaithful wife to a crippled doctor, and the awfulness that results. It’s another moody little piece with little blood to it, but I swear, I’ll have two nice gruesome ones for you later this week.
Much like Fright, this one is also fairly light on plot. Steele is cheating on her husband (Elio Jotta) with another doctor (Peter Baldwin), who decides that the only way to resolve the situation is if the two of them murder him. Indeed, there’s perfect opportunity to do so, as his planned paralysis cure is to daily take two deadly poisons together, so the wife-stealing doctor simply doesn’t give him the second poison during treatment, and the poor invalid promptly dies.

That’s the set-up; the rest of the film revolves around them trying and failing to find his fortune, while seemingly being haunted by Jotta’s ghost. Could he truly be back from the dead? Could this mysterious haunting be in any way connected to how his will curiously stated that Steele got everything, but only if she kept their faithful maid (Harriet Medin) at the spooky mansion with her? Not to spoil anything here, but come on. There were a bunch of movies around this time with similar plots, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out that he’s not dead, and the maid’s helping him torment his wife and her lover.

What makes the movie work is not its plot, but rather the look and feel of the film, and that director Riccardo Freda mostly keeps it fairly effective and creepy, not letting it devolve into campy silliness -- the exception being at the end, where a character spends several minutes explaining how the film‘s plot was able to work, before concluding with “it was all very simple.” Yes, of course it was. Outside of that bit of absurdity, we get some nice moments, like when Baldwin tries to enter a room and sees Jotta’s “corpse” hanging from a noose, or when we get a surprisingly vicious attack with a straight razor late in the film. Barbara Steele is her usual wonderful self, of course; for those of you who haven’t seen her before, she is a real treat, though I’d have to suggest your first experience with her be a more famous one, like Black Sunday or Castle of Blood (or, for a non-horror effort, Fellini’s classic 8 ½). The Ghost is indeed good, but there is already a proper procedure in place for falling in love with 60s scream queens, you know.

I really wish I hadn’t been so determined to do these in alphabetical order, as I almost feel like I’ve just reviewed the same film twice in a row. For the none of you following along at home, this does feel somewhat stylistically similar to Fright, so if you want to make a nice moody double feature, they would go fairly well together. Of course, the best available print on DVD also comes with Dead Eyes of London, but I trust you to make your own double feature decisions, you don’t have to blindly follow their advice here.

Rating: ***

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