'The Ghost Talks' isn't a horror movie: it's a comedy, but it isn't even a spooky old-house comedy, as there's no whiff of the supernatural. This movie became slightly weirder in hindsight, due to the presence of Stepin Fetchit. He gives his usual 'yassuh' performance here, but this time round his character is named Christopher Lee ... inevitably reminding modern viewers of the horror-film actor.
The very bland blonde Helen Twelvetrees plays Miriam Holt, whose father embezzled a fortune in bearer bonds, then died. The fate of the bonds is unknown. Meanwhile, Miriam checks into an hotel for some peace and quiet ... but this is a comedy, so you know there's no peace nor quiet to be had. Everybody is sneaking about, spying on everybody else.
Let's see now: there's Carmel Myers as a Woman With A Secret. Arnold Lucy is the fastidious hotel manager, anticipating Franklin Pangborn. Clifford Dempsey is the gruff house detective. The best performance hereabouts is that of Mickey Bennett as a juvenile-delinquent bellhop. The direst performance is that of Charles Eaton (Mary Eaton's brother) as a wanna-be detective who -- get this, please -- actually dresses up as Sherlock Holmes, with a bent pipe and a deerstalker. Gor-blimey!
Like several other late-1920s films with vocal titles -- such as 'The Bat Whispers' -- 'The Ghost Talks' has a title intended to remind audiences that this movie is that new innovation, a *talking* picture, released at a time when many cinemas were still booking silents. I hope that sound engineer Joseph Aiken got paid overtime, because this movie features lots and lots and lots of ambient sound: street noises, huffapuffing railway engines, and so forth. Movie audiences in 1929 loved this novelty, but now it's a lot less charming.
Even more bizarre is someone's decision to hamper several characters in this movie with speech impediments. Helen Twelvetrees utters her dialogue with a lisp. Asked if she always lisps, she replies 'No, only when I thpeak.' (Boom, boom!) Other characters stutter or stammer, or yammer their grammar. I'm astounded that this tactic would have been used at any time, but especially so for it to have been done in a very early talkie. Helen Twelvetrees somewhat resembles May McAvoy, a very beautiful blonde of the late silent era whose stardom was ruined when her first talking roles revealed her extreme and genuine lisp. Didn't the makers of 'The Ghost Talks' realise that movie audiences might assume that Twelvetrees's feigned lisp was genuine ... and that her career would be hurt accordingly?
Matters are not helped by the fact that Helen Twelvetrees gives a wooden performance ... with only enough wood in it to make her, at best, Helen Fourtrees. I'm sympathetic to early talkies, with the technical problems they faced, so I'll rate this unfunny and unthrilling comedy-thriller 4 out of 10 ... but I'm being generous.
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