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Ghost Story

4.2 out of 5 stars 319 customer reviews

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(Mar 25, 1998)
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Editorial Reviews

Upon its release in 1981, John Irvin's version of Peter Straub's bestselling horror novel was deemed one of the worst adaptations that the genre had ever produced. Now it's available on DVD, and for the first time in widescreen presentation, and not much has changed. It's still a nearly unwatchable dud. Fred Astaire, John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. play old friends, members of the self-created Chowder Society, who get together and tell ghost tales. The scariest story of all, however, is the one they never speak to each other. Fifty years ago, the four men accidentally killed a young woman, and now she's back (with much less meat on her bones) and seeking vengeance. Sound chilling? Well, in Straub's hands it was, and the novel remains the author's finest achievement. Irvin, however, distills Staub's rich characterizations, gradual tension, and creepy atmosphere, and replaces them with aging golden oldies (only Houseman appears to be having any fun) hamming it up and hokey special-effect shots of a rotting corpse. The film moves about as quickly as its ancient cast could during a relay race. The whole thing has arthritis. --Dave McCoy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Craig Wasson, Alice Krige, Fred Astaire, John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas
  • Directors: John Irvin
  • Writers: Lawrence D. Cohen, Peter Straub
  • Producers: Burt Weissbourd, Douglas Green, Ronald G. Smith
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Letterboxed, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 25, 1998
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (319 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305077614
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,851 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ghost Story" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. O. DeRiemer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 28, 2005
Format: DVD
"I will take you places you've never been. I will show you things you have never seen and I will see the life run out of you." What a great, unsettling line of dialogue. It's from Ghost Story, a movie some people like quite a bit and which, probably, more people can take or leave. Despite the film's flaws, and there are several, I like the movie a lot. It's about four men, now quite old, and a woman named Eva Galli.

"Eva Galli...there, I've said it," says Sears James, one of the old men. "Well, what happened to her?" asks Don Wanderley, the son of one of the other old men. "We killed her," says Ricky Hawthorne, another of the old men. "The two of you?" "All of us," says James. "The Chowder Society," Hawthorne explains, "in the Spring of 50 years ago."

The Chowder Society is made up of four successful men who have been friends since childhood. There's Sears James (John Houseman at 79), Ricky Hawthorne (Fred Astaire at 82), John Jaffrey (Melvin Douglas at 80) and Edward Wanderley (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, the youngest of the four actors, at 72). They meet regularly in the evening to sip brandy and tell ghost stories to each other. When they were young men they met a woman named Eva Galli (Alice Krige) who fascinated them. She lived alone in a mansion. She was beautiful, free spirited, intelligent. They all in their own way fell in love with her. And one night something terrible happened. They covered it up and tried to forget her. Now, it seems their own ghost story is coming back for them.

What are the movie's drawbacks? The film seems too long, mostly because much of the background is told in flashbacks with younger actors portraying the four old men. Another part of the story is told in flashback dealing with a contemporary element.
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Format: DVD
This is an old favorite of mine. It's not the scariest of its kind, but it does have some nice spooky atmosphere and eerie moments. -It was also made at a time when film-makers cared more about these things, it seems. This movie is a million times more scary than, say, "Scream" with its awful "shock-a-minute" approach. "Ghost Story"'s tension builds up all the way through it, to a memorable climax. -The sight (and sound) of Alice Krige's "bride of death" walking down the corridor, is truly haunting. -If you don't appreciate something like this in a Horror film, you're pretty lost and probably not a day over 25!. The brilliant Craig Wasson stars as the unlucky man who falls in love with a ghost. I highly recommend this old-style genre movie.
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Format: DVD
I've read very mixed reviews of this film. I suppose I can understand how those who have gotten used to seeing high rate gore and special effects could get used to letting their imaginations lapse when it comes to seeing this movie. Those who can only focus on the sex scene - well, I imagine that has something to do with their brains being the size of a lima bean. This movie, you must remember, was made in 1981, so no, the special effects aren't up to modern day picky standards (although the scenes with Eva in all her glory are pretty gruesome). The majority of the book has been left out, and you'll just have to get over that, because it's hard to channel an entire book the length of Ghost Story into a 1 1/2 hour movie. So the focus is on Eva, her death, and her revenge. It is all about the revenge in this movie for what a group of high society boys did one summer night and tried to cover up. The storyline is presented romantically, the music is haunting and beautiful (unfortunately the soundtrack is out of print), and the sleepy snow scenes (like the opening scene) are unsettling and enchanting as Eva's vengeful laugh is dubbed in. This is a good, creepy movie. I will end my diatribe with this - grab a large bowl of popcorn, a Coke (or preferred soft drink), wrap your legs up in a comfy throw blanket, turn out every light in the house, and give this movie a go. If you just don't like it, close your eyes and listen to the music.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Pull down the shades and turn off the lights as it's time for a ghost story, of sorts...Ghost Story (1981), based on the bestselling Peter Straub novel, was directed by John Irvin (Raw Deal, Next of Kin), and lists an impressive cast including Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and John Houseman. Also appearing are Craig Wasson and relative newcomer Alice Krige, whose only other film appearance prior to this was Chariots of Fire (1981), although she has since had a long career, and I most remember her as the creepy mother from the film Sleepwalkers (1992), which was adapted from a Stephen King novel. She's also the best element in the film.

The film takes place mostly in a small New England town and is about four elderly men, members of The Chowder Society (they get together regularly to tell each other ghost stories), and a secret they've shared for the last 50 years, one that coming back to haunt them, both figuratively and literally speaking. It seems these men, now town elders, participated in an event, one which they vowed never to speak of again, but has begun to manifest itself, possible through guilt, in terrible nightmares suffered by all four men. Also, there's a little matter of a couple of nasty deaths...

Having read about this film so long ago in a Fangoria magazine, I had wanted to see it at the time it came out, but, alas, being all of about 11, I was restricted from partaking in all the nekkid and/or gory goodness of R-rated films. So, what's the deal with this film? Based on excellent source material and incorporating an experienced and highly talented cast, you'd think you'd have a real winner on your hands, right? Well, yes and no...what one may really notice the most after watching this film is the missed opportunity.
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