Tuesday, August 9, 2016

#2,168. The Ghost (1963)

Directed By: Riccardo Freda

Starring: Barbara Steele, Peter Baldwin, Elio Jotta

Tag line: "The Black Sign of Death Is On This House!"

Trivia: This movie is a gothic re-imagining of the 1955 French film Les Diaboliques

Three years after she appeared in Mario Bava’s Black Sunday and two years before she made Nightmare Castle, Barbara Steele, that black-haired beauty from the UK who found her niche in Italian horror in the 1960’s, starred in director Riccardo Freda’s The Ghost. While her presence alone is enough to ensure the movie isn’t a total loss, The Ghost is, unfortunately, undone by its slow pace, and despite its title, offers very little along the lines of supernatural thrills.

Scotland, 1910. Dr. John Hitchcock (Elio Jotta), renowned scientist and researcher, is slowly falling victim to a debilitating illness. To make matters worse, his doctor, Charles Livingstone (Peter Baldwin) is having an affair with Hitchcock’s wife Margaret (Steele). Not willing to wait for nature to run its course, Margaret convinces Charles to murder her husband, and with him out of the way, the two lovers are free to live as they please. It isn’t long after Hitchcock's funeral, however, that strange things start to happen, from bumps in the night to actual ghostly visitations; and when John’s valuable collection of jewels disappears into thin air, Margaret and Charles can’t help but wonder if the late Dr. Hitchcock has returned from the grave to seek his revenge.

The Ghost does offer up a few chilling sequences, including one where the family maid, Catherine (Harriet Medin), who is also a novice medium, inadvertently channels John’s spirit from the great beyond (he does nothing but call out Margaret’s name). Unfortunately, scenes like this are few and far between, with most of the film’s running time taken up by the mystery of the missing jewels. Barbara Steele does manage to liven things up a bit towards the end (when she becomes the movie’s primary focus), and some of its twists and turns are effective, but overall, The Ghost is a plodding, occasionally tedious motion picture.

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