The Ghost (1963 film)
The Ghost (Italian title: Lo Spettro) is a 1963 Italian horror film directed by Riccardo Freda, using the pseudonym "Robert Hampton". The film stars Barbara Steele and Peter Baldwin. Other titles for the film include The Spectre and Lo Spettro del Dr. Hichcock.
|Directed by||Riccardo Freda|
|Screenplay by||Oreste Biancoli|
|Music by||Francesco De Masi|
|Edited by||Ornella Micheli|
|Distributed by||Dino de Laurentiis (Italy)|
|Box office||₤175 million|
In 1910 in Scotland, the ailing Doctor Hichcock (Elio Jotta), confined to his wheelchair, presides over seances in which his housekeeper, Catherine (Harriet Medin), acts as the medium. According to Hichcock's theory, shots of lethal poison followed shortly after by an antidote could cure his physical disability. The younger Doctor Livingstone (Peter Baldwin) stays with him in the house to regularly administer this dangerous treatment.
Hichcock's wife Margaret (Barbara Steele) finds living with her husband increasingly unbearable. Possibly suspected by her husband, she is having an affair with Livingstone. She implores him to murder Hichcock, which he eventually does by injecting the poison but not administering the antidote. During the distribution of Hichcock's estate, Margaret and Livingstone learn Hichcock only recently changed his last will and testament. Margaret gets the house and its contents, but only a third share of her husband's bonds, shares, currency and jewels, which are kept in the doctor's safe.
Upon Catherine telling them that the key to the safe containing the valuables was in the jacket buried with him, they secretly visit his vault, open his coffin and retrieve it, intending to take a larger share of the valuables. Livingstone opens the safe while Margaret is out of the room with Catherine. It is empty. Later, they hear Hichcock's voice calling to them and experience other poltergeist phenomena, including the appearance of the ghost-like Hichcock himself. One night, Catherine, apparently possessed by Hichcock, speaks in his voice and tells Margaret that his valuables are buried beneath his coffin. She returns to the vault to find a golden box. Upon opening it, she cuts herself. The box contains nothing but a skull. Catherine then insinuates that Livingstone took the valuables for himself when he opened the safe in Margaret's absence. Margaret finds jewels in his bag, much to Livingstone's surprise. Margaret slashes him to death with a razor and drags him into the cellar where she uses kerosene from a lamp to burn his body.
Margaret is drawn to Hichcock's study by the ringing of his handbell, where she contemplates suicide by poison, pours it into a glass of gin, but does not drink it. She starts feeling ill and sits down when Hichcock appears, alive and no longer disabled. He tells her that he poisoned the box with a non-lethal dose of curare, which is now quickly paralyzing her. Hichcock shoots his accomplice Catherine dead and makes Margaret touch the gun to incriminate her. Finally, he toasts Margaret's ill health with the glass of gin she poured for herself, and drinks it. When he realizes it is poisoned, he begs Margaret for the antidote. She laughs and destroys the vial of antidote. Hichcock seals himself inside a secret room behind the bookshelf, locking himself in. The police arrive and arrest the laughing and paralyzed Margaret for Catherine's murder, carrying her out of the room.
When Canon Owens, the parish priest, arrives and hears muffled noises from behind the library bookshelf, he addresses Hichcock's portrait with the words, "I told you, Doctor Hichcock, the devil is a very real person." He then leaves the room.
The Italian production crew are credited by aliases. The music score is credited to "Franck Wallace", whom Italian magazine Bianco e Nero and the Monthly Film Bulletin claim is a pseudonym for Franco Mannino. When Beat Records re-released the score, they found the tapes credited to Francesco De Masi who is not credited in the film.
Riccardo Freda had directed Barbara Steele in the horror film The Horrible Dr. Hichcock the previous year. In that film Steele's character was also married to a Doctor Hichcock, but neither character had any connection with those in The Ghost.
The Ghost was released in Italy on March 30, 1963, where it was distributed by Dino de Laurentiis. The film grossed a total of £175 million lira on its theatrical release. Freda said that the censors did not object to any of the film's content.
In a contemporary review, The Monthly Film Bulletin stated that "Pictorially the film is a knock-out" while the dubbed dialogue is "more inept than ever". The review concluded that The Ghost was "a splendid exercise in Grand Guignol"Leonard Maltin awarded the film two and a half out of a possible four stars complimenting the film's atmosphere, calling it a "Measured, moody horror, let down by routine plot".
- Curti 2015, p. 88.
- Flavia Brizio-Skov, Popular Italian Cinema: Culture and Politics in a Postwar Society, IB Tauris 2011
- Curti 2015, p. 89.
- Curti 2015, p. 91.
- John Hamilton, Beasts in the Cellar: The Exploitation Film Career of Tony Tenser, FAB Press 2005
- "The Ghost". American Film Institute. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
- "Spettro, Lo". Monthly Film Bulletin. London. 31 (360): 78–79. 1964. ISSN 0027-0407.
- Maltin 2015, p. 246. sfn error: no target: CITEREFMaltin2015 (help)
- Curti, Roberto (2015). Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957-1969. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476619897.
- Leonard Maltin (2015). Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965. Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-14-751682-4.