Love on the Shattered Lens: Rapture (dir by John Guillermin)

The 1965 film, Rapture, is an odd one.

It takes place in France, largely at an isolated home sitting on a cliff above the Brittany coast.  Frederick Larbaud (Melvyn Douglas) is a former judge who has largely retreated from society.  He lives in his house with his teenager daughter, Agnes (Patricia Gozzi) and his promiscuous housekeeper, Karen (Gunnel Lindbloom).  He’s a stern man, one who is obviously struggling to overcome a vaguely defined personal tragedy.  He is very overprotective of his daughter, Agnes.

As for Agnes, she alternates between moments of childish immaturity and moments of surprising clarity.  She’s the type who still plays with dolls but who also casually tosses them over the cliff so that they can shatter on the rocks below.  She seems to be naive and innocent but, at the same time, she’s also capable of blackmailing Karen and threatening to tell her father that Karen’s boyfriend sneaks into the house at night.  When the sheltered Agnes gets her father’s permission to make a scarecrow for the garden, she throws herself into the work, even going so far as to flirt with the scarecrow after it’s been built.

Meanwhile, a sailor named Joseph (Dean Stockwell) has been arrested for getting into a fight during a drunken night on the town.  While he’s being transported to jail, the prison bus runs off the road.  Joseph escapes from the bus and runs up a hill, passing by Frederick, Agnes, and Karen.  Though the police manage to seriously wound Joseph, he still escapes.

Later that night, during a violent storm, Agnes is shocked to see that her scarecrow has vanished.  While she’s out searching for it, she comes across a delirious Joseph.  Because Joseph has stolen the scarecrow’s clothes, Agnes decides that her scarecrow has come to life and, as a result, Joseph belongs to her.  Surprisingly, Frederick expresses no reservations about allowing Joseph to stay at the house while he recovers from his gunshot wound.

Once Joseph recovers, he explains to Frederick what happened and says that he should probably turn himself in and hope for the best.  Frederick, however, disagrees.  It turns out that Frederick has an agenda of his own and part of that agenda is revealing that brutality of the police.  He continues to allow Joseph to hide out at his house but little does Frederick know that Joseph is falling in love with Agnes (and, of course, Agnes still thinks that Joseph is her scarecrow come to life).

Rapture took me by surprise.  When the film started, I honestly thought it was going to be unbearably pretentious and I wasn’t exactly filled with confidence when I discovered that the film was directed by John Guillermin, a prolific British director whose career spanned from the 50s and the 80s but whose overall output is not particularly highly regarded among film historians.  With its obvious debt to Ingmar Bergman, Rapture did not seem like the type of movie that one would expect to be successfully directed by the 1960s equivalent of Taylor Hackford.  And, it should be said, that the first fourth of the film is rather pretentious and a bit silly.  The black-and-white cinematography is frequently gorgeous and atmospheric but Agnes’s eccentricity often feels overwritten and it seems to take forever for Joseph to actually show up at the house.

However, things get better.  The film, itself, doesn’t become any less pretentious but eventually Joseph starts to fall for Agnes and the chemistry between Dean Stockwell and Patricia Gozzi is strong enough that it carries the viewer over the film’s rough spots.  The film becomes less about how strange Agnes is and more about a sheltered girl falling in love for the first time and, freed from the inconsistency that marred her characterization during the first part of Rapture, Patricia Gozzi’s performance starts to click as Agnes becomes relatable and even sympathetic.

The film hits a high point when Joseph and Agnes try to start a life for themselves away from Agnes’s father and we watch a lengthy montage of their steadily deteriorating relationship.  In a manner of minutes, we witness how quickly the intrusion of the real world threatens to cause their too perfect romance to go awry.  Most of the montage is made up of overhead shots and it captures the feeling of two naive lovers being overwhelmed by the difficulties of living in the real world.  With each movement of the camera, we feel Agnes and Joseph’s world getting a little bit more claustrophobic and a little more threatening.

The film ends on a sad note, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone watching.  From the minute that Agnes leads a wounded Joseph into the house, we know that their love is doomed.  That said, it’s still a rather odd ending and one that raises more questions than it answers.  It’s a strange ending for a strange film and it’s one that will stick with you long after you watch it.

