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Invisible Ghost (1941) – Episode 35 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

Marie: “I wonder why he was so glad to see me?” Evans: “Mr. Kessler thought you had been murdered.” What?! Why would Mr. Kessler think such a thing? Maybe because several other people were murdered in his house? Is it possible the murders are connected? Join Chad Hunt, Joseph Perry, and Jeff Mohr, along with guest host Adam Thomas, as we take our second consecutive trip to Poverty Row, this time for a stay with Bela Lugosi at his deadly home in Invisