Eye For Film >> Movies >> Ghost Story (1974) Film Review
Ghost Story comes billed as a hidden gem of a chiller from the director of the equally forgotten 3D Jekyll and Hyde movie I, Monster, Stephen Weeks.
It centres on a group of 20-something-year-old school friends who congregate in a dusty country mansion - inhabited by one of their group, McFayden (Murray Melvin) - for a reunion. However, after one of pals (Talbot, played by Larry Dann) starts experiencing visions of people in Victorian dress (including a startled-looking Penelope Keith and Sixties survivor Marianne Faithfull), it soon becomes apparent that McFayden hasn’t been as honest with his old friends as they’d hoped.
Unfortunately, the film’s 90-odd minutes feel like a trudge. It takes too long to gain momentum - the opening scenes of the earnest-but-clueless Talbot and the styled-but-snooty Robert (Leigh Lawson) travelling up to the mansion are particularly humdrum and difficult to wade through - and the central trio are all painted, and occasionally played, with fairly broad brushstrokes.
However, things lift in the second half, as the Victorian characters haunting the mansion get more screen time. These scenes also accentuate one of the film’s biggest assets - it’s location. Filmed in India, there is a quality of the light and cinematography which gives the film a truly unique, nostalgic feel. Barring some questionable scenes at an asylum, which fall victim to histrionics, not helped by the quite awful prog rock influenced soundtrack, and the recurring problem of sluggish pacing, proceedings do get considerably more atmospheric.
Ultimately the highlight of the film is Marianne Faithfull’s performance as the troubled Sophy. While not an actress of trained, refined precision, Faithfull conveys a sincere, wide-eyed desperation that the rest of the movie clearly lacks. The drama benefits enormously from the few minutes Faithfull is on screen and the film would have been lifted with more developments, in her story.
The film’s story and its stars are perhaps more interesting than the end product. Indeed, this is the only cinematic appearance of star Leigh Lawson, who was the inspiration for Withnail in Withnail And I, who died tragically of throat cancer at a relatively early age.
While barely a footnote in British horror cinema of the Seventies, Ghost Story is notable for the startling performance by Faithfull, the appearance of charismatic Lawson and its unusual period feel and atmosphere. If you’re a fan of Faithfull, or nostalgia, it’s probably worth a watch, but otherwise this is a flick which contains nothing that you haven’t seen before done a lot better.Reviewed on: 10 Feb 2010