31 Days Of Horror: Day 17 – Ghost Story (1981)

Four successful elderly gentlemen, members of the Chowder Society, share a gruesome, 50-year old secret. 

There are some films that unfortunately get lost in time.

The film is actually based on the best selling book of the same name by Author Peter Straub, if you haven’t already read it I highly recommend you do as it’s a thrilling read.
But anyway onto the film, as I said somed films seem to get lost in time and it can be a true shame, especially when it’s a classic like this film is.
Directed by John Irvin, he shows us why he’s now a renowned veteran in his field these days. But he couldn’t go wrong with this feature, not with the stellar cast he had with Fred Astaire, John Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Melvyn Douglas.
True the film hasn’t exactly aged well but it shows a moment in time that you will never see the likes of again, it’s why it’s a true classic that deserves more of a reputation than it has.
“Ghost Story” is a great film to be watched on a cold winter night with the lights off, a fantastic way to get into the Halloween spirit.
If you want to see “Ghost Story” trailer then just click on the video below:

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

The last feature film for veteran actors Melvyn Douglas, Fred Astaire, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr..

The pipe organ used is the same organ that was used by Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

First of two early eighties horror movies that starred a quartet of mostly seasoned veteran actors who were all film luminaries and screen legends. Ghost Story (1981) starred Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. whilst House of the Long Shadows (1983) starred Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine. Both pictures were iconic in that they both starred four significant senior actors in the one movie.

Both Fred Astaire (who plays Ricky Hawthorne) and Melvyn Douglas (who plays Dr. John Jaffery) are mentioned in Peter Straub’s source “Ghost Story” novel on which the movie is based.

The picture was nominated for the Best Horror Film Saturn Award in 1982.

Horror author Stephen King once described Peter Straub’s source “Ghost Story” book as being “probably the best of the supernatural novels” since “The Other”, “The Exorcist”, and “Rosemary’s Baby”.

Young Ricky Hawthorne says, “I can’t dance.” Old Ricky Hawthorne is played by Fred Astaire. This line wasn’t in the novel.

Interiors were constructed inside the abandoned Union Station, the former New York Central Railroad’s passenger train station on Broadway in Albany, NY and included a two story set. After the movie, the old station was refurbished and restored to its former grandeur and served as office space for Fleet Bank and now Bank of America.

The film was made and released about two years after its source novel of the same name by Peter Straub had been first published in 1979.

Searching for someone qualified to score a story dealing with elderly people, the production team was reminded of Le chat (1971), a French film about a bitter old couple spending time arguing. That’s how Philippe Sarde was hired and why some of the main theme of that precise film is repeatedly used in the score of “Ghost Story.”

Dick Smith designed and created a faceless apparition that never appeared in the final cut of the film. The apparition finally made an appearance in House on Haunted Hill (1999).

A stand-in was used as one of the Young David/Don twins, so that a family portrait could be taken.

Two actors played dual roles in the film. Actress Alice Krige played both Eva Galli and Alma Mobley whilst actor Craig Wasson portrayed both Don Wanderley and David Wanderley.

Reportedly, actors Alice Krige and Craig Wasson were “were knocked out at the idea of sharing this thriller” with the four veteran Hollywood actors they would be working with.

The big old spooky mansion was a matte painting designed by veteran Hollywood special effects whiz Albert Whitlock.

The movie was filmed in Woodstock in Vermont and Saratoga Springs in New York State as well as at Stetson University in Deland, Florida.

Publicity for this pictured declared that the film was in the tradition of Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe.

None of the film’s four veteran Hollywood actors (Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) had ever worked together in a screen movie before. However, Fairbanks and Houseman both appeared in the earlier documentary Starring Katharine Hepburn (1981) whilst Astaire and Fairbanks both appeared in the later documentary George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey (1984).

Apparently, the film rights to Peter Straub’s source novel were sold after it had been on the best seller list for five months.

Of the four actors who played the young versions of the veteran main characters, three died before reaching the age of 60. Mark Chamberlin and Tim Choate due to accidental deaths and Kurt Johnson due to AIDS-related illnesses. As of 2013, Ken Olin is the only surviving member of the group, almost reaching 60.

Second of two ghost story horror pictures that veteran actor Melvyn Douglas made in a two year period right at the end of his movie career. The first film was The Changeling (1980).

Debut film of actors Robin Curtis and Michael O’Neill.

The name of the private men’s club was “The Chowder Society”.

Actors Patricia Neal and Melvyn Douglas has both previously appeared in Hud (1963) around eighteen years earlier.

Actress Alice Krige later went on to appear in another ghost story movie which was 2006’s Silent Hill (2006).

The movie starred two Douglases – Melvyn Douglas and ‘Douglas Fairbanks Jnr’.

Second of two ghost story horror pictures that veteran actor John Houseman made in a two year period. The first film had been John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980).

One of two 1981 movies starring Craig Wasson, the other film was Arthur Penn’s Four Friends (1981).

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