When a teenaged girl moves to England, with her brothers and parents into the ancient Canterville Hall, she's not at all happy. Especially as there's a ghost and a mysterious re-appearing bloodstain on the hearth. She campaigns to go back home, and her dad, believing the ghost's pranks are Ginny's, is ready to send her back. But then Ginny actually meets the elusive 17th-century Sir Simon de Canterville (not to mention the cute teenaged duke next door), and she sets her hand to the task of freeing Sir Simon from his curse. Written by
Virginia 'Ginny' Otis:
When a gentle girl can win a prayer from out the lips of sin/when a child gives up tears and the barren almond bears/when the silent chapel bell sounds the ghostly sinners knell/then shall all the house be still, and peace shall come to Canterville.
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Neve Campbell and her family (small brothers, sympathetic mum, physicist and cynic father) travel from America to England when he lands a lucrative research post, and almost immediately strange things begin to happen in the de Canterville ancestry home.
Bumps and moans in the night, bloodstains, invisible hands on the shoulder - yes, there's a ghost about.
Oscar Wilde's story takes shape beautifully in this TV version, one of the numerous adaptations of his tale for children. Patrick Stewart is the ghostly Simon de Canterville, doomed to walk the house at night for all eternity for his earthly crimes, and he is watchable, especially wrestling with the pride of 400 years dead and no one to bow and scrape around him.
This being a fairy tale there's romance for Ginny as well in the shape of a local Duke (Daniel Betts) who is sympathetic to ghosts and very charming, as local Dukes so often are in these stories. Donald Sinden and Joan Sims play butler and housekeeper, shielding guilty secrets, and Leslie Philips appears briefly as the current representative of family de Canterville.
Recommended for children and adults alike, 'The Canterville Ghost' is charming, touching, and with just the right amount of suspense. The Americans may be paint-by-numbers stereotypes, but that doesn't matter. Without Stewart, I might have rated this much lower, but it definitely deserves high points for his performance alone.
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