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Another cheapie from Monogram, once again casting Lugosi as a hypnotic murderer, lit from below as is expected. This time, however, he's the innocent victim, entranced by the sight of his 'dead' wife who appears beneath his window and seemingly 'commands' him to kill (rather surreptitiously and for a reason not fully explained). Indeed, most of the plot isn't really fully explained, but it's academic. Instead of the plot, concentrate on the director's unusual flair, and the writers' penchant for a decent gag or two. It's these that elevate this slightly above the rest of its kind. Some interesting panning between rooms, and behind furniture, and a memorable shot of Lugosi leering direct to camera from behind his black robe show that director Lewis had, at least, a modicum of creativity. There's also a wicked sense of humour that takes you by surprise, and is handled well enough to complement the thriller element. Sadly, the performances are mundane, especially Lugosi, who, once again mugs and grimaces his way through the part. The film is stolen by Clarence Muse, superb as the amenable butler, Evans - although he does get all the best lines.
I must say, I was a bit surprised after viewing "Invisible Ghost." It
could have been because of Bela Lugosi's sympathetic portrayal
of Charles Kessler, a warm and kind-hearted man, deeply
troubled by his wife's absence. Or ... it could have been Clarence
Muse, playing the black butler sans the usual comic relief.
Whichever way you look at it, "Invisible Ghost" is certainly worthy of
note. Too bad one has to rummage through so many bad movies
to locate the few really good ones. Here we have the late, great
Bela Lugosi, looking better than ever. His portrayal of a sympatheic
man under the control of powers beyond his comprehension is
somewhat of a diversion from previous characters. He's not
sucking the blood of beautiful ingenues. Nope. He's on a murder
rampage, suffocating his victims with a ... bedroom robe?
Okay ... a little quirky. What did you expect? Shakespeare?
What's impressive here is Mr. Lugosi's enormous acting talent.
Lugosi could express more emotion through a simple facial
expression than most actors could through an entire monologue.
He's an excellent example of a talented man giving a performance
greater than the movie itself deserves. No make-up effect or
computer generated effect could ever reproduce this. To this, I hold
Mr. Lugosi up next to Vincent Price ... as a man whose talents
barely reached the public surface. If only he were alive today and
making movies. No doubt he would have been treated with a great
deal more respect and admiration.
And so ... "Invisible Ghost" is a very good movie to enjoy. I was
lucky enough to purchase this along with seven other Lugosi films
in AMC's Monsterfest DVD collection. Pick it up if you get a chance.
It includes movies like "The Human Monster" and the amazing
"White Zombie." While some of these films were hits and others
were misses ... all feature the extraordinary presence of Bela
Lugosi ... certainly one of our greatest actors.
The best way to see this film is to catch an aged, scratched up print with
bad sound on late night television. It seems to almost be made for that
kind of antique, romantic creakiness.
Bela Lugosi plays a husband who murders his house guests overnight at the command of his hypnotist wife. The story isn't very well executed and is pretty ridiculous, actually, BUT what redeems the film and makes it very worthy of seeing is it's bizarre, ghostly atmosphere. The film is not about suspense, it's about mood. It's all about white figures moving around shadowy black backgrounds. It's about the interiors of the house looking like furnished crypts or like secret rooms not shown on the board of a Clue game.
This whole film is texture. It's very dream-like.
The movie begins with a man being executed on circumstantial evidence for something he did not do. He was engaged to the daughter of the main character. Shortly after this, his twin brother shows up. Bela Lugosi, walking around with his hands in front of him (ala, a somnambulist), losing control because his mad wife is out in a hovel in the back yard. This movie makes absolutely no sense. In an old house lives a kindly man named Kessler, played by Lugosi. The problem is that people are being murdered routinely around him. The police, who are always without a clue (no pun intended) come and go and seem to think: Gee that's odd. Another murder. Lugosi is asked why he doesn't move, but he just waits for his wife to return from wherever she went. It's never clear what happened to his wife, but she seems to come and go from a little building in the back yard that is tended by the gardener (one of the early victims). For whatever reason, when she shows up, Kessler puts up his hands, walks into someone's room and murders them. There is comic relief from Clarence Muse. He is a black man and probably the only fun character in the movie. When he discovers a body, he has the great line: "Do I look pale? I feel pale." He is the most stable character in the movie which I thought was cool. When they try to pin the murders on him (a psychiatrist comes to see if he is crazy), he holds up very well. Eventually, of course, the true murderer will show what he is made of. The problem is that there is no wrap up other than possible mental illness. The wife figured into this somehow, but shouldn't we be told a little more. Oh, well, poor old Lugosi probably made about 50 dollars for this.
Charles Kessler lives with his daughter, Virginia, and servants in his large house, but Kessler still awaits the return of his wife, who ran away with another man and disappeared following a car crash with her lover. Mrs. Kessler, unknown to her husband, is living in the gardener's tool shed, afraid to return home. She occasionally sneaks out of the shed, and spies on her husband through the window. One night Kessler sees his wife through the window and falls into a mad hypnotic state where he strangles Cecile, the new maid at the house. The crime is framed on Ralph Dickson, Virginia's fiancé and former love of Cecile. Dickson dies at the hands of the law, and his identical twin brother Paul comes to the Kessler residence, hoping to posthumously clear his brother's name. Kessler, under another trance, kills the house's gardener and nearly strangles his daughter, and it becomes obvious to the police and everyone in the house that the murders are the work of a madman, but how will Kessler be uncovered in this strange case. This film is probably the best of the Lugosi Monogram series, primarily due to Joseph Lewis' superb direction where there is a lot of suspense and neat twists. Good performances by the cast make this and a very good ending make this a good one to watch, despite a few plot holes. Rating, based on B mysteries, 8.