Halloween Havoc! Extra: THE VAMPIRE BAT (Majestic 1933) Complete Horror Movie!

cracked rear viewer

1933’s THE VAMPIRE BAT isn’t a Universal Horror movie, but it sure comes damn close! This independent feature from Majestic Pictures contains a number of Universal Horror stars, including Lionel Atwill , Melvyn Douglas (THE OLD DARK HOUSE ), Lionel Belmore (FRANKENSTEIN ), and a positively Renfield-like performance from the great Dwight Frye – not to mention KING KONG’s main squeeze Fay Wray as our heroine! Majestic also rented some of the standing sets from FRANKENSTEIN and THE OLD DARK HOUSE to film on, giving the film a real Universal feel.

The screenplay by Edward T. Lowe (who wrote Lon Chaney’s 1923 HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and the later horror entry HOUSE OF DRACULA) concerns the village of Kleinschloss up in arms over a series of gruesome murders that point to the presence of a vampire in their midst, with Frye’s simple-minded Herman the chief suspect. Turns out the killings…

View original post 39 more words

Happy Birthday Boris Karloff: THE OLD DARK HOUSE (Universal 1932)

cracked rear viewer

William Henry Pratt was born on November 23, 1887, but horror movie icon Boris Karloff was “born” when he teamed with director James Whale for 1931’s FRANKENSTEIN. The scary saga of a man and his monster became a big hit, and Universal Studios boss Carl Laemmle Jr. struck while the horror trend was hot, quickly teaming the pair in an adaptation of J.B. Priestley’s 1927 novel THE OLD DARK HOUSE. This film was considered lost for many years until filmmaker and Whale friend Curtis Harrington discovered a print in the Universal vaults. Recently, a 4K restoration has been released courtesy of the Cohen Film Collection, and a showing aired on TCM this past Halloween. I of course, having never seen the film, hit the DVR button for a later viewing.

THE OLD DARK HOUSE has not only been restored to its former glory, but is a delightful black comedy showcasing…

View original post 994 more words

A Movie A Day #235: Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977, directed by Robert Aldrich)

In Montana, four men have infiltrated and taken over a top-secret ICBM complex.  Three of the men, Hoxey (William Smith), Garvas (Burt Young), and Powell (Paul Winfield) are considered to be common criminals but their leader is something much different.  Until he was court-martialed and sentenced to a military prison, Lawrence Dell (Burt Lancaster) was a respected Air Force general.  He even designed the complex that he has now taken over.  Dell calls the White House and makes his demands known: he wants ten million dollars and for the President (Charles Durning) to go on television and read the contents of top secret dossier, one that reveals the real reason behind the war in Vietnam.  Dell also demands that the President surrender himself so that he can be used as a human shield while Dell and his men make their escape.

Until Dell made his demands known, the President did not even know of the dossier’s existence.  His cabinet (made up of distinguished and venerable character actors like Joseph Cotten and Melvyn Douglas) did and some of them are willing to sacrifice the President to keep that information from getting out.

Robert Aldrich specialized in insightful genre films and Twilight’s Last Gleaming is a typical example: aggressive, violent, sometimes crass, and unexpectedly intelligent.  At two hours and 30 minutes, Twilight’s Last Gleaming is overlong and Aldrich’s frequent use of split screens is sometimes distracting but Twilight’s Last Gleaming is still a thought-provoking film.  The large cast does a good job, with Lancaster and Durning as clear stand-outs.  I also liked Richard Widmark as a general with his own agenda and, of course, any movie that features Joseph Cotten is good in my book!  Best of all, Twilight’s Last Gleaming‘s theory about the reason why America stayed in Vietnam is entirely credible.

The Vietnam angle may be one of the reasons why Twilight’s Last Gleaming was one of the biggest flops of Aldrich’s career.  In 1977, audiences had a choice of thrilling to Star Wars, falling in love with Annie Hall, or watching a two and a half hour history lesson about Vietnam.  Not surprisingly, a nation that yearned for escape did just that and Twilight’s Last Gleaming flopped in America but found success in Europe.  Box office success or not, Twilight’s Last Gleaming is an intelligent political thriller that is ripe for rediscovery.

Horror Film Review: Ghost Story (dir by John Irvin)


A Fred Astaire horror movie!?

Yes, indeed.  Ghost Story is a horror movie and it does indeed star Fred Astaire.  However, Fred doesn’t dance or anything like that in Ghost Story.  This movie was made in 1981 and Fred was 82 years old when he appeared in it.  Fred still gave an energetic and likable performance and, in fact, his performance is one of the few things that really does work in Ghost Story.

