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  Invisible Ghost Full ThrottleBuy this film here.
Year: 1941
Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Stars: Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young, John McGuire, Clarence Muse, Terry Walker, Betty Compson, Ernie Adams, George Pembroke, Ottola Nesmith, Fred Kelsey, Jack Mulhall
Genre: Horror
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Charles Kessler (Bela Lugosi) sits down to dinner with his wife on their wedding anniversary, but although his butler Evans (Clarence Muse) humours him, it is plain to see that the only one at the table is Kessler. He has been grief stricken since his wife supposedly ran off with another man, and plays out this ritual every year, something his daughter Virginia (Polly Ann Young) has to tolerate. When her boyfriend Ralph (John McGuire) arrives to take her out, she tries to make excuses yet he notices her father going though his tribute and she has to explain. But what if her mother was not gone after all?

Precisely who or what Invisible Ghost was in all of this is unclear as at first you think it's the spectre of the wife, who may well be dead, but then five minutes later we see she is very much alive and simply suffering from amnesia as the gardener, Mason (Ernie Adams) is keeping her safe from harm and oblivious to who she really is. So she's not the ghost, and there is a total lack of those floating things-type special effects which brightened up many a horror and science fiction movie in the wake of The Invisible Man, so we have to surmise that the name is a cheat.

But after the introduction you tend to forget there is no invisibilty contained within and get wrapped up in what is a pretty hard to swallow storyline. Although Mrs Kessler (Betty Compson) is being held in a basement room of his house by Mason, she does get out for a walkabout every so often, and tends to hang around outside her former home staring up at the windows which quite often have Mr Kessler staring right back. If you thought he was unhinged after seeing his anniversary dinner then that's nothing compared to what he does when he catches sight of the missus. He does in fact turn into a homicidal maniac!

Lugosi gets through quite a few of his fellow cast members after his character strangles them during a period when the red mist descends and he cannot think straight, a condition that only murder can relieve. He does not realise he is doing this until the very end, which leads to the frankly bizarre state of affairs where he is trying to help the police work out the culprit only he doesn't cotton on that the man they seek is not a million miles away. In the meantime the bodies pile up, starting with the maid, Cecile (Terry Walker) - although we are told that she is merely one of many before - and poor old Ralph is arrested, charged and executed within the space of about a minute.

They don't hang around in this film, I can tell you. But in a twist worthy of a comedy - where it has been used to greater effect, it must be said - Ralph's twin brother shows up acting exactly the same as his deceased sibling and set on clearing his name. Not surprising that he acts identically, as he is played by McGuire as well, and it's as if he's never been away for all the impact he makes on the plot thereafter. If you appreciate how loopy these tiny budget horrors from this era could be (this was the first of the Monogram movies Lugosi made for the notorious Sam Katzman) then you'll find much to enjoy, and that it's an early effort by cult B-movie director Joseph H. Lewis offers historical value, as does the refreshingly decent treatment of the black butler, who emerges as the noblest character of them all. But what it boils down to is a very silly chiller, really.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Joseph H. Lewis  (1907 - 2000)

Dependable American B-movie director who turned his hand to westerns (Terror in a Texas Town) and horrors (Invisible Ghost) but was especially good at thrillers: My Name is Julia Ross, So Dark the Night, The Big Combo among them. His most celebrated film is the "Bonnie and Clyde"-inspired Gun Crazy. He left the movies to become a television director in the 1950s.

 
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