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Ghost Story (1974)

 |  Horror  |  19 March 1974 (UK)
5.0
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Ratings: 5.0/10 from 254 users  
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Several old college friends converge at a mansion, ostensibly for a pleasant reunion. Larry Dann, the most easygoing of the bunch, comes to the conclusion that all is not well in the old ... See full summary »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Anthony Bate ...
Dr. Borden
Larry Dann ...
Talbot
...
Sophy Kwykwer
Sally Grace ...
Girl
Penelope Keith ...
Rennie
Leigh Lawson ...
Robert
Vivian MacKerrell ...
Duller
...
Mc Fayden
Barbara Shelley ...
Matron
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Storyline

Several old college friends converge at a mansion, ostensibly for a pleasant reunion. Larry Dann, the most easygoing of the bunch, comes to the conclusion that all is not well in the old dark house. For one thing, he's run across several people whom he's never met. For another, they all seem to be of a different time and place. Written by Ørnås

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Horror

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19 March 1974 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Ghost Story  »

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(Fujicolor)

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1.85 : 1
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Trivia

When filming in India many cast and crew were victims of food poisoning. See more »

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User Reviews

 
GHOST STORY (Stephen Weeks, 1974) **1/2
11 October 2011 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

To begin with, the title of this film was changed in the U.S. to MADHOUSE MANSION because, when it first played there, the 1981 GHOST STORY had already been released; ironically, it was originally to have been called ASYLUM but, when director Weeks submitted the script to Amicus back in 1972 for possible financing, that company turned him down but soon after produced a movie of their own under that very title! Oddly enough, the director has made very few pictures: beginning in 1968 with the WWI-themed 1917, his subsequent output was shared equally between horror projects – first a serviceable if uninspired rendition of "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" named I, MONSTER (1971), followed by this one – and two versions of the very same Arthurian adventure – the second, SWORD OF THE VALIANT (1984), made in view of the fact that the first, GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT (1973), had been re-edited by the studio against the his wishes (the irony being that the remake still came out lame!). For the record, I only have 1917 and GAWAIN left to watch and, curiously enough, two of these – MONSTER and GAWAIN itself – have turned up on local TV over the years.

Anyway, the film under review is ultimately more interestingly-styled (being a period piece) than compelling narrative-wise. The accompanying feature-length "Making Of" documentary states that there never was a horror movie quite like it, but I do not agree in this regard: coincidentally, I had watched another ghost story just a day prior to it – DARK PLACES, made that very year – and which, like this one, has its protagonist being witness to tragic events from the past under the influence of a haunted house; besides, it transpires that he was chosen by the house and will subsequently not be allowed to leave (a plot point which is common to THE HAUNTING {1963}); and, of course, countless movies have been made before and since involving creepy dolls! This is not to say that the film does not indeed evoke a unique atmosphere – but this has to do with the fact that, while it is supposedly set in England, shooting took place in far-away India on estates and in palaces dating back from the British colonial era! Perhaps its main fault, then, lies with the realization that the inside story, as it were, is more interesting than the central narrative: the latter revolves around a decidedly fey trio of males who convene upon the property for a weekend hunting session – one is the rather apprehensive current owner (played by Murray Melvin), another is a dead-shot as well as an amateur ghost catcher (though the only thing he manages to trap is a moth!), and the last an eager-to-please yet naïve fellow but who is the one who proves most receptive to the 'phenomena'. Another unusual concept (which is, however, barely stressed: again, the film is essentially too low-key for its own good) is having the protagonist unaccountably meet the characters from by-gone days in his own time (inside a bar and sitting at table out in the open).

Through the hero, under the influence of a porcelain doll (an authentic 19th century relic), we begin to piece together the story of the house's previous owners: a brother and sister (Marianne Faithful supplying much-needed marquee value) are incestuously drawn to each other and in order to definitely separate them, the girl (with the boy's consent) is passed off as insane. In a nearby asylum (co-run by former Hammer regular Barbara Shelley, here in her final theatrical appearance), she undergoes the type of hardships recorded with respect to the treatment of mental illness in this uninformed age; Faithful's devoted female companion breaks in to liberate her but, not knowing in which cell she has been placed, begins to indiscriminately open doors after taking possession of the keys and, before long, the loonies are running loose and, needless to say, take this opportunity to exact revenge on their tormentors (with the more enthusiastic towards this end being a man decked-out in a 'Coffin Joe' outfit!) and set fire to the place. Faithful herself manages to escape but she has really gone mad in the interim and, upon reaching her former home and seeing the brother who betrayed her, stabs him! Having now pieced the story together, the hero is about to leave with Melvin (their friend having quit in disgust earlier on) but, as I said, the house is opposed to this and the doll (which he had tried to destroy but was also literally led by it to the site of the by-now abandoned asylum) turns on him!

The film certainly looks good (especially in this edition culled from the Nucleus 2-Disc R2 set, since I had earlier acquired it via a substandard VHS source), with the genteel overall approach (which could sometimes be mistaken for a Merchant Ivory offering!) being counterpointed by an eerie soundtrack courtesy of Ron Geesin.


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