Invisible Ghost is a 1941 American horror feature film directed by Joseph H. Lewis (The Mad Doctor of Market Street) from a story and screenplay written by Helen and Alan Martin (Invasion of the Saucer Men; The Eye Creatures). Sam Katzman (Spooks Run Wild; The Corpse Vanishes; Bowery at Midnight) produced.
The movie stars Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young (Murders in the Rue Morgue), John McGuire (Dead of Night), Clarence Muse (White Zombie), Terry Walker (Voodoo Man), Betty Compson and Ernie Adams (The Devil Commands).
On March 21, 2017, Invisible Ghost was released on Blu-ray in North America by Kino Lorber.
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- Audio commentary by film historians Tom Weaver, Gary Rhodes and Dr Robert J. Kiss
Charles Kessler (Bela Lugosi) is obsessed by his wife whom he believes to be dead. In fact, she (Betty Compson) left him for another man but was involved in a car accident that left her brain-damaged and so is kept in the basement, in secret, by Kessler’s gardener. Only Evans the butler (Clarence Muse) seems to have any common sense.
When an innocent man is executed for a murder Kessler committed in the house, his twin brother arrives from South America and tries to unravel the mystery…
“The best performance— and the biggest surprise— comes not from Lugosi, however, but from Clarence Muse. It’s a rare thing indeed to see a movie of this vintage that allows a black actor such generous measures of both screen time and dignity. When you consider that The Invisible Ghost was made the same year (and for the same studio) as King of the Zombies, you really understand what a lucky break Muse got here, and it’s refreshing to see that he was able to make so much of the role.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“Though cheaply made, Invisible Ghost maintains an appropriately spooky atmosphere throughout, with Lugosi delivering a full-blooded performance as a basically decent man controlled by homicidal impulses beyond his ken. Best of all is the non-stereotypical performance by African-American actor Clarence Muse as Lugosi’s articulate, take-charge butler.” All Movie
“Director Joseph H. Lewis wisely puts most of the film’s emphasis on Lugosi’s face, depicting a man who doesn’t fully understand his murderous tendencies. It’s a combination of malicious intent and confusion, adding a compelling duality to the lead character…” Blu-ray.com
“Some sequences are atmospheric and stylish, such as the first murder sequence, where we take the perspective of the victim, watching from her eyes as she dies. Other scenes, however, are dreary and static, with characters sitting around just talking (and talking inanities for the most part, since the dialogue is usually what propels the nonsensical plot).” Classic Horror
“Invisible Ghost shows Lugosi as a sympathetic, lovestruck character, something audiences didn’t see much of from the actor prior. His silent homicidal trance bit (a “Jekyll and Hyde” sans monster make) may not be as memorable, but Lugosi still makes for great sinister imagery when he’s lurking about and charging the camera’s point of view as if it was a victim with his weapon of choice (in this case a black bathrobe).” DVD Drive-In
“The Invisible Ghost evinces a mild degree of atmosphere in places – faces leering at the window, black servant Clarence Muse’s sinister scheming, and Lugosi acting very sinister. But the script suffers from a number of substantial confusions.” Moria
[Spoiler]: “It’s good to see Bela Lugosi in a rare ‘normal’ role (he’s the killer, but he’s possessed when he kills, and the rest of the time he’s quite pleasant, if terrible at chess). Also, the African American character (Clarence Muse) isn’t played as a stereotype, unlike Jeff in King of the Zombies, so that’s a plus.” Horror Movie a Day
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“Lugosi comes to an uncharacteristically calm performance, perhaps because he is supposed to be a mild-mannered man and a victim at that. He wanders slowly when hypnotised, hand outstretched in Dracula style. The standout performance, interestingly, is by Clarence Muse, the well-spoken black actor who is probably best remembered for The Black Stallion (1979)…” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“Invisible Ghost has long been a minor favourite among horror fans because it furnishes Bela Lugosi with the rare and welcome opportunity to play a kindly, paternal role. This, and the nice visual lift Lewis’ direction gives the film, compensates slightly for the sheer stupidity of the script and its many dreary passages.” Tom Weaver, Poverty Row Horrors!
“If you appreciate how loopy these tiny budget horrors from this era could be (this was the first of the Monogram movies Lugosi made for the notorious Sam Katzman) then you’ll find much to enjoy, and that it’s an early effort by cult B-movie director Joseph H. Lewis offers historical value, as does the refreshingly decent treatment of the black butler, who emerges as the noblest character of them all. But what it boils down to is a very silly chiller, really.” The Spinning Image
“Even with the script problems, director Lewis still manages to stir up at least a modicum of suspense. Particularly effective is the scene where Kessler enters his daughter’s room, garrote at the ready when a brilliant flash of lightning stirs him out of his insane trance. Also notable is a killing seen through shadow play by the light of a refrigerator. For all these little moments, taking on the entire film almost isn’t worth the wait.” The Terror Trap
Doctor Kessler: “Apple pie? My, that would be a treat!”
Cast and characters:
- Bela Lugosi – Doctor 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
- George Pembroke – Police Lieutenant Williams
- Ottola Nesmith – Mrs Mason (as Ollola Nesmith)
- Fred Kelsey – Detective Ryan
- Jack Mulhall – Detective Ti