Mills Creek has done it again. They’ve included a movie in their Fifty Chilling Classics collection that doesn’t suck. I watched 1963’s The Ghost (Also known as Lo Spettro), starring the lovely Barbara Steele. This movie, while definitely flawed, was also strangely charming and intriguing. I ended up dreaming about it when I went to bed afterwards.
Barbara Steele plays Margaret Hitchcock, the wife of an invalid physician, Dr. John Hitchcock, in Scotland around 1910. She’s also the point of a love-triangle involving the family physician/friend, Dr. Livingstone. Dr. Hitchcock is involved in spiritualism. He’s also trying to find a cure for his paralysis, involving the administration of poisons and their antidotes. Margaret convinces Dr. Livingstone to finally kill her husband. Upon his death, they discover that his fortune is nowhere to be found and quickly turn on each other. Worse, strange, ghostly things begin to happen in the house. This all happens under the watchful eyes of the housekeeper, Catherine.
Since it’s from Mills Creek, The Ghost is plagued by the usual Mills Creek problems. The sound is scratchy and occasionally skips and the print is quite dark. But once you get past these unfortunate flaws, the movie is rather nice to watch.
The music is ever-present and occasionally overwrought. But it also can be quite creepy, especially the music-box refrain of a Viennese waltz that plays throughout. One of my favorite scenes is when the waltz is first introduced. Margaret is shaving John’s face and the tension between the two of them is quite obvious. You know she wants to Sweeney Todd him.
The acting does tend towards melodrama but it’s kind of enjoyable. This is the face Margaret makes when John points a gun at her. He then proceeds to point it at his temple. These two know how to psychologically torture each other.
I try not to comment on people’s appearances in these posts but, damn, Barbara Steele is gorgeous.
Aside from the melodramatic moments, there is a matter of accents. The movie is set in Scotland. The principles all have vaguely English accents. But the secondary characters, like the constable and Canon Owens have these goofy, awful accents that sound vaguely Russian. Maggie Smith, they are not.
The ending was actually pretty shocking and enjoyable. The movie was made in 1963 and what amazed me is when Margaret finally snaps and kills someone herself with a straight razor. This is shown in quite a lot of detail for a movie from that era. I thought it was amazing to see a woman as a literal slasher. For extra effect, blood starts to drip down the camera lens while Margaret is in a frenzy of slashing and stabbing.
Of course, the movie has to kick itself in the ass by featuring this goofy face that Barbara makes when she’s poisoned.
They really couldn’t have reshot that?
At ninety-five minutes, the movie is too long and suffers from moments that just kind of drag. Overall, the movie is good, it just needed a better editor. But it’s totally worth it if you like gas-lighting movies and are in the mood for something that’s Roger Corman-Lite circa his Poe-cycle. Which is kind of appropriate, considering that Barbara Steele was in The Pit and the Pendulum.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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