Monday, December 7, 2015

Scream Factory Tells Us A Classic "Ghost Story"


1981's gothic horror classic "Ghost Story" comes to Blu-ray thanks to our good friends at Scream Factory. Based on Peter Straub's acclaimed 1979 novel of the same name, the film stars a cast of Hollywood royalty including Fred Astaire ("Top Hat"), John Houseman ("The Paper Chase"), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. ("Little Ceasar"), Melvyn Douglas ("Hud"), and Patrice Neal ("The Day the Earth Stood Still"). They're joined by the more than capable talents of Craig Wasson ("One Life to Live") and Alice Krige ("Star Trek: First Contact"). Award-winning director John Irvin ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Raw Deal," "Hamburger Hill") helmed the thrilling film with the assistance of Director of Photography Jack Cardiff capturing his dark vision.

Every year, four affluent old friends -- Ricky Hawthorne (Fred Astaire), Sears James (John Houseman), Dr. John Jaffrey (Melvyn Douglas) and Edward Wanderley (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) -- meet to tell ghost stories. When one of Wanderley's sons (Craig Wasson) dies mysteriously the day before his wedding, and the ghostly apparition of a beautiful woman (Alice Krige) appears on the ice, the four old friends have no choice but to piece together one last "Ghost Story" -- this one more terrifying than all the others, because it is true.

There are several reasons "Ghost Story" resonates with me. It pulls you in and emotionally attaches you to its characters. The atmosphere of the movie is so well-established and you feel as if everything you see on screen is authentic. A cast who is genuinely committed to a great story helps as well.

Released in 1981, "Ghost Story" suffers from aged special effects. There are times where the use of blue-screen is painfully evident. The sequences are jarring and pull you out of the viewing experience. You just have to shake off the feeling and not let it ruin the rest of your experience.

"Ghost Story" is rated R for violence and gore, sex and nudity, profanity, alcohol and smoking, and frightening and intense scenes. Aside from the usual upper female nudity we always get, there's also full frontal male nudity. I really don't know why any of the nudity is included, as it really adds nothing to the story or the forward motion of the narrative. Rotting and slimy corpses are a recurring visual which will scare some viewers.

Scream Factory's Blu-ray release of "Ghost Story" is filled with some entertaining bonus material for viewers to enjoy. Audio commentary is provided by Director John Irvin. New interviews with Author Peter Straub, Actress Alice Krige, Screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, Producer Burt Weissbourd, and Matte Photographer Bill Taylor are found. A vintage theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, and a photo gallery are included as well.

"Ghost Story" is a beautifully filmed old-fashioned gothic horror show from a visual standpoint. It's unfortunate that the movie feels choppy at times and even rushed. I compare it to reading a novel after someone has torn out one or two pages throughout its entirety. Wonderful acting from the golden age of cinema, some top-notch practical effects, and gorgeously bleak sets and locations help elevate this to cult status.

"Ghost Story" is available now on Blu-ray.

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