Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Ghost Walks - And Shows Us Once Again That "The Play's the Thing"

Hiya, kiddies! So, the "old dark house". It's a mystery/horror sub-genre that we've discussed before, and honestly, it's one of my favorites. I suppose one of the main reasons is because it's like ordering a favorite meal at a restaurant. Even if you've never been to that particular eatery before, you still pretty well know what the ingredients are going to be and how it's going to taste before you get it. Oh, sure, one cook may include a bit more or less of this ingredient or may put them together in a way that tries to impart a bit of his or her own personal style, but nine times out of ten you're going to get something pretty much the same as that dish that you've enjoyed time and again.

Then, of course, there's also that tenth time, when the cook actually does something somewhat unique and surprising with those familiar ingredients.
Now don't get me wrong here, I'm certainly not suggesting that director Frank Strayer has invented anything truly new with The Ghost Walks. No, for the most part it consists of all of the familiar elements that make up an old dark house mystery. 1) A group of disparate people are, for one reason or another gathered together in a creepy old mansion - in this particular case a fallen tree and a washed out road prove effective enough to thrust our protagonist and his traveling companions into a seemingly already quite awkward family gathering, thereby allowing this particular phase to move along quite quickly. 2) There is some reason for everyone to be suspicious of everyone else - often the cause of the gathering is the reading of a will which leaves one or more parties dissatisfied with the results. In this particular case the Mcguffin is the anniversary of the murder of the husband of one of the characters.
Nope, nothing odd going on with this creepy sister.
3) There should be at least one "coincidental" connection between some of the characters - ofttimes one or more will know another character from a different setting. 4) Quite often there is also a random element thrown into the mix - for instance here we are informed of an inmate recently escaped from an insane asylum. 5) Eventually all of the lights in the house will inexplicably go out, and when they come back on, someone will have been killed leaving the survivors to try to figure out who among them could possibly be the killer. 6) Soon, even more mysterious things begin to happen - a strange hand will reach out from around a corner, the eyes of a picture will move in a way that tells us someone unknown is watching the proceedings, more people will die or disappear, secret passages will be found and more. Yep, kiddies, all of these elements are present in The Ghost Walks, just as they are in pretty much all old dark house mysteries.

What sets this particular film apart from most of its brethren of the genre, however, is the twist that occurs just after the victim of the first murder is revealed. Now, I'm not going to say that it turns this little quickie into a great movie, but it does serve not only to explain some of the "coincidences" that we're asked to swallow during the first act, and also provides the film with a sense of humor that it would otherwise be lacking, which helps to keep the whole piece from becoming too familiar and dreary. In other words, just as with that one time in ten that that favorite meal is transformed into something above and beyond just "the usual", The Ghost Walks manages also to take the usual ingredients and transform them into a unique taste sensation.

Ok, I couldn't find a suitable trailer for this one, but since the whole movie is embedable in one piece from YouTube, here ya go:

And here's the Skinny:
Title: The Ghost Walks
Release Date: 1934
Running Time: 63mins
Black and White
Stars: John Miljan, June Collier
Directed by: Frank R. Strayer
Produced by: Maury M. Cohen
Distributed by: Chesterfield Motion Pictures Corporation

The Ghost Walks is also available on DVD from Amazon as part of a Double Feature disk:
Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting
-Professor Damian


Post a Comment

Unless otherwise noted, all movies discussed on this blog and all associated materials are believed to be in the Public Domain. If you are a copyright holder for any of these materials, please email me. Unless otherwise noted, all material created for this blog by Professor Damian is licensed under a Creative Commons license as described below. Creative Commons License
Professor Damian's Public Domain Treasure Chest by Professor Damian is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Powered by Blogger Blogger Templates create by Deluxe Templates. WP by Masterplan