The Living Ghost (1942) Is Frightful
The DVD cover art is not the best thing about The Living Ghost…oh, wait a minute…yes, it is. It’s the title that’s not the best thing—although most of the characters live until the end of the movie, there is no ghost. This gem, directed by William Beaudine—the famed director of such classics as Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Cuban Fireball, and Jiggs and Maggie in Jackpot Jitters, wasn’t sure if it wanted to be a horror film, a film noir murder mystery, or a comedy. By combining all three it became a triple disappointment.
Perhaps “disappointment” is too strong a word, for as terrible as The Living Ghost is, it does entertain on a sub-moronic level. Featuring a cast familiar only to its families, The Living Ghost represents a giant step backward in the sciences of the brain and medical diagnostics (even for 1942!).
Wealthy Walter Craig disappears, and some idiot from the police department suggests that they hire ex-investigator Nick Trayne (James Dunn) who now dresses up as a swami and listens to people’s problem for $2 an hour (obviously not a psychiatrist—for one thing, 1940s shrinks all had Austrian accents) to find the missing man because he is a crack detective (or should that be “cracked”?). A nut is what he is, and a wise-cracking one at that. In addition to his swami stint, he has absolutely no interest in solving cases. Yep, he’s the guy I’d recommend.
When Trayne shows up at the Craig estate, the eight people living there (a wife, a daughter and her significant other, a psychic and her significant other, a friend, a secretary, and a creepy butler) all decide to be uncooperative and go to bed. Trayne is shown to his room—after all, aren’t all detectives live-ins?—and the next day he falls in love with the secretary.Continued on the next page