Fred Astaire isn’t the only veteran of Hollywood’s Golden Age to appear in Ghost Story.  Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. all appear in the movie as well.  They play four lifelong friends, wealthy men who have formed an informal little club called The Chowder Society.  They gather one a week and tell ghost stories.  Myself, I’m wondering why these four intelligent and accomplished men (one is a lawyer, another a doctor, another a politician, and another is Fred Astaire) couldn’t come up with a better name than Chowder Society.

(But I guess that’s something that people do up north.  Harvard has something called the Hasty Pudding Club, which just sounds amazingly annoying.)

Unfortunately, the members of the Chowder Society have a deep, dark secret.  Way back in the 1930s, the boys listening to too much jazz and they all ended up lusting after the mysterious and beautiful Eva Galli (Alice Krige).  As Astaire explains it, “We killed her, the Chowder Society.”

(Of course, there’s more to the story.  It was more manslaughter than murder but either way, it was pretty much the fault of the Chowder Society.)

And now, decades later, a woman named Alma (Alica Krige, again) has mysteriously appeared.  When she sleeps with David (Craig Wasson), the son of a member of the Chowder Society, David falls out of a window and ends up splattered on the ground below.  David’s twin brother, Don (also played by Craig Wasson), returns to their childhood home and attempts to make peace with his estranged father.

However, now the member of the Chowder Society are starting to die.  One falls off a bridge.  Another has a heart attack in the middle of the night.  Fred Astaire thinks that Eva has come back for revenge.  John Houseman is a little more skeptical…

I pretty much went into Ghost Story with next to no knowledge concerning what the film was about.  I thought the plot desription sounded intriguing.  As a classic film lover, I appreciated that Ghost Story was not only Fred Astaire’s final film but the final film of Douglas and Fairbanks as well.  Before he deleted his account, I had some pleasant interactions with Craig Wasson on Facebook.   I was really hoping that Ghost Story would be a horror classic.


Considering all the talent involved, Ghost Story should have been great but instead, it just fell flat.  Alice Krige is properly enigmatic as both Alma and Galli and really, the entire cast does a pretty good job.  But, with the exception of exactly three scenes, the film itself is never that scary.  (Two of those scary scenes involve a decaying corpse and it’s not that hard to make decay scary.  The other is a fairly intense nightmare sequence.)  Largely due to John Irvin’s detached direction, you never really feel any type of connection with the characters.  I mean, obviously, you don’t want to see the star of Top Hat die a terrible death but that has more to do with the eternal charm of Fred Astaire than anything that happens in Ghost Story.

Add to that, Ghost Story‘s special effects have aged terribly.  There are two scenes in which we watch different characters fall to their death and both times, you can see that little green outline that always used to appear whenever one image was super imposed on another.  It makes it a little hard to take the movie seriously.

Sadly, Ghost Story did not live up to my expectations.  At least Fred Astaire was good…

The Fabulous Forties #35: That Uncertain Feeling (dir by Ernst Lubitsch)


The 35th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was — wait a minute?  I’m on my 35th Fabulous Forties review?  Let’s see — there’s 50 films in the box set so that means that I only have 15 more of these to write and I’ll be done!  And then I can move onto the Nifty Fifties, the Sensation Sixties, the Swinging Seventies, and the Excellent Eighties!  YAY!

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, the 35th film.

First released in 1941, That Uncertain Feeling is a movie about sophisticated people doing silly things.  Socialite Jill Baker (Merle Oberon) gets the hiccups whenever she gets nervous or irritated.  Her trendy friends suggest that she try the new big thing: seeing a psychoanalyst!  At first, Jill is reluctant but eventually, she gives in to the pressures of high society and she goes to visit Dr. Vengard (Alan Mowbray).  Dr. Vengard tells her that her hiccups are a result of her marriage to Larry (Melvyn Douglas) and suggests that the best way to cure them would be to get a divorce.

At first, Jill is horrified at the suggestion.  Whatever will people think if she gets a divorce!?  However, Larry is kind of a condescending jerk.  (Or, at least, he comes across as being a jerk when viewed by 2016 standards.  By 1941 standards, I imagine he’s supposed to be quite reasonable.)  And Jill happens to meet another one of Vengard’s patients, an outspoken pianist named Alexander Sebastian (Burgess Meredith).

