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  Headless Ghost, The You'd Be Better Off With Rentaghost
Year: 1959
Director: Peter Graham Scott
Stars: Richard Lyon, Liliane Sottane, David Rose, Clive Revill, Jack Allen, Alexander Archdale, John Stacy, Carl Bernard, Mary Barclay, Trevor Barnett, Donald Bisset, Josephine Blake, Patrick Connor, Norah Hammond
Genre: Comedy, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Three students, Bill (Richard Lyon), Ingrid (Liliane Sottane) and Ronnie (David Rose), are on a coach trip to Ambrose Castle in England, for though they are studying in London, the boys hail from the United States and Ingrid is Danish. On arrival, they follow the other tourists into the great hall of the building, given the guided tour by the head of the place, the Earl of Ambrose (Jack Allen) and listen attentively to the information he offers about it, though what truly fires up their imagination is the part about the castle being haunted. They contrive there and then to try and spot one of those ghosts...

The Headless Ghost was a largely undistinguished British production which came between two more interesting periods in writer-producer Herman Cohen's career. Not long before he had been conjuring up the likes of I Was a Teenage Werewolf in America for the delectation of the drive-in market, but then he made a move to Britain and began a series of lurid horrors which looked ahead to the loosening censorship on its way at the other end of the nineteen-sixties. This little item, on the other hand, could easily have been slotted into a kiddie matinee as the typical Children's Film Foundation efforts were.

Which meant for its audience a bunch of lame jokes that the under tens would best appreciate - back then, that was, any under tens watching this nowadays would be bored out of their tiny minds, and more than likely most over tens would be as well. Even back on its release, where in spite of its smothering mildness it was treated as a horror picture for grown-ups, there can't have been many emerging from the cinema and saying to themselves, well, the A movie wasn't up to much, but that B movie was a stunner! More than probably it would have been something to endure as a tedious, unmemorable Britflick to get to the more glamorous Hollywood business afterwards.

There were compensations, well, there was one compensation, and he was seasoned character actor, board-treading Shakespearean thesp and all round good egg Clive Revill, already established on the stage but just commencing a long-lasting screen career. He played the ghost - but not the headless ghost of the title, he was another one who makes his presence felt to the trio when they make certain to be left behind by the coach party so they may investigate the supposed hauntings. No supposed about it, Clive emerges from a painting as one of the Earl's ancestors and engages them in conversation. Which is where the headless ghost enters the frame, as the spectral Earl explains one of his relatives was executed and will not rest until he is reunited with his bonce.

The solution? It's simple enough, just find a secret chamber and it should be there, all ready to be reattached. Quite why the spooks needed a live person to do their bidding when they not only were able to walk through walls but were more aware of the castle layout than the three friends ever could have been was left unexplained, but really was an excuse to drag out what might have been an inoffensive half hour short into a very near interminable hour. Once the premise was set up, you had to sit through some extremely basic running around and bland comedy hijinks involving such old standbys as an animated suit of armour or a bed which cries out in the voice of a murder victim until it drew to a very predictable close. Lyon was the biggest star here thanks to his adoptive family's popular radio show, though some have pondered whatever happened to typical of the era Brigitte Bardot-alike, the non-Danish-sounding Sottane. Otherwise, this plainly wasn't designed to last. Music by Gerard Schurmann.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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