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The Ghost Train (1941).

April 1, 2011

The Scoop:
Don’t let the title fool you – this is more of a comedy than a ghost story. In fact, it’s a vehicle for the prewar British comedy duo of Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch, who come across as a sort of stiff-upper-lip version of the Marx Brothers.

In “The Ghost Train,” Askey and Murdoch find themselves as part of a group of travelers stuck in a rural train station overnight. After the cranky stationmaster tells the story of the ghost train that sometimes passes through the station, the group passes a jittery night wondering if it’s true.

Askey and Murdoch have good chemistry and a lot of their humor still holds up despite the time and distance. Askey is a dynamo, combining the word play of Groucho, the slapstick of Harpo and the misdirection of Chico into a polite frenzy of activity. Murdoch is the straight man, although he has more to do than Zeppo and gets in plenty of one-liners of his own. Although they hit many of the same notes as the Marxes, their energy is much more subdued and, well, British.

The pair’s tone matches that of the film, which unspools its story at a leisurely pace while delivering a reliable string of respectable laughs. The story is slight, but director Walter Forde manages to build some suspense while mixing in a few light scares. Eventually it turns into standard issue wartime intrigue, but even so “The Ghost Train” manages to be a quality programmer.

Best Bit:
“If he was alive now, he’d die laughing.”

Side Note:
This is the seventh of eight film adaptations of the popular Arnold Ridley play from 1923.

Companion Viewing:
“The Lady Vanishes” (1938).

British Horror Films.

Take a Look:
Some clips:

The full movie:

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