Monday, August 15, 2011

The Spirits are Willing and Rarely Weak...... The Spirit World in the Movies

I have the spirit world on the brain right now, having had my first reading by a medium (you know, they hear dead people). It was quite an amazing experience. Before the reading, I was 50/50 believer/skeptic, but after the reading, I have to admit there might be something to it! However, I am more easily mesmerized by a movie than a spiritualist, and even more mesmerized by movies about these special powers. 

I don't know about you, but I love to be mystified by the eerie unknown.Things like ghosts, spirits, messages from the spirit world, etc. that present a mystery are just plain fun! I doubt I would find having a restless spirit in my home fun, but on film, they do delight me. The spirit world has inhabited the movies since the beginning of film time. Here are a few of those spooky stories that "haunt" me.

Shadow of a Doubt
One of the most fascinating things to me about this endlessly fascinating Hitchcock film is young Charlie's psychic connection with her Uncle Charlie. As she longs for his presence and begins to send him a telegram, she receives one from him telling her that he is on the way. Of course, he is the notorious "Merry Widow Murderer" on the lam, but young Charlie doesn't know that (yet). She keeps hearing Franz Lehar's "Merry Widow Waltz" in her head. What does it all mean? I suppose we are to divine that there is a mystical bond between young Charlie and her uncle, but those powers of hers are never elaborated upon and it leaves me a bit frustrated. Did Charlie get married to Mcdonald Carey's cop? Or, did she share more of a dark side with Uncle Charlie than she would care to admit and run off and join a circus to gaze into her crystal ball?

Nightmare Alley
Speaking of the circus, this one just blows my socks off. Of course it's all about fakes and con artists, but Tyrone Power (along with Joan Blondell) are fabulous. Blondell's "Mademoiselle Zeena" holds the code to the phony mind-reading act, but Tyrone soon has it and she is left out in the cold. Not content with ripping off circus folk and nightclub patrons, he soon enters into an unholy alliance with a crooked psychiatrist. Ty is next passing himself off as a medium, as well as a mind-reader, and it all ends badly. Next thing you know, Ty's in the geek ring, biting off the heads of chickens. Love might save him in the end, but the love story is a drag on this otherwise great film about the dirty rot of ambition that corrupts the soul and how the vulnerable are preyed upon by phony spiritualists. 

The Others
I always love a movie where I just don't see the ending coming! I don't want to spoil it for anyone who might not yet have seen this, but Nicole Kidman and the rest of the cast are terrific. Also terrific is the look and mood of this 2001 film. You will constantly be asking yourself "what the xx%$^ is going on here?" and once you find out, your jaw will drop.

The Uninvited
This is a beautiful, atmospheric film with a great ghost story. Gail Russell is breathtaking and Ray Milland is romantically heroic in this English tale of a house with secrets. There are ghosts, but all is not what it seems. A chilling version of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," it's a winner and once you see it, it will be a favorite. Guaranteed. A bonus is the theme song "Stella By Starlight," which captures the fragility and beauty of Gail Russell's haunted Stella.

What Lies Beneath
This is a bit of a guilty pleasure. I know it's all been done before, but it does have Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford, an unbelievably beautiful house in Vermont, a thrilling (if over the top) climax and a pretty good ghost story. Again, I won't give it away, but there are lots of spooky things going on in the spirit world in that Vermont home, and even freakier real-life things, too. Michelle is glorious, Ford plays a nasty man here and the whole thing is gorgeous to look at. Turns out their outwardly beautiful life is not so beautiful. So, not for the hall of fame, but a spirit-world winner for me.

Some Other Spirit-World Favorites
The Wizard of Oz
Auntie Em! Auntie Em! (who looks like Dorothy's grandma, not aunt, but that was another blog).
A popular favorite love story, I also just love Whoppi Goldberg's con artist fake psychic who suddenly hears voices. She is a hoot. Karma, indeed!
The Sixth Sense
While my eyes were glued to the screen the entire time, I missed all of the clues and was shocked, surprised, and delighted when it all came together in that one scene (you know, ring dropping on the floor..... that's all I'm saying). I love it when that happens!
Seance on a Wet Afternoon
Haunting, atmospheric and tragic story of a demented medium's attempt to use the staged kidnapping of a child to promote her abilities. Things backfire when the tragedies of her life intervene. A film I like and a rare chance to see the great Kim Stanley at work.
The Gift
A bona fide psychic, murder, southern gothic, suspects galore and Cate Blanchett. How could I not like this movie?
Well, it is a bit light, but I just wanted to give a shout out to my favorite ghost, George Kerby (aka: Cary Grant). Shameless of me, no?

Did I omit your favorite visitors from the other side? Which other-worldly film forces send a welcoming shiver up your spine?


Valarie said...

I hope Rudy "stopped in" to say "hello" while you were getting your reading. He was into that as well. ;o) Good article!

FlickChick said...

Val - I want you to know that I was hoping for Cary & Rudy & Charlie & Buster to show up, but only family members arrived. I was disappointed, to say the least!

Amy said...

I went to a public reading with my cousin who is much more of a skeptic than I am. However, I pleaded with my father to come that night. I had never felt his presence around me and I hoped against hope that I would be one of the 125 people to get read. I was. I approached the medium afterward. She laughed because my father had interrupted someone else's (the 2nd person to be read) reading, saying I have to come through, My daughter needs me, she asked me to come. I knew it had been weird because she was reading the woman up front and then starting talking about a child that had experienced a tragedy. the poor woman thought something was going to happen to her child. The medium said No, I'm not with you, I'm with a Scorpio in the back. Does this make sense to anyone? I knew it was me. She also told me that he was always with me and I have felt comforted ever since.

FlickChick said...

Amy, what a lovely story - thank you for posting that. I, too, had a good experience and came away feeling that there has to be something to this. It's nice to know that our loved ones still watch over us and that the spirit goes on.

Jan Miner said...

Love this entry! So much fun. All the more so, 'cause we did this together.

FlickChick said...

I was hoping you'd see it - and thanks for the Wizard of Oz reference. I was so happy to find that photo!

Diane said...

Great fun Flick Chick. I too have had similar experiences and think that the movies just mimic real life...sometime anyway.
I also think that young Charlie ran away to the circus with the crystal ball that Mademoiselle Zeena left for her!

FlickChick said...

Stranger things have happened in real life!

ClassicBecky said...

This is a fascinating subject to me, FlickChick, and you have done a wonderful article! So many of the movies you talked about are great favorites: Nightmare Alley, The Others, the Uninvited. And The Gift! Marvelous modern film with Cate Blanchett so wonderful! I have not seen Seance on a Wet Afternoon, and plan to do so!

I have always wanted to do 2 things -- visit a psychic and attend a seance. I still have not done either, but I am so intrigued by this piece. I hope to have the opportunity to do both someday! Great piece!

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Becky. I had my first reading by a medium in Lily Dale, NY and it was amazing. I was so glad I went. For me, it was a very positive and joyful experience.

Caftan Woman said...

I find the thought that we are never truly parted from our loved ones to be very comforting.

Here are two movies from 1935 that touch on spirituality: "The Return of Peter Grimm" stars Lionel Barrymore as a deceased man who cannot rest until he sets right the wrong he did he life. "Peter Ibbetson" stars Gary Cooper and Ann Harding as separated lovers who live together in a dream.

Dawn said...

N and CF, is passing the "The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award", to your wonderful blog, A Person In The Dark. Please stop by N and CF to pick up your award.

FlickChick said...

@ Caftan Woman: leave it to you to come up with 2 fascinating films that are right on the money. Haunting.

FlickChick said...

@ Dawn - you are a dear!

Tom said...

I never saw "What Lies Beneath" but I think I'll give it a try.

John Carradine plays a fortune teller in "Fallen Angel" (1945)

Sally said...

Thanks again FC for this and your FB page. They are such a relief from the cares of the "real world" with which I too often allow myself to become absorbed!

I'm also fascinated with the subject, perhaps mostly hopeful that there's more to reality than all this struggle. Perhaps the proof skeptics require will be discovered by physicists some day. I hope to have a reading some time with the medium I believe you cited.

Another, more recent, movie on the topic that I love is "Ghost." Thrilling, funny and touching.

FlickChick said...

@ Tom: I hope you enjoy it and thanks for the suggestion!

FlickChick said...

@ Sally: Thank you for the kind words - escape to another world - via movies or other means - is always a welcome respite from reality!