The Headless Ghost (1959)

The Headless Ghost is set in London in England where the centuries old Ambrose Castle is a popular tourist attraction, three students Bill (Richard Lyon), Ingrid (Liliane Sottane) & Ronnie (David Rose) are taking a guided tour when talk of ghost’s pique their interest. The current Earl of Ambrose (Jack Allen) claims the Castle is haunted so Bill, Ingrid & Ronnie decide to hide until everyone else has left & spend the entire night there to either prove or disprove the existence of ghost’s which might make for good school work, or something like that. Once the three friends are alone in Ambrose Castle at night they quickly discover that ghost’s do exist & are greeted by the ghost of the Fourth Earl of Ambrose (Clive Revill) who explains that another Earl of Ambros named Malcolm is cured to walk the Castle for eternity after being beheaded & that only the return of his skull will let the Ambrose family finally rest in peace but the evil Sir Randolph (Alexander Archdale) likes eternal ‘life’ & doesn’t want the curse lifted at all…

This English production was directed by Peter Graham Scott & is a fairly childish supernatural comedy that I felt might have been more effective had it concentrated on scares rather than laughs, the friendly ghost concept just doesn’t do it for really & the three bumbling students are trapped between being painted as heroic & bumbling. Amazingly at only a brief sixty two minute duration The Headless Ghost still feels padded & I know that I was hoping for it to finish long before it actually did, there’s a fair amount of padding like the totally random dance scene & the Earl of Ambrose’s wife turning up to lecture him for a couple of minutes before completely disappearing & Sir Randolph the evil ghost also only appears in one scene & really doesn’t get to do much at all & he makes little attempt to stop the curse being lifted despite a lot of emphasis being place on the fact that he would (the whole plot & drama of the story is supposed to revolve around it). The Headless Ghost is all rather predictable too, you just know one way or another the three teens will life the curse & everyone will live (or die) happily ever after. No surprises, nothing that I could really describe as being funny & nothing outright scary either The Headless Ghost has little to recommend it & instantly forgettable.

The production values are perhaps better than the final film deserves with some good location work & sets, it’s just a shame the atmospheric dimly lit Castle corridor sets weren’t put to more effective use. The entire scare factor of The Headless Ghost revolves around Ingrid being scared by a Cat, a Rat & a Snake which Bill then chops up with an axe (I hope it was a false Snake but it did look quite real to me) & not much else. The special effects are quite good considering the vintage of the film, lets just say they certainly could have been worse.