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Ghost Story/B, B

US/1981/Color/Widescreen 1.85:1/Mono/111 minutes/Directed by John Irvin/Starring Craig Wasson, Fred Astaire/Universal/31 Chaps/Theatrical Trailer/$34.98

Ghost Story is a well constructed tale of the macabre. While there are some horrific moments when the make-up folks get to strut their stuff, the horror derives from the story line.

Like many ghost stories, this one starts on the proper traditional foot, in a dark room where tales are woven. I never quite got the reason behind the group who calls themselves The Chowder Society, a group of four men from a New England town meet regularly to tell dark tales of dark nights, but presumably their fascination relates to a past that binds the quartet of men together. Now the past is about to call in its debt as death moves closer to the quartet when horrifying visions plague their nights. First the twin son of Chowder member Edward Wanderly(Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.)dies under mysterious circumstances. Then Wanderly himself hurls himself from a bridge to his icy death. Who will be next and why is this happening? Wanderly’s other son arrives on the scene to help find out.

The four senior members of The Chowder Society are played by men who long ago saw there prime screen days. Fred Astaire, Fairbanks, Melvyn Douglas and John Houseman are the quartet of tale tellers who find themselves revisited by their past. I always like to see Fred Astaire in the occasional straight role. He’s just as graceful without the fabulous feet in this film at the twilight of his career. Astaire’s screen charm as Ricky Hawthorne helps make this a friendly ghost story. The real starring role rests on the slumped shoulders of Craig Wasson. Though given the opportunity in several high profile productions, like Brian DePalma’s Body Double, Wasson never finds favor with the camera. His performances all seem workmanlike└p┬lvyn Douglas doesn’t have too much to do as John Jeffrey and Houseman playing John Sears delivers his lines in his typically halting style. It’s left to Astaire and lovely Alice Krige, playing the mystery lady, to furnish the most enjoyable performances.

The laser disc transfer does well enough with pedestrian film elements. Some scenes are slightly soft and others have a bit much grain, but Ghost Story is mostly sharp. The sound is undistorted and undistinguished.