The Invisible Ghost (April 25, 1941)
Released on April 25, 1941: The Doctor's wife leaves him, and he becomes a homicidal maniac, terrorizing the town.
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Written by Helen Martin and Al Martin.
The Actors: Bela Lugosi (Dr. Charles Kessler), Polly Ann Young (Virginia Kessler), John McGuire (Ralph Dickson and Paul Dickson), Clarence Muse (Evans the butler), Terry Walker (Cecile Mannix), Betty Compson (Mrs. Kessler), Ernie Adams (Jules Mason), Goerge Pembroke (Police Lieutenant Williams), Ottola Nesmith (Mrs. Mason), Fred Kelsey (Detective Ryan), Jack Mulhall (Detective Tim), Fred Aldrich (guard at Ralph's execution), Lloyd Ingraham (the psychiatrist), Robert Strange (coroner Kirby).
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Bela Lugosi is the ultimate mad man of the Golden Age of motion pictures, and in this one he does not disappoint. And in addition to Lugosi, there are enough odd characters in this thriller that the identity of the real mad killer may be a bit more difficult than to just assume that Lugosi is the man. Too many clues point to him . . . maybe there is a surprise for us when the real demented killer is discovered. Pop some white kernel popcorn and get ready for a chilling hour of mystery.
Our movie opens with Dr. Kessler, the town's leading physician, as he descends the staircase of his lovely mansion and stops for a moment to look at the large painting of his young wife. He then makes his way into the dining room where the butler is about to serve dinner. When Evans starts to serve the Doctor, Kessler reprimands him and insists that Evans serve his wife first. Evans apologises and goes to the other end of the table and serves the empty chair where his wife sat before she ran away with his best friend. Kinda creepy, as the Doctor has an imaginary conversation with the empty chair at the other end of the room, and we learn that every year on his wedding anniversary the Doctor pretends that his wife is having dinner with him. As creepy as this is, we've only just begun!
After dinner we watch the estate caretaker sneak to the refrigerator and remove a bottle of wine and a package of food, and then sneak into the back yard and down to a dark and secluded basement, where he gives the food and wine to a creepy looking woman with pure white hair, who turns out to be the lost wife of the Doctor. On the night she ran away with his best friend there was a terrible car accident, and only she survived. The caretaker found her and has kept her hidden in the basement for years, and it appears that she is off her rocker. We also learn that there have been several unexplained murders at the mansion, and this night it appears that the Doctor kills the young maid . . . but I have some doubts . . . . see if you do also. In any case, the boyfriend of the Doctor's daughter is convicted and put to death for her murder, and lo and behold, just after the execution, the man's twin brother arrives from South America.
Next, the caretaker who is watching over the deranged wife in the basement is murdered, and the mystery continues. Oh, and did I mention that the deranged wife leaves her basement prison every evening and stares at her husband's window, and he looks out and sees her, and thinks that she must be a ghost or something? The madness continues as we wonder who to suspect, with a mad doctor, and his mad wife. I'm still wondering if there isn't going to be a killer uncovered who is someone that we don't suspect at all. Could it be? Or is Lugosi once again the demented killer that we fear as we drop off to sleep every night? When the lights go out, make certain that there is someone you trust next to you, and hold on tight.