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The Ghost Walks
(1934 Film)

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About This Film
Alternate Titles For This Film
Fun Facts

John Miljan as Prescott Ames, the playwright.
June Collyer as Gloria Shaw, Prescott's fiance.
Richard Carle as Herman Wood, the famous stage producer.
Johnny Arthur as Homer Erskine, Wood's effeminate assistant.
Henry Kolker as Dr. Kent.
Donald Kirke as Terry Gray.
Eve Southern as Beatrice.
Wilson Benge as Jarvis.
Douglas Gerrard as Carroway, the English butler.
Spencer Charters as the Sanitarium Guard, later discovered as the maniac.
Jack Shutta as Head Guard.
Harry Strang as Guard.

Director- Frank Strayer
Writer- Charles Belden (original screenplay)

The Ghost Walks (1934)
:  Surprisingly good old murder mystery movie, in which NO murder is ever committed!  Believe it or not, this film actually does have some surprises, even for the seasoned mystery movie buff.  The acting is pretty decent.  No one is terrible, although John Miljan is a bit hokey in parts.  He mostly played villains in film and television, so I don't think playing a straight-arrow leading man was his forte.  Fun to see is June Collyer as the female lead.  She is the sister of Bud Collyer, voice of Superman in radio and cartoons.  She was also, even at this time, the wife of comedian Stu Erwin.  They both later achieved greater fame as TV's real-life sitcom couple on "The Stu Erwin Show" aka "The Trouble With Father".

    Eve Southern as Beatrice is pretty.  Only two years later, she was forced to retire from films when a car accident broke her back.  This is a shame, because she acted fairly solid in films for a twenty year period.  At the time of this movie, she was 36.  But the two actors that really carry this movie are Richard Carle and Johnny Arthur.  They play, respectively, the grumpy old producer and his effeminate assistant.  Richard Carle is a funny old fart!  That's the best way to describe him.  He was in lots of stuff.  Johnny Arthur was also a prominent character actor.  I like him!  He normally does comedy parts, playing real sissies.  Very funny!  Both he and Carle are gifted with great comic timing.

    Director Frank Strayer had a pretty prolific career and would become most famous as the first (and highest regarded) director of the "Blondie" film series.  He seemed to have a fascination with both the mystery and comedy genres, often mixing the two.  A great example of this, outside of this film, is "Blondie Has Servant Trouble" (1940) in which the Bumsteads stay in a "haunted" house only to uncover a mystery.  Writer Charles Belden was also pretty accomplished.  He, too, seemed to favor mystery and comedy.  They work pretty darn well together, creatively at least.  I don't know what their working relationship was like.


    Prescott Ames (John Miljan) is a struggling playwright with a mystery play called "The Ghost Walks" that he wants to present to famous stage producer Herman Wood (Richard Carle).  While driving in a terrible storm, Ames, Wood, and Wood's sissy assistant Homer Erskine (Johnny Arthur), are forced to stay at a creepy old mansion for the night.  Ames knows that this house belongs to his friend, Dr. Kent (Richard Kolker), and that he was supposed to be here this night for another engagement.  Left with no alternative, Ames and company must stay at the house until the storm clears.  In the meantime, all guests of the house are to participate in a strange, annual ritual.  Two years ago, John, the husband of Beatrice, was murdered at the dinner table.  Each year, on this date, Beatrice acts very strange and weird things happen to make everyone believe John's ghost is wandering the house.  This night, Beatrice is determined to learn of John's murderer once and for all.  After so much happens, Wood and Erskine flee upstairs, ready to pack their belongings and leave the house.  They soon discover what we find out a little earlier:  Everyone in the house except for Wood and Erskine are actors, and they were rehearsing the first act of Ames' play!

    Something goes terribly wrong, however, and Beatrice, who was only to disappear, is found dead!  How or why or by whom is a mystery.  Ames and his cast of actors come clean to Woods and Erskine, but they're stupid enough to think that they're still putting on a play.  Ames admits that this is really his house, and he's been renting it for a month.  It formerly belonged to a psychotic surgeon who, after butchering his many victims, was finally arrested and executed.  He was able to get it cheap because no one felt safe enough to buy it or rent it.  Ames only rented this house as a setting for the grand rehearsal of his proposed play.

    A guard from a nearby insane asylum comes into the house in search of an escaped mental patient who has been known to kill people.  He, himself, acts very odd.  He tells everyone right away that he thinks the psychopath is hiding somewhere in the house, but is uncertain of his motives.

    Then, Beatrice's body goes missing!  Next, Terry disappears.  Then Gloria, and finally Herman Wood.  It is discovered that there are all kinds of hidden passageways, tunnels, and rooms.  The psychopath is found (it's the guard, duh!) with the four missing people.  Beatrice was never dead, only given a powerful drug that made it appear she was dead.  We know Gloria was chloroformed, and assume that the men were, too.  The maniac is recreating the events of the mad doctor who once lived in this house.  It isn't long before Ames and the remaining guests, and two actual guards from the sanitarium, come and find the nut.  He's taken back to the sanitarium before he can do any real harm, and it's a happy ending!  Wood does not want the play Ames proposed, but rather a play based on THESE events.  I like it that no one actually dies.  This aspect still keeps the film within the realm of a light-hearted comedy.  It just works.  And it goes against the cliche of people getting killed left and right in a mystery movie.

    I have only two criticisms.  First, John Miljan seems to come off a bit hokey at times in this movie.  He's still good enough, as is the rest of the cast, but he did seem to be "not into it".  Second, it was a bit too obvious that the guard was the psycho, right from his first appearance.  To make it more suspenseful, they should have had the guard act straight.  I don't know if the filmmakers wanted us to know he was the psycho right away, or what, but it wasn't overly bright to do for a mystery movie.

    All in all, though, this is a fun little movie and I recommend it to fans of classic mystery movies along the order of "Charlie Chan", "Sherlock Holmes", and similar films.

Alternate Titles For This Film:

Fun Facts:

Made by Invincible Pictures Corp.  As far as I know, Invincible Pictures lasted only from 1932-1936.

Released on December 1, 1934 in the USA.