The best quality this film possesses is a genuine creepy atmosphere.
Especially good use of the weather (rain, stormy nights) enhances certain
scenes particularly those in which Bela Lugosi's character Dr. Kessler is
visited by his ghostly long-thought dead wife. Following this, Dr. Kessler
is driven to unwittingly become a mad strangler. Just the result you'd
expect?...no I didn't think so either.
Lugosi is actually quite good in the film and gives it his best effort. Also I felt Polly Ann Young, Betty Compson and Clarence Muse did fine jobs with what they had to work with.
The Inspector (played by George Pembroke) is an incredibly silly stereotype who comes across as thoroughly incompetent. However I did laugh when the visiting psychiatrist suggests it may be the Inspector who needs help.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bela Lugosi portrays Charles Kessler, in denial over his wife's running
off with another man years ago, and now missing or presumed dead since
being involved in a car crash which killed her husband. Yet she's
living secretly in the basement of the gardener's shed, believing she's
dead, and occasionally strolling out to the grounds of the estate in
her bathrobe. Now read those two sentences once again, because if you
buy it, you won't have any trouble with the rest of the film.
Whenever Kessler sees his wife, he goes into a catatonic trance like state, doing a Frankenstein walk as he finds a victim to strangle within his home. It's usually one of the staff, and with good help hard to find, this could be a bit troublesome. After his daughter's boyfriend is conveniently convicted for the murder of the maid, the lookalike brother conveniently shows up with enough common sense to help the inept police department figure out what's going on.
There are some redeeming qualities to the film though. There's an interesting camera technique used for parlor shots done through the flames of the fireplace framing the characters inside. It's rather well done and memory doesn't recall it's use in any other films. Additionally, the part of black Butler Evans is played straight and dignified by Clarence Muse, unusual for the era, when many black parts were either racially denigrated or played for comic relief. When Muse's character failed to slide into stereotype, especially under questioning by the police, it was a refreshing relief.
"The Invisible Ghost" probably won't make anyone's top ten horror list, or even top ten Lugosi list, though some of the prior postings on this film did surprise me. Although not "must see" in the usual sense, it does merit a viewing for a well rounded appreciation of Bela Lugosi's film credits.
This murder shocker, featuring some typically hilarious plot twists and insane character reactions, is buoyed by that inimitable Lugosi magic. Also worth mentioning is the surprisingly inventive direction by Joseph H. Lewis, as is the comparatively dignified treatment of the black butler character, well played by Clarence Muse. Fans of old Monogram and PRC programmers will be well entertained.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you haven't seen Invisible Ghost, I won't bother going into much of
the plot. Most of it is silly and doesn't make much sense. Basically,
the story involves a man who is driven to commit murder by seeing his
supposedly dead wife. That's really all you need to know. And, it's not
much of a spoiler as you discover most of this within the first ten
minutes or so.
Lugosi is great as the mad killer. A really first-rate acting job that is by far one of his best from the Poverty Row movies he made (that I've seen). He does an excellent job of alternating between the kindly Charles Kessler and the mad killer. Clarence Muse is also a standout as the butler, Evans. Muse played Evans as smart, calm, strong, and nothing like the typical black character you find in a 40s horror/mystery movie. I call him the anti-Mantan.
Over the past few years, I've learned to enjoy the movies from the 40s that Monogram and others were putting out. Invisible Ghost is not the best of the bunch, but it's certainly not the worst. It's fun to watch if just to see Lugosi hamming it up. Just don't take these movies too seriously.
Boy, this is one weird little movie! Bela Lugosi's first of nine films for Monogram Pictures, "Invisible Ghost" (1941) tells the story of Mr. Kessler (Lugosi), whose wife had run away some years before and been injured in a car wreck with another man. What Bela does not know is that his wife is still alive, in a semicomatose state, and being cared for by his gardener in a nearby barn. Unfortunately, whenever Mrs. K takes one of her nocturnal somnambulent strolls and Bela catches a glimpse of her, he becomes a mesmerized maniac and kills off another of his household... Anyway, this Bela outing, while perhaps not quite as much fun as another of his pictures that I saw recently, 1942's "The Corpse Vanishes," is still far, far superior to the surreally stinky "Scared to Death" (1947). It is interestingly shot and features some stylish direction by Joseph H. Lewis, who would go on to helm such cult classics as "Gun Crazy" (1949) and "The Big Combo" (1955). The film moves along quite briskly and manages to pack quite a bit into its brief 64-minute running time. And I like the fact that Bela's butler, as played by Clarence Muse, is devoid of the embarrassing black-stereotype behavior so often encountered in films of that era; indeed, he might be the most dignified character in the entire film. I also like the fact that, unlike so many other Bela films, this one is not presented on yet another awful-looking/sounding DVD from Alpha Video, but rather given a nice, clean treatment from the fine folks at the Roan Group. The bottom line, I suppose, is that "Invisible Ghost" is piffle, but still an engaging and entertaining time killer.
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