Soon, Jill is not only contemplating getting a divorce from Larry but perhaps marrying the eccentric Sebastian as well!  When Larry realizes that Jill is dissatisfied with their marriage and that she is attracted to Sebastian, he gives her a divorce.  He even pretends to be an abusive husband so that she can file for divorce on grounds of cruelty.  (It’s funnier than it sounds.)  Jill and Sebastian get engaged but, once Larry starts to date again, Jill realizes that she’s not quite over her ex…

I was really excited when I saw that The Uncertain Feeling was an Ernst Lubitsch film.  Lubitsch directed some of my favorite Golden Age comedies, films like Ninotchka and Heaven Can Wait.  But That Uncertain Feeling is not quite up to the standard of the other Lubitsch films that I’ve seen.  As played by Burgess Meredith, Sebastian never comes across as being a realistic rival to Larry.  The character is so cartoonishly eccentric that it becomes impossible to see what Jill sees in him.  At the same time, Larry comes across as being such a chauvinist that it’s far easier to understand why Jill would divorce him than why she would ever want to take him back.  The end result is a rare Lubitsch misfire.

However, as long as we’re talking about Lubitsch, make sure to see The Smiling Lieutenant if you get the chance.  Now, that’s a good Lubitsch film…

(And be sure to follow it up with The Love Parade...)

Cleaning Out The DVR #32: Ninotchka (dir by Ernst Lubitsch)

(For those following at home, Lisa is attempting to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing 38 films by the end of today!!!!!  Will she make it?  Keep following the site to find out!)


Oh my God, I love this movie!

First released in 1939, Ninotchka is many things.  It’s a love story.  It’s a comedy.  It’s a story of international intrigue.  It’s a political satire.  It’s a celebration of freedom.  And, perhaps most importantly, it’s a showcase for one of the greatest actresses of all time, the one and only Greta Garbo!

But you know what?  As great as Garbo is, she’s not the only worthy performer in this film.  Melvyn Douglas plays Garbo’s love interest and his performance is full of charm and class.  And guess who plays the main villain?  BELA LUGOSI!  That’s right — this was one of Lugosi’s few roles that did not require him to play a variation on his famous Dracula.  And, even if he doesn’t have a lot of scenes, Lugosi does a pretty good job in Ninotchka.  It’s interesting to see Lugosi playing an all-too real monster for once.

Ninotchka opens in Paris.  Three Russians are in town and they’re trying to sell some jewelry that was confiscated by the government during the revolution of 1917.  That’s right — they’re communists!  When they first show up in Paris, they make a big deal about hating the decadence of capitalism.  But then they meet Count Leon d’Algout (Melvyn Douglas), who proceeds to introduce them to the wonders of the free market.  Soon, the three of them are holed up in their luxurious hotel, ordering room service and having a nonstop party.

(Leon, incidentally, is working for the original owner of the jewelry.  The jewelry, as you’ve probably guessed, is what Hitchock would have called a macguffin.)

Once it becomes obvious that the first three Russians have been corrupted by western society, Ninotchka (Greta Garbo) is sent to bring them back to Moscow.  Ninotchka is a “special envoy” and, from the minute that she meets Leon, it’s obvious that she’s going to be a lot more difficult to corrupt.  For all of Leon’s charm, he cannot get Ninotchka to smile or drop her “all Marxist business” attitude.

Of course. from the minute that she first appears, we all know that Ninotchka is eventually going to loosen up and come to love both the west and Melvyn Douglas.  But what makes Garbo’s performance truly special is that we like and sympathize with Ninotchka even before she embraces decadence.  Even when Ninotchka is reciting Marxist-Leninist dogma, there’s a playfulness to the way Garbo delivers the lines.

That’s one reason why it’s so much fun to watch as Ninotchka (and Garbo) starts to actually relax and enjoy both Paris and life.  Wisely, the film doesn’t suggest that Paris has changed Ninotchka.  Instead, it merely shows that being in Paris and getting to know Leon has finally allowed her to act like the person that she was all along.

(Before her appearance in Ninotchka, Garbo was known for playing very dramatic roles.  Not only is this film about Ninotchka learning to enjoy herself.  It’s also about Garbo proving that she could play comedy just as well as she could play melodrama.)

Of course, eventually, Ninotchka and the three Russians are forced to return to Moscow and director Ernst Lubitsch does a wonderful job contrasting the glamour of freedom-loving Paris with the drabness of life under communism.  Just when it looks like Ninotchka is going to be forced to spend the rest of her life in her depressing apartment and missing the luxury of being able to wear silk stockings, her boss (Lugosi) tells her that she is being assigned somewhere else.  Ninotchka doesn’t want the assignment but, as Lugosi explains, the revolution doesn’t care what the individual wants.

