Invisible Ghost (Joseph H. Lewis / U.S., 1941):

An absurdist masterpiece for its title alone. The budget is paltry, so Joseph H. Lewis starts with a bewildering plot fragment (Bela Lugosi sitting for a lavish meal, toasting the empty chair across the table) and irises out breathlessly. The occasion is the anniversary of the disappearance of his wife, his daughter (Polly Ann Young) explains to her beau (John McGuire); butler, maid and groundskeeper (Clarence Muse, Terry Walker, Ernie Adams) discuss the mystery in the kitchen (one of many sharp triangular compositions), Adams sneaks into the garden shed where none other than the straying wife (Betty Compson) lies, racked with amnesia from a car crash. The dazed woman wanders around in a white peignoir, Lugosi sees her and slides into a trance (change in focus, jack-o'-lantern lighting), the maid's murder is a bizarre POV shot utilizing only half of the screen (a peppy aerobics radio program scores the discovery of the corpse). McGuire is blamed for the crime and promptly executed, although bogus resurrections ("Apparently my brother never told you about me," the twin says) as well as real ones (Adams in the coroner) abound in the Monogram netherworld. The hackneyed through-the-fireplace shot is justified as soon as Lewis turns out all the other lights on the screen, the face in the rainy window from Susana (and Los Olvidados) turns up. Lugosi adduces an air of Conrad Veidt to the proceedings, Lewis seizes it for an ineffable atmosphere of somnambulist helplessness: "I'm dead. I'm afraid to come home." In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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