Monday, November 30, 2009

The Living Ghost (1942)

I stopped into the library to pay my fines (totally worth it) and I saw a "vintage double feature" (Translation: two old, crappy movies with a similar theme). The titles were "A Walking Nightmare" and The Ghost Walks". Never heard of them. Or of anybody who was in them. Can't resist.

The first one, called A Walking Nightmare, is actually named The Living Ghost. But of course the name of the movie is called Haddocks' Eyes, but that's another story entirely.

Marketed as a horror story (at least by Alpha Video), this is a comic (maybe screwball) mystery along the lines of The Thin Man series (which are GOOD movies). Maybe a little too closely. Released twelve months after Shadow of the Thin Man, the reluctant, smart alec detective is named Nick. Nick Traynor, played by James Dunn. Retired from the detective business, he is badgered into taking the case by his light haired Nora, Billie Hilton played by Joan Woodbury. She was a kinda hottie who's career dwindled as 30 got further in her rear view window. Two big differences with The Thin Man is that Living Ghost takes itself far less seriously and the lack of conspicuous drinking.

The story surrounds the mysterious disappearance, and later reappearance, of the wealthy Walter Craig. When he returns he is in a catatonic state. The actual doctor's description of what happened to him is rather stupid. The peculiar family hosts many suspects. Nick does his sleuthing in the scary mansion while doing vaudeville shtick and dodging verbal barbs from Billie.

Now, let me make fun of the titles. Living Ghost? Craig was indeed living, and he was sorda like a ghost in the sense ... no, he wasn't anything like a ghost. More like a zombie. But he was living! (Although the actor would be dead in four years.) Walking Nightmare? Maybe Craig was having nightmares while he was walking? I swear they made up movie titles based on what word was popular that month.

Clever, witty, short, all good traits of a B movie. Not horror by any stretch, but mildly thrilling if one is willing to be so. Don't confuse it with a quality film and you'll be happier. AMRU 3.

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