Monday, September 17, 2012

Invisible Ghost (1941)

Who's in it?: Bela Lugosi; Polly Ann Young (The Man from Utah); James McGuire (Sands of Iwo Jima); Clarence Muse (Shadow of a Doubt, Porgy and Bess)

What's it about?: Lugosi suffers episodes of temporary insanity during which he murders members of his household, but doesn't remember doing so later. This isn't a spoiler, because the movie never tries to hide what's going on. The mystery isn't in who's killing people, but in how he'll get caught.

How is it?: Really silly. The source of Lugosi's fits is ridiculous and complicated. His wife ran off years ago with another man and apparently died in a car crash. She didn't really die though, but has been kept in a cellar on Lugosi's estate by Lugosi's gardener. The gardener has been trying to nurse her back to health in order to return her to Lugosi, but he also realizes that Lugosi probably wouldn't appreciate being lied to all these years, so he's procrastinating about getting her back home. In the meantime, she occasionally escapes the cellar (she's not locked in or anything) and whenever Lugosi sees her wandering the grounds, he goes into a fit of rage and kills a member of his household staff.

Still, for all the goofiness, it's hard to dislike Bela Lugosi sleepwalking his way around a spooky house and strangling people with his robe. And there are some genuinely creepy scenes of the wife appearing outside windows when she escapes. As far as I can tell, she's the "invisible ghost" since Lugosi's the only one who sees her and she's supposed to be dead, but the title could also apply to Lugosi himself since he's the unseen killer stalking the household.

Young plays Lugosi's daughter, Muse has a delightful role as Lugosi's trusty butler, and McGuire plays dual parts as twin brothers, one of whom is engaged to Young and accused of committing the murders.

Rating: Okay.

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