This early ‘80s horror film from British director John Irvin (Hamburger Hill) seems an unlikely cult favorite given its cast of elderly male leads, but it’s a cast of big-name veterans that, although in the waning years of their careers, manage to elevate an average story to one that almost seems like a Hitchcockian thriller.
Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and John Houseman star as a group of elderly friends in a quiet New England town. Calling themselves the “Chowder Society,” the group like to meet once a week and tell each other ghost stories over drinks that get each other all worked up. But when one of them loses a family member to a mysterious death, it becomes increasingly obvious that a bad deed from their past has not been buried as they all had thought. Now a malevolent spirit is seeking them all out in a real ghost story come to life. Craig Wasson, Patricia Neal, and Alice Krige also star in this chiller for the older generations.
Irvin does a great job with what is really a mediocre screenplay of the Peter Straub novel into something pleasurable to watch. Granted, a big part of the heavy lifting is done by the incredible acting of the fantastic assemblage of veterans in the twilight of their careers here. Astaire, Douglas, Fairbanks, and Houseman turn this run of the mill material into something to be reckoned with, and their time on screen is the best part of the film. Alice Krige is also an incredibly wicked (and beautiful) antagonist and love interest. Combine all of these elements with what is a classic English style Gothic horror that goes back to the old Hammer style of the luxurious old mansions, atmospherics, and just a tinge of camp, and we have a respectable if not flawless horror/thriller in Ghost Story.
I previously reviewed the U.S. Blu-ray release of Ghost Story from Scream! Factory, just recently released this past November 24 and was not overly impressed with it. In comparison, this U.K. Blu-ray from Second Sight Films looks the same. The grain structure looks the same, that is to say a little coarse and soft, but natural. The contrast is middling, with overall brightness somewhat dim, blacks showing some slight crush, and detail in the shadows just a little murky and in spots a bit washed out. The image is clean, which is the strong point.
The original monaural soundtrack for Ghost Story is provided in LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) by Second Sight Films, versus the 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track on the Scream! Factory release in the U.S. from just a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, there isn’t any discernible difference in sound quality here and it is good for what it is with just as clear dialogue and little hiss, though the boxiness of the monaural track still remains.
All the supplements here are the same as the Scream! Factory disc on this Second Sight Films release except this adds an audio commentary by the director. It remains a treat to see up to date interviews with star Alice Krige and other discuss the work that went into the film.
- Audio Commentary by Director John Irvin
- Ghost Story Genesis with Peter Straub (1.78;1; 1080p/24; 00:39:42)
- Alice Krige: Being Alma Mobley and Eva Galli (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:28:52)
- Screenwriter Lawrence D Cohen and Producer Burt Weissbourd: Ghost Story Development (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:29:09)
- The Visual Effects of Albert Whitlock Albert Whitlock: A Discussion with Matte Photographer Bill Taylor, ASC (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:28:51)
- TV Spot (1.33:1; SD: 00:00:31)
- Radio Spots (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:00)
- Photo Gallery (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:08:43)
- Trailer (1.33:1; SD; 00:02:26)
The Definitive Word
An atmospheric throwback to old school horror set in a moody New England, the cast of veterans in Ghost Story outplay their younger counterparts and work the average material into something more worthy of their talents.
Additional Screen Captures