Invisible Ghost (1941)
Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young, John McGuire & Clarence Muse
Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
The first of nine Monogram Pictures features produced by genre dabbler and schlockmeister Sam Katzman (Earth VS. The Flying Saucers, The Giant Claw), Invisible Ghost combines the realms of psychological horror and the murder mystery for an evocative gothic fused tale guided by one of the genre’s finest presences. Continuing to mourn the loss of his unfaithful wife, the friendly Mr. Kessler (Bela Lugosi, Dracula) is plagued with homicidal urges after being hypnotized by the image of his wife who, unbeknownst to the good doctor, lives in secret in their cellar. As several murders take place at Kessler’s estate with his daughter’s (Polly Ann Young in her final film role) beau wrongly sentenced to death for them, the convicted’s twin brother (John McGuire of Sands of Iowa Jima fame playing double duty as both Ralph and Paul Dickinson) arrives on the scene searching for answers. Predominately set at the scene of the crimes, Invisible Ghost juggles its approaches in terror efficiently with its rather absurd premise of fatal secrets and a hallucinatory tone taken seriously by its players. Turning an otherwise monotonous role into a worthy watch, Bela Lugosi dominates the film with his Jekyll & Hydish personality and striking stare making his juxtaposition as a loving father to an oblivious sinister strangler a grisly delight. Easily digestible and enjoyably spooky, Invisible Ghost remains a well-constructed and moody descent into unknowing madness.
Newly remastered, KL Studio Classics presents Invisible Ghost with a 1080p transfer, retaining its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Expected of lower-budgeted cheapies from the era, the black-and-white photography bears several instances of film degradation in the later portion of the film while, the overwhelming majority of its hour long runtime greatly impresses with striking black levels observed during nighttime sequences and in the suits of the actors. In addition, detail seen in closeups of Lugosi as he slowly descends upon his sleeping maid are excellent and earn the transfer its highest marks of quality. Equipped with a serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is handled decently with “S” sounds registering particularly sharp while, a mild surface of hiss is detected throughout. Supplemental material includes, an Audio Commentary with Film Historians Tom Weaver, Gary Rhodes & Dr. Robert J. Kiss that finds Weaver predominately guiding the well-researched track with Rhodes and Kiss relegated to guest appearances that still add quality value to their portions of the film. Lastly, Trailers for White Zombie (2:46), The Black Sleep (1:36), The Undying Monster (1:04) and Donovan’s Brain (2:02) are also included. Graciously handled to the best of their abilities, KL Studio Classics brings Invisible Ghost back from the dead much to the appreciation of Lugosi completists. A juggling act of horror approaches that give the film a peculiar style and iconic star with plenty to chew into, Invisible Ghost is a gothic gas worth being hypnotized by.