Ghost Story (1981)

“Imagine her waiting for you all these years. Imagine her sleeping under ice and snow … waiting.” Notable as the final screen performances of legendary actors Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., this atmospheric horror film was based (very loosely or so I’m told!) on Peter Straub’s 1979 novel of the same name. Since I’ve never read the book, I found it reasonably entertaining, albeit with a couple of seriously confusing plot elements. Four old codgers – “Ricky Hawthorne” (Astaire), “Sears James” (John Houseman), “Dr. John Jaffrey” (Douglas) and “Edward Wanderley” (Fairbanks) – who live in a small, picturesque New England town gather regularly for meetings of an informal club called the Chowder Society where they try to scare the shit out of each other by sharing ghost stories. In addition, each of these fossils is suffering nightmares based on a terrible secret from the past they all share. Meanwhile, Wanderley’s twin sons “David” and “Don” (both portrayed by Craig Wasson) have each had disastrous encounters with a mysterious woman named “Alma” (Alice Krige, who exudes an extremely creepy vibe in the role). After Wanderley and his son David both die under strange circumstances, surviving son/brother Don forces his way into the Chowder Society and relates his own ghost story in order to try to figure out the mystery. Is there a pissed-off ghost seeking vengeance from beyond the grave? Directed by John Irvin (The Dogs of War), the film is told in a series of flashbacks. Ghost Story was filmed in Woodstock, Vermont; Saratoga Springs, New York; and Stetson University (my alma mater!) in DeLand, Florida. By the way, Ted Cassidy (1932-79), best known as “Lurch” from The Addams Family, played basketball for Stetson.

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