Thursday, October 4, 2012

AKA Ghost Story: "Madhouse Mansion" (1974)

In 1930's England, three university chums are reunited at an old mansion for a weekend of hunting.

One of the men, Talbot (the odd one), begins having trouble with an old doll he finds in his room. It seems to have a mind of its own. The house is appropriately creepy, having been abandoned years before by its previous occupants.

As the weekend progresses, Talbot suddenly finds himself as a spectator to some spectres. He watches scenes unfold from many years before that occurred in the house, yet when this happens, none of the ghosts see him. In these scenes, Marianne Faithfull is a young woman committed to the local insane asylum because her brother feels some urges that would better be spent on a non-blood relation. Talbot finds the doll belonged to Faithfull. Committed against her will, Faithfull escapes and has her revenge on her brother at the same time Talbot and his companion try to leave the manor.

Stephen Weeks, responsible for Sean Connery's worst film, "Sword of the Valiant," is completely unfocused in this very boring ghost story. The fish eye lens is used ad nauseum, and Weeks forgets to make the film scary. The insane asylum scenes, while brief, provide the only chills.

The writers can never make up their minds as to what and who is doing the haunting. Is the doll haunted? Is Talbot insane? The ghost cast is huge, are all of them ghosts or is this the memory of a few? If the house is haunted, how can Talbot psychically leap to the asylum, which is some distance away? Why does Talbot space out for minutes at a time, and his companions do not notice? Why doesn't Talbot tell the other two what he sees? Instead, we get some very dry, very boring scenes that consist mostly of the men deciding what to eat for breakfast.

Faithfull is okay, but she is not given much of a character to play. The rest of the very British cast does their best in what should have been an old-fashioned ghost story, but just turns old.

Aside from the too few chills, I cannot recommend "Madhouse Mansion." (* *) out of five stars.