The Headless Ghost
Sixty-two minutes of genius so remarkably efficient they express all of a feature-length film and more, without compression.
Ambrose Castle, tour by the present Earl of Ambrose, family portraits, two American exchange students and one from Denmark, ghosts (the ancestor home from the Crusades who found an unfaithful wife and strangled her, another who rules an endless feast while a third, who led a rebellion against Henry VII, searches for the head he lost).
Efforts to remedy the situation crowned with success, acknowledgment of the castle as repository of great learning and devices conducive to wisdom, well worth the two shillings for upkeep.
Charming, capable actors, comedy, everything.
Critics do not seem to have been very much aware of it.
1776 (prologue) and 1792 are given as the dates in question.
Captain Clegg, hanged 1776 at Rye.
Dutch gin and French wine (cf. John Sturges’ The Hallelujah Trail). Or, him that was dead and buried now parson of Dymchurch on the Romney Marshes, home of smugglers.
An exquisite mise en scène, notably at the parsonage. Notorious skeletal “phantoms” on horseback haunt the place (cf. Hamilton’s Live and Let Die).
“Engaging costume melodrama of skulduggery on the low seas”, according to Eleanor Mannikka (Rovi), “set back in the 18th century.” Halliwell’s Film Guide complains of “totally predictable plot development.”
The Americans take a hand in ferreting out a well-defended double agent in the British Secret Service.
The angle of attack is the very one in Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain, Burgess and Philby et al.
The largest influence is Anderson’s The Quiller Memorandum, but The 39 Steps is cited, on a foundation of Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Harry Palmer. The torture scene figures in Thompson’s The Evil That Men Do, the ending is from Reed’s The Third Man.
A five-second shot of the Thames (in the course of a montage) reveals that Monet painted exactly what he saw.