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brianmartin

Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

The Ghost Train (1941), directed by Walter Forde

The Ghost Train - Arthur Askey, Kathleen Harrison

WWII era film, about a disparate group of men and women who are forced to spend the night in a train station that local legend claims is haunted. One of the stranded passengers is an old woman with a pet parrot named Polly. Another, the star of the film, is a vaudeville comedian who, speaking to the parrot, quips, "I say, I wonder if I could teach you to talk. I wonder if you could say 'Heil Hitler.' Eh? No, not with a beak like that."

Movies made during World War II have their own special charm. That isn't really the right word for it, or it shouldn't be, but history buffs will know what I mean. Here, in this British feature, in addition to the Hitler joke, we've got ration books and a pointed reference to the blackout. We've also got a young couple about to be married, a cricketer, and a handsome man chasing a beautiful girl. Funny how, even in wartime, life goes on. (Funny, too, that the cricketer is the girl's cousin, which isn't enough to stop the handsome man from wondering if the two of them aren't involved.)

Arthur Askey, already a famous British comedian by the time this movie was made, turns in a remarkable performance, but what I liked best about him is his character. He plays the clown without actually being one. In one early scene, Askey tries to liven up the gathering by winding up a phonograph and singing a song. The cricketer gets up from his game of chess with another passenger and tosses the phonograph out the door, smashing it to bits. After taking in what has just happened, Askey saunters over to the chessboard, picks it up, and tosses it into the fireplace. (When the cricketer is about to get violent, it's his cousin who tells him to stop, that, after all, "you started it.") Askey's small, bespectacled, and inveterately goofy, but he's neither a coward nor a fool.

And somehow, despite Askey's almost non-stop patter, this movie manages a bit of actual suspense. The plot thickens when the old stationmaster, after warning them about the legend of the train that crashed on a nearby bridge a half century earlier, turns up dead. But make no mistake, this isn't a creepy thriller by any means. It's a pleasant ghost story with just enough atmosphere and laughs to keep you entertained for 90 minutes.