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Author Henry James is best-known for the ghost story "The Turn Of The Screw", which has been much filmed over the years; this is another tale of his in similar vein, from the French director who had already adapted 3 eerie Ambrose Bierce pieces for the anthology IN THE MIDST OF LIFE (1962) though the title under review was actually made for the small-screen. In any case, this has much of the essence of both James and Enrico boasting an excellent eye for detail and characterization, while maintaining a sense of ambiguity within the narrative.
The plot deals with a young man (the actor Enrico regular Stephane Fey actually looking quite a bit like the celebrated mime and occasional movie star Jean-Louis Barrault!) on his way to the priesthood who, whilst lodging (among the other tenants is a young Michel Lonsdale) in the Boston country-side, becomes fascinated by a remote and apparently abandoned house which, upon querying about it, is reported as being haunted. Making frequent vigils beside it, he begins to notice an elderly but distinguished-looking man going in and out of the premises every once in a while; rendered curious, he eventually approaches him at a nearby park and, striking up a conversation, subtly alludes to the mystery surrounding the cottage to which his companion, a decorated ex-Military Officer and therefore a man of honor, blatantly retorts that indeed a ghost resides within those walls! The student's own comings and goings from his lodgings become the topic at table, but he determines to unwrap the intrigue; during one of his meetings with the old gentleman who, it transpires had caused his daughter's death by denying her the financial aid required to live independently (she had in fact quit their house and gone to the live at the cottage) and had subsequently been visiting the premises to pay up the lease to it whenever this falls due, suggests that the only way to make sure of what lies inside is by entering himself.
This he does and, after the obligatory suspenseful (and dimly-lit) search through the house, sees a pair of hands emerging (presumably to receive the latest rent) from the shadows!; however, there is a twist to all of this: the heroine (played by the beautiful Marie Laforet) is not really a phantom since she is not at all dead, the ruse being a punishment leveled at her father for having abandoned the girl to her fate with the money she keeps reimbursing apparently invested in the advancement of her singing career (Laforet was a chanteuse in real-life and we hear her performing two numbers during the course of the film, the second "Kathy Cruel", and on which THE GHOSTLY RENTAL abruptly ends striking perhaps a more ironic chord than her patrons could imagine)! The revelation, then, is not exactly thrilling but the style in which the whole is handled proves typically compelling, with the score by the prolific, versatile but short-lived Francois de Roubaix being another notable asset.
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