Will Ninotchka and her friends ever find their way back to freedom and Leon?  Or will she remain trapped in the bureaucracy?  You’ll have to watch the film to find out!

I really liked Ninotchka.  Even 77 years after it was first released, it remains a wonderfully romantic and sweet-natured little comedy.  If you haven’t seen it, you definitely should!

Ninotchka was one of the many great films to be nominated for best picture of 1939.  However, the Oscar went to another famously romantic film, Gone With The Wind.

Cleaning Out The DVR #1: Captains Courageous (dir by Victor Fleming)


For the last few days, I’ve been desperately trying to clean out my DVR.  Ever since this year began, I have been obsessively recording movies and now, I suddenly find myself with just a few hours of space left!  Now, I know that the simple solution would be to just start erasing stuff but that’s just not the way I do things.  I recorded that stuff so you better believe I’m going to watch and review every single minute of it!

Last night, I did a quick count and discovered that I have 38 movies to watch before I can officially declare the DVR to have been “cleaned out.”  While that may sound like a lot, it’s not if you consider that — by watching and reviewing 4 movies a day — I can have the whole job done by the end of the next week!  That’s my plan and my challenge to myself.  Can I watch and review 38 movies in 10 days?

Let’s find out!

So, I started things out by watching the 1937 film, Captains Courageous.  Captains Courageous was aired on TCM as a part of their 31 Days of Oscar.  Not only was Captains Courageous nominated for best picture but it won Spencer Tracy his first Oscar.  Tracy was one of the quintessential American actors so it’s interesting to note that he won his first Oscar for playing a Portuguese fisherman who speaks in exaggeratedly broken English.

Spencer Tracy may have won the Oscar for Best Actor but his role is really a supporting one.  Instead, Captains Courageous is about an extremely spoiled, obnoxious, and annoying 15 year-old named Harvey Cheyne (Freddie Bartholomew).  From the minute that Harvey first appears on screen, it’s difficult to like him.  The son of a rich businessman (Melvyn Douglas), Harvey is hated by everyone.  His family’s butler rolls his eyes whenever Harvey calls for him.  His classmates (and, of course, Harvey attends a snooty private school) want nothing to do with him.  When his father takes him on a trans-Atlantic cruise, even the sailors seem like they want to toss him overboard.

However, before they get a chance to give him one quick shove over the railing, Harvey does their job for them.  He falls overboard and he nearly drowns before being rescued by a fisherman named Manuel (Spencer Tracy).  Manuel takes him back to the fishing schooner, where that ship’s captain (Lionel Barrymore) refuses to believe that Harvey is rich.  Since the rest of the crew quickly decides that they dislike Harvey as much as everyone else does, the captain saves Harvey from being thrown back overboard by “hiring” him as a fisherman.  And, of course, the captain makes Manuel responsible for him.

Though initially hostile, Harvey and Manuel slowly start to bond.  Harvey learns about the importance of hard work and starts to grow up.  And, eventually, it all leads to tragedy.  That’s just how things work in the movies.

As you can probably guess from the plot description above, there’s not a subtle moment to be found in Captains Courageous but, as is so often the case with 1930s Hollywood, that’s actually what makes the film appealing.  Captains Courageous wears its sentiment on its sleeve and it makes for an interesting contrast to the more cynical films of today.  While it takes a while to get used to seeing Spencer Tracy giving such a theatrical performance, he does eventually win you over.  Freddie Bartholomew is vulnerable enough to you can forgive his character for being so obnoxious.  Meanwhile, Lionel Barrymore and Mevlyn Douglas are well-cast in their supporting roles and, if you keep an eye open, you’ll see everyone from John Carradine to a young Mickey Rooney working on the schooner.  Ultimately, Captains Courageous is a well-made and likable coming-of-age film that still holds up today.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #40: One Is A Lonely Number (dir by Mel Stuart)


You’ve probably never heard of the 1972 film One Is A Lonely Number.  I certainly hadn’t until, a few weeks ago, I happened to come across it on TCM.  Like a lot of films that have apparently been forgotten by history, One Is A Lonely Number is one that deserves to be remembered.

One Is A Lonely Number opens with the end of a marriage.  James Brower (Paul Jenkins), an arrogant college professor, coldly packs his collection of vinyl records into a box and tells his wife, Amy (Trish Van Devere), that he’s filing for divorce and that he’s leaving her.  She asks him why.  He coolly mentions something about her throwing out a prized copy of Paradise Lost and then leaves the apartment.

Shocked, Amy goes to the college and asks her husband’s students if they’ve seen him.  They tell her that James canceled his final exam and has since disappeared.  At first, Amy insists that James is going to come back and denies that they’re getting a divorce.  When she finally does accept that her marriage is over, Amy is forced to be independent for the first time.

What she quickly discovers is that the world is full of people who are looking to take advantage of both her vulnerability and her naiveté.  When she goes to an employment agency, she explains that she has a degree in Art History and that she minored in Philosophy.  Frighteningly (especially in the eyes of this particular holder of a degree in Art History), all this gets Amy is a job as a lifeguard at the local pool.  When she finally find herself attracted to another man, she doesn’t discover that he’s married until the morning after.  And when she finally discovers why her husband actually left her, she discovers that he was even more of a stranger to her than she realized.

Fortunately, there are a few good spots in Amy’s life.  Her best friends Madge (Jane Elliott) and Gert (Janet Leigh) provide support.  (“Men are shit,” Gert explains at one point.)  And she strikes up a poignant friendship with a widowed grocer (Melvyn Douglas).

There are so many scenes in One Is A Lonely Number that ring true, even when viewed today.  Amy finally realizes that her marriage is over while trying on clothes and ends up sobbing by herself.  Amy, Gert, and Madge get drunk and talk about their exes, laughing away their shared pain.  Amy discovers that the man from the employment agency (played, as a disturbingly plausible creep, by Jonathan Goldsmith who is best known for being the Most Interesting Man In The World for Dos Equis) expects her to “repay” him for his help in getting her a demeaning job as a lifeguard.  Amy panics when she can’t find what’s happened to that kindly grocer.

One Is A Lonely Number moves at its own deliberate pace but it’s still one that you should watch and stick with until the end.  It’s an intelligent and well-acted movie and the film’s poignant final scene will fill you with hope.  Watch it the next time that it shows up on TCM.

Shattered Politics #45: The Changeling (dir by Peter Medak)

Changeling_ver1If you love horror movies, you have to track down and see The Changeling.

First released in 1980, The Changeling stars George C. Scott as John Russell, a composer.  At the start of the film, he watches helplessly as both his wife and his daughter are killed in a horrific auto accident.  The grieving John leaves his New York home and relocates to Seattle, Washington.  With the help of a sympathetic realtor, Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere), John finds and rents a previously abandoned Victorian mansion.

At first, it seems that John is alone with his grief.  But, as you can probably guess, it quickly becomes apparent that John isn’t alone in his house.  Windows shatter.  Doors slam.  And, most dramatically, every night a mysterious banging sound echoes through the house.  Slowly, John comes to suspect that his house might be haunted…

And, of course, it is!  It’s no spoiler to tell you that because the film is admirably straight forward about being a ghost story.  And what a clever ghost story it is.  I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll just say that the story behind the ghost involves a powerful family, an age-old scandal, and a powerful U.S. Senator (played, with a mixture of poignant sadness and menace, by Melvyn Douglas).

The Changeling is a very well-done and effective ghost story.  For the most part, director Peter Medak emphasizes atmosphere over easy shocks, the end result being a film that maintains a steady feeling of dread and sticks with you long after the final credit rolls up the screen.  George C. Scott is well-cast as John Russell, capturing both the character’s grief and his curiosity.  (There’s actually a very interesting subtext to the film, in that investigating death actually gives John a reason to live.)  At the time the film was made, he was married to Trish Van Devere and the two of them have a very likable chemistry.  And, as previously stated, Melvyn Douglas makes for a great quasi-villain.

(It’s interesting to compare Douglas’s intimidating work here with the far more sympathetic performances that he gave, around the same time, in Being There and The Seduction of Joe Tynan.)

My favorite scene in The Changeling comes when John and Claire hold a séance in order to try to discover what the ghost wants.  The séance team is made up one woman who asks questions, one woman who channels the spirit and writes down his answers, and one man who reads the answers after they’re written.  It’s a wonderfully effective scene, dominated by the eerie sounds of questions being asked, answers being scribbled, and then being shakily read aloud.  It’s probably one of the best cinematic séances that I’ve ever seen.

The Changeling is a wonderful mix of political intrigue and paranormal horror. It was also the first film ever to win a Genie award for Best Canadian Film, which just goes to prove the 90% of all good things come from Canada.