Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Ghost Goes West (1936)

           In 18th Century Scotland, a flirtatious Scot (Robert Donat) is killed running away from a rival clan. Because of his cowardliness, he is doomed to walk in his family castle as a ghost, until a relative can confront a relative of the rival clan. In the present day, his last descendent (Donat again) has to sell his castle to an American family, the Martins, and they want to bring it back to the States. What is a ghost to do?
            This movie was a disappointment: I though that Mr. Donat and a plot similar to The Canterville Ghost would make an interesting movie. Alas, I was proved wrong: this often slow moving, and sometimes dreadfully dull.
            The performances aren’t bad, but I though that Donat played his two characters (the ghost and his modern descendent) in the same way. Not too similar that I was confused between them, mind you, but enough that I found neither particularly memorable. And the love interest, curtesy of Jean Parker as  one of the castle's new owners, is so bland, that I felt myself beginning to fall asleep every time she was on screen.
            Not all is bad, though. The film really starts moving when they actually get to America, an hour into the movie. From there, there are some wonderfully jabs at Americanizing foreign things, mostly through how Mr. Martin (Eugene Pallette) gives the castle a makeover for an "authentic" highland party: a gondola in the moat surround the castle, a light show, or, my favorite, a jazz band playing Scottish tunes in a Latin American style (while in kilts, no less!)
            If the movie had spent more time in America, and less time in the highlands, and focused more on Scotish-American relations, instead of on the love-story, it would have been better. I think that was a major strength in The Canterville Ghost: it paid attention to the ghost, but also spent time making fun of the clash between American and British ideals.  But since Ghost Goes West spent so much time being wishy washy about money and Debts on the mainland, it unfortunately becomes forgettable.

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