This is the final film for John Huston as actor, for he died shortly after its completion, and it is directed by his son Danny, who does a creditable job with putting onto the screen one of Leon Garfield's Dickensian novellas, set in 1767 in a small English town on New Year's Eve, the work starring bewigged Paul Scofield, who certainly looks the part here of a cold-hearted master. A young apothecary's apprentice, Ben Partridge (Mark Farmer), souring from being forced to work late on the eve of the new year by his master Mr. Corbett (Scofield), is so filled with hatred as a result that he wishes for Corbett to be dead, going so far as to gather ingredients with which he hopes to cast a fatal spell upon the older man. A highly imaginative script from Gerry Wilson realizes in cinematic terms the well-constructed and taut original by Garfield, and fosters a strong sense of the dramatic, including several macabre scenes among the town's underworld, a favorite device of the novelist. A rather dark film that echoes Stevenson as well as Dickens, GHOST centers about the displacement of young Partridge as he discovers that the burden of an omnipresent phantom is by way of being intolerable and, to his salvation, the ambiguous aspects of good and evil in their natural duality lead to certain discoveries about his foreign master, resulting in a satisfying conclusion. Scofield, magnificent as always, dominates his scenes, creating his role of the Scroogelike apothecary with interesting physical business, Huston is effective as the Collector of Souls in his final performance, and Burgess Meredith contributes a brief and highly idiomatic performance, with only Farmer being limited in his emotional range (glaring in such company); Andy Summers should be thanked for an attractive and atmospheric score that is mixed well.
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