Friday, November 14, 2014

Ghost Stories on Film ~ 4 Hidden Treasures

Don't Look Now ~ Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland 
Director Nicholas Roeg brought this gem to the screen in the beginning of his switchover from cinematographer to film director. It may be that his work here is so good simply because his visual powers were so strong from all those years with a camera as his partner. As a director, he would progressively be pulled away from that all visual, solitary world of the camera. 

He had a dream duo of Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, who play a married couple in Venice during the winter trying to come to some terms with the death of their child. She drowned wearing the red cape that is seen everywhere. This couple is haunted at every turn and Venice enhances that effect instead of lessening it. They meet a psychic who leads them into a frightening and suspenseful experience. This is based on one of Daphne Du Maurier's short works of fiction.

By turns erotic and supernaturally chilling, Roeg makes this film his own and it is still as startlingly unique today as it was decades ago when it was first made. It should be a big seller on streaming video online and it deserves to be. It is now on Amazon Instant Video and probably most other competing venues. 

Ghost Story ~ Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
If you have never read the novel or seen the movie, you have got a choice. I read the book first and I just loved it. Peter Straub writes one heck of a ghost story and he would write a few more in later years. Then the movie came out and surprisingly was very good. If you never read, your choice is easy: see the film. If you love reading, it is a much harder choice. The plot is the same for both and the film did not ruin the plot or characters from the book (the usual case).

Four affluent old men continue to meet in New England just the same as when they were young men who had grown up in the the same town. A long time ago a beautiful girl hung around with all four of them. Something went horribly wrong and they had to get rid of her. Now she has come back to haunt them for what they did and to remind them of their act. This is a truly terrifying ghost in a really spooky setting, in both film and book. It is a last time to also see four grand old men of the stage and screen who had been with us for most of the twentieth century. Newcomer Alice Kriege from South Africa played the terrific ghost.

Gotham  ~ Tommy Lee Jones, Virginia Madsen
This is a made for HBO movie from 1988 with Tommy Lee Jones playing Eddie, a private detective out of the noir school. A husband hires him because his former wife is driving him crazy. She won't leave him alone. The big problem is that she's dead and a ghost. Eddie doesn't believe she's a ghost and tracks down the ex, played by the very sassy, very sexy Virginia Madsen. She is especially eager to get even with her ex and to get her jewels back. She seems otherwise quite mortal to Eddie. These two have terrific chemistry here and they will keep you guessing as to whether she is a ghost or not. They are also both quite young here and that will "take you back" as well.

The Changeling ~ George C. Scott
George C. Scott meets the ghost of a little boy tied to the house where he is living, who wants the truth to come out about what happened to him in that house. Scott gives a subdued performance which really works well in a ghost story. He plays a composer who has rented the Seattle house after losing his wife and daughter in a car crash. He is grieving plus he is sensitive, just what the boy ghost needs in order to reveal things. 

The screenwriters did a lot of parapsychology research and it shows in this film. Instead of gruesome, bloody scenes, the scenes instead are things which shouldn't be able to happen but are, for the ghost to get Scott's attention. These are creaking doors opening on their own, balls bouncing on their own, water running which no one turned on, windows breaking for no reason, etc., A heck of an actor was needed for small things to build with such menace and Scott was that actor. It all gathers momentum until we can see a bath, running water, fire and all becomes clear. We do get a complete flashback to what the ghost wants to tell and that is terrific. 

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