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Ghost Ship (1952)
2nd Sep 07
A young couple head to the harbour in order to take a look at a yacht they have intentions of buying and turning into their first home.
Having newly arrived in England, they are unaware of the media attention this particular yacht, the Cyclops, has received. They buy the Cyclops despite warnings that the boat is haunted. However, once aboard the yacht they start to notice strange occurrences and the staff they hire to help maintain the boat don't seem to be sticking around very long.
Can Margaret Thornton convince her sceptical husband that they need help or are the two doomed to repeat the fate of the previous owners?
The subject of remakes is a touchy one for many horror fans. It seems nothing is sacred to today’s Hollywood studios when it comes to taking the genre's most beloved movies and dressing them up for the ADD generation, as recent remakes of The Omen, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Wicker Man have proved.
However, it's hard to deny the interest and money they generate, which plays an important role in keeping the genre relevant. Another positive aspect of remakes is that they encourage a whole new set of people to seek out the original versions. Had it not been for the fairly recent, glossy remake, it's unlikely I'd ever have ended up watching Ghost Ship.
Ghost Ship seems an odd choice for a remake. It's hardly the most notorious horror movie, nor is it a particularly original concept. In fact, this film very firmly belongs to its time. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I personally enjoy the aesthetic quality black and white can offer and this movie is a pleasure to look at. It's also nice to watch something that has plenty of stationary shots and long takes, a refreshing change from the hyperactive editing and ever-shaking cameras most modern horror movies employ.
Unfortunately, in some ways Ghost Ship hasn't aged so well. The story is one so familiar to modern audiences, particularly post J-horror, that you'll struggle to find anything here you haven't already seen done more effectively, thanks to advances in technology. You'll also find the acting a little stiff, as you frequently will should you delve into pre-1960's cinema.
Perhaps most at odds with modern society (if not modern cinema) is the condescending manner in which the female characters are presented. Every bit the helpless damsels in need of rescuing by their big, strong husbands, it's difficult not to wonder if feminism only exists as an angry reaction to this specific film.
If you're seeing this film having already seen the more recent adaptation, you'll most likely notice early on that the two films actually have very little in common at all. Different boats, different ghosts, different story. It's also interesting to note how different the two films are in tone. This original version is, at times, a very light-hearted affair. In fact, taking the score into consideration, there are points where it's down right whimsical. This actually works very much in the film's favour as, without the modern trimmings to make things look and feel more real, the easy atmosphere never insists you take it too seriously.
About three quarters of the way through, Ghost Ship mis-steps dramatically by explaining that the 'ghosts' aren't really ghosts at all. In fact, the whole thing gets a bit 'How To' sciencey for a few minutes. The unfortunate outcome of this is that we know that the main characters are in no actual peril. It becomes much more difficult to care about the climax of a film when you know that if it doesn't quite go to plan the protagonists will, at worst, end up mildly inconvenienced. This approach is taken in the hope that intrigue in the story will be enough to keep you interested and it probably is, although it's a close call.
Whilst it may get some things wrong, the movie gets most of the important stuff right. If you're looking for an entertaining, nostalgic slice of B-Movie horror history, Ghost Ship could be just the film for you.
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