Invisible Ghost (1941)
So I've been trying to tackle the "50 Horror Classics DVD Collection" ('classics' in this sense is a bit of an exaggeration at best) a little bit at a time, which so far is proving to be somewhat depressing. But every now and then comes a film which was actually worth watching. This is one of those films.
A sad old man (Bela Lugosi) lives in a big house with his daughter (Polly Ann Young) after his wife (Betty Compson) left him for another man. Little does he know, she was in a car accident shortly after leaving and suffered brain damage and amnesia and was later found by the gardener (Ernie Adams) who has been keeping her in an old barn in the woods in the hopes that her memory returns and she can go back to her family.
Unfortunately for everybody involved, the Wife developed some kind of magic powers as compensation for losing most of her brain function, so she goes out regularly, hypnotizes her husband and makes him commit atrocious murders.
Okay, I'll admit that the plot makes no fucking sense but that's not important. What is important is that it's pretty well made considering what it is - a low rent horror pic from the forties.
It's well shot for one thing, unlike a lot of shit I've watched lately which, between the writing, editing and cinematography is basically unwatchable. This is pretty classy, and maintains a spooky, old school atmosphere.
The writing and acting are decent and the characters are actually interesting, particularly Lugosi - super nice guy by day, ruthless murderer by night, giving the movie a sort of sad and poignant quality which is lacking in most horror pictures regardless of era. I feel bad for the guy, and his family. They didn't deserve this.
It's also got a healthy dose of sick humour which is sort of surprising for the time. Yeah, most of these old movies have some pathetic attempt at comic relief, but there's some actually funny stuff in this. There's one scene in which the butler discovers the body of the maid which is morbid and well done (I looked for a clip but couldn't find one - you can watch the whole movie on youtube though so what the hell).
And you know there's some pretty heavy shit going on in there. At the very beginning of the movie, Lugosi murders the maid who, as it turns out, was having an affair with his daughter's fiance (John McGuire). Right before she was killed, hubby told her to leave him alone or else and thus he gets pinned - and executed - for the murder. Which is kinda weird. I also got the impression that Lugosi totally raped the maid before or after murdering her. Also weird.
So yeah, the plot is a little strange - the movie ends abruptly without really explaining why any of the shit that happened happened - and it seems a little strange that the polic never so much as suspect Lugosi, but then he was really nice. Still, I found it really well made, extremely satisfying and totally worth watching especially for Lugosi fans as this is one of his better performances.
Directed by: Joseph H. Lewis. Written by: Helen & Al Martin. Starring: Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young, John McGuire, Clarence Muse, Terry Walker, Betty Compson, Ernie Adams, George Pembroke.