Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In short: Ghost Ship (1952)

Guy Thornton (Dermot Walsh) and his wife Margaret (Hazel Court), finally want to buy a home of their own. Because it's in the script, they decide to live on a yacht and buy and rebuild an old dilapidated steam yacht. They get the ship for a good price, too, for it is supposed to be haunted. Fortunately, one isn't superstitious.

Of course, once the couple have moved in, they experience a decidedly mild haunting; the smell of cigars pervades the ship, and from time to time, a bearded ghost drives away the hired help by looking mildly perturbed. Still, this low maintenance ghost without a sense for escalation or being actually frightening is enough for our heroes to call in a friendly gentleman (Hugh Burden) from the nearest parapsychological institute.

Look, I know it's 1952, you're British, and we can actually call ourselves lucky to find a movie about a haunting from the era where the supernatural is actually supernatural, but, dear Vernon Sewell, was this really the best you could do with the material? I didn't expect much actual spookiness from the film going in, but what I got was a movie going out of its way not to contain anything that could even mildly excite a viewer, creepiness of course being right out in a movie with ghosts so polite. It's particularly curious in a British movie, as if the country hadn't had a big tradition of frightening and decidedly not harmless ghost stories. Your typical post-M.R.-James-ghost would eat these apparitions for breakfast.

Worse, Sewell's direction is unable or unwilling to build up even a bit of a spooky mood, which would have been a thing sorely needed in a film whose haunting feels so damnably harmless. The acting is decent, and this is clearly a film made on a decent level of craftsmanship in all technical aspects but there's such a complete lack of conviction and interest on display I don't think anyone involved actually cared about Ghost Ship even in the slightest.

No comments: