Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Blithe Spirit (1945)

Charles and Ruth Condimine are a happily married couple, getting along splendidly and enjoying life at their nice country estate. When some friends come over for a party, Charles arranges for a visit from kooky psychic Madame Arcati, who performs a seance. Unbeknownst to everyone but Charles, it works, and he begins hearing the voice of his dead wife Elvira, before seeing her too. Feeling playful, she begins messing with her former husband, creating an escalation of events that can't end well!...

Blithe Spirit started out promisingly, but it started to get on my nerves a bit as it went on. It begins by introducing its leads in a good way, as nice enough people, if a tad flawed, and the seance happens quickly enough too. There's plenty of funny dialogue, and everything is entertaining.

Where the film started to lose me was partially due to the thin plot, but also the direction it took. One of the main characters just disappears from the movie just like that, as if the writer couldn't be bothered anymore, and just wanted to focus the story exclusively on Charles and his dead ex.

Another problem is that nothing is ever accomplished. The characters try one exorcism to get rid of Elvira, and it doesn't work. They try another, it doesn't work. They try many more over a montage, and none work. Then they realise an important fact they missed, and conduct one last exorcism to finally spend the ghost[s] back to the afterlife!...and it doesn't work. Bloody hell! After that, the characters give up, and the movie just stops, after one last =.

The ending annoyed me too. It's a resolution that might've been effective or funny  if done right, but it felt so rushed, and was honestly a bit of a downer! I wasn't sure what to make of the film's overall message too. We start out with a happy couple, and end with [3 dead]! Ultimately, I think Blithe Spirit went on for too long, as if it was an hour long story stretched out to almost 100 minutes. It's never boring or tedious, but it feels endless, with its small story and minimal setting and characters stretched to the limit.

The actors, few that there are, do a great job here. Rex Harrison is amusing as , while Kay Hammond is fun as the mischievous Elvira. Constance Cummings is good as the ore levelheaded Ruth. Hugh Wakefield and Joyce Carey are fun in their small roles at the start, and Jacqueline Clark is alright as the beleaguered maid Edith, but somewhat underused. And lastly, the main attraction/draw is the great Margaret Rutherford! She has a truly great spirit here, coming off as old in visage but young in spirit. She has such a childlike and energetic frivolity to her, it's great to watch!

For a film based on a stage play, Blithe Spirit looks good. Many scenes are slower and comprised entirely of dialogue, and while this nature does sometimes show, the film is directed well enough to avoid feeling like it's just a filmed play. The set is great too, a nice lush mansion you'd love to stay at. The psychic's house is suitably cluttered too.

While the direction is good, the editing is sometimes strange, and we'll change location without realising. A minor issue, that only happened a couple of times and might not be a problem if you're really paying attention, but still a bit weird.

The effects here are great, especially for the time! I expected the film to be lazy, and simply show the ghosts being intangible by having the actors be off camera, or other =. While it does do this at times, there are more than plenty scenes of making contact, and passing right through. The poltergeist effects are great too. Objects lift up on their own convincingly enough, and there are no wires to be seen.

Blithe Spirit certainly has its share of good aspects, and it's not a bad film at all, but I didn't really enjoy it by the end. Still, I'm glad I watched it, and I still recommend it for a few reasons. After all, how could you pass up a British screwball picture with ghosts and Margaret Rutherford?! How I ask?...

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