Invisible Ghost (1941)

Genres - Crime, Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Apr 25, 1941 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 66 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Hans J. Wollstein

Let's make one thing crystal clear about Invisible Ghost: This ridiculous melodrama, disingenuously sold as a horror movie, contains no ghosts and no one is rendered invisible. In fact, had Betty Compson, who apparently casts a spell on Bela Lugosi just by prowling around in his backyard, actually remained unseen, poor Bela wouldn't have turned into a multiple murderer in the first place. This inconsistency -- one among many -- cannot be dismissed simply because Joseph H. Lewis knows how to frame a shot nicely from inside a fireplace. Lewis, of course, is preferable from almost any Poverty Row hack, but there is really nothing he can do with a script so totally lacking in anything resembling actual life. Four people are murdered in Lugosi's house within the film's scant 64 minutes or so, and previous slayings are discussed, yet no one seems at all upset -- or even mildly worried -- over the carnage, and the victims are never referred to again. Poor John McGuire is convicted of murder and executed on the flimsiest of evidence, but, as Virginia's (Polly Ann Young) new boyfriend, would he even have been familiar with the house at the time of the previous killings? The actors do what they can to survive such silliness, but silent screen star Betty Compson cannot rescue a role that has her stalking about a cheap haunted house set stealing scraps from a chicken dinner. And the great African-American character star Clarence Muse is forced to speak screenwriters Helen and Al Martin's portentous lines as if performing Shakespeare. As for Bela himself, the Hungarian star actually offers one of his more restrained performances and the role of Kessler remains a favorite among his still legion of fans.