An ambitious physics professor Hiram Otis obtains a research grant that requires him to study in England, pulling his wife, daughter, and two young boys from their Indiana home into a strange new world. In an age of obsolete aristocracy, the Otis family is able to afford rent at the grand Canterville Hall, a legendary castle with an infamous tale of death and suspicion that also might have resulted in being an affordable estate for the American family. Legend records have it that the lord of the castle, Sir Simon de Canterville, had subsequently killed his wife due to his obsessions and became the victim of his wife’s family spiteful vengeance by being chained to a dungeon cell. For 400 years, Sir Simon remained in that cell and his ghost haunts Canterville Hall, but despite their beliefs in the supernatural, the physics professor and his wife can’t see the ghost and only their teenage daughter and two young boys are able to witness him roam the halls, haunting those who live within the castle walls.
Every once and awhile, we’ll thoroughly review a light-hearted fantasy, horror, or sci-fi film and since we’re hot off the heels of the review for Wes Craven’s “Summer of Fear,” the made-for-television train might as well keep chug-chug-chugging alone with the 1996 TV movie adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novella, “The Canterville Ghost.” Distributed by ABC, the Sydney Macartney (as Syd Macartney) directed and Robert Benedetti teleplay written installment tries to differentiate itself and standout amongst a plethora of adaptations that span across the globe, but the American Broadcast Company, a subsidiary of the great and powerful Disney, aimed to separate from the masses by adding star studded power and the result brought a rejuvenation to the ye old tale over two decades ago.
The big name headliner is none other than Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself, Patrick Stewart, two years after his 7-year stint on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Stewart, who co-produced the film, adds his theatrical flair and is absolutely brilliant shaping drama monologues into dense thickets that define Sir Simon de Canterville’s ghost, but there’s an issue; the problem doesn’t lie with Patrick Stewart, but with how Benedetti’s teleplay expos from the story as a continuous, if not slightly jumbled, stream of old English that just feels like rambling. To alleviate that strain is Stewart’s co-star Neve Campbell to add a softer, glassy-eyed touch to the story with a pinch of plain jane American girl insecurities, characterized in Wilde’s story as Virginia Otis. Perhaps in the beginning portion of the height of her career, Campbell finds herself between “Party of Five” and hitting scream queen status as Sydney Prescott in “Scream,” but the “Wild Things” actress wasn’t that sultry or that chased in “The Canterville Ghost” who only took upon an annoyed teenage girl persona, wishing her life was back in America up until the mysterious spirit of Sir Simon de Canterville allured a spark into her dull life. Alongside Stewart and Campbell, Daniel Betts, Ciarán Fitzgerald, Raymond Pickard, Cherie Lunghi, Donald Sinden, Joan Sims, and the late Edward Wiley, who died shortly before the film’s premiere, costar.
Going into “The Canterville Ghost” was nothing short of knowing nothing other than the fact the Patrick Stewart and Neve Campbell were in the lead roles of a Disney backed, family film and to be completely honest, Macartney’s vision completely underwhelms. Along with the verbose nature of the script-to-teleplay alterations, the magical supernatural portions are inarguably cheap, even for television. The simple superimposing of Sir Simon de Canterville offered no stimulation as the the two scenes just didn’t splice together well to seamlessly make the grade. Firecracker explosions and party store cobwebs dilute even thinner the already slim pickings of special effects that top when Virginia Otis crosses over into a dense fogged ghostly realm thats chopped, cropped, and edited with such disorganization, the entire scene feels more lost than Virginia trying to escape the other side back to the living.
Sydney Macartney’s “The Canterville Ghost” is presented for the first time ever on Blu-ray courtesy of the U.K. distributor Second Sight Films. The Blu-ray is presented in the Academy ratio of 1.33:1 with 1080p resolution on a MPEG-4 AVC BD 25. Second Sight’s release will have the best looking version of this film, if the quality is anything like the screener sent to me, with a strong color palette, minor digital noise, and rich in great detail; so detailed in fact that the blemishes on Neve Campbell and Daniel Betts can be seen. The English DTS-HD audio track is lively, but not entirely boastful with more thematic and dramatic elements. Dialogue track is clean and clear and the score by “Dead Heat” and “Tremors” composer Ernest Troost augments his fairy tale rendition into the mix. Bonus material includes new interviews with director Sydney Macartney and producer-writer Robert Benedetti. Second Sight’s presentation of Hallmark Entertainment’s “The Canterville Ghost” has strong Blu-ray technical potential, but despite the big names of that time period and a visually stimulating setting, the fantastic adventure through a cursed ghost’s melodrama and a bored young girl’s tenure of self discovery unfortunately didn’t rivet with excitement or wonder, losing steam with it’s important message that life is more than being in a bubble of stagnant disappointment and guilt.
Fox usually has some pretty entertaining shows. I was a religions Hugh Laurie House M.D. follower and Tim Roth’s Lie To Me really had me going until the show was canceled for some, most likely, idiotic reason. After that those two shows were no longer running new episodes, I occasionally watched Family Guy, The Simpsons and Football whenever the Detroit Lions were playing. This new crime/horror thriller show called The Following had aired January 21st and I can’t say I was eager to turn away from Monday night’s The Biggest Loser that airs at the same time that The Following airs. I’m not ashamed to say that my wife and I caught The Following on On Demand and I’m impressed. What a great first episode to set up all the characters and their stories and now I am eager enough to start being a religious follower; however, I will not turn away from watching obese people sweat to death and curse at their trainers for a killer’s killer cult. Something about big people struggling to lose weight has more of an appeal, but thank you On Demand for being so convenient in helping me catching up on my shows (Dexter, American Horror Story: Asylum)!
The Following is about a charismatic and powerfully persuasive English professor Joe Carroll who is also a murderer of young college women to capture the essence of Edgar Alan Poe’s literary work. FBI agent Ryan Hardy tracks down Carroll and single handedly arrests him despite being stabbed in the heart. Years later, Carroll escapes just a week before his execution and now the ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy has to once again track him down. Before Hardy is able to apprehend once again, Carroll sets forth a plan that involves his loyal followers doing his murderous bidding for him which will tie up loose ends and most certainly involved the wash up agent Hardy.
Kevin Bacon in the first episode had a good first impression, but I didn’t empathize with him. This is not to say that his character will develop more into something more in depth and I can’t wait. My third eye tells me that there will be more to his character and his story. Bacon isn’t a stranger to horror (Tremors, Stir of Echos, Flatliners, Friday the 13th) and his performances usually stands out. I believe in the Bacon. Plus, with being the brain child of Scream series screenwriter Kevin Williamson, I have no doubt that we’ll get some great thrills. Episode one delivered some fantastic and dark scenes, especially with Joe Carroll’s potential serial killer prodigy and his dog experiments. The cast is well rounded out with Shawn Ashmore (Lord of the Rings, Frozen), James Purefoy (Resident Evil) and Natalie Zea.
What I seriously hope to be a brutal series, I kind of have my doubts that this will be anything like American Horror Story. Unlike it’s more edgier little brother F/X, FOX seems to be a tamer, more conservative counterpart and FOX, much like ABC and NBC, have had too many shows that are a hit and a miss and are canceled before you can say seven degrees of Kevin Bacon. I see The Following lasting beyond the first season and I see my ass in bed turning in a couple of days after the airing to catch up! Keep your eye on this one from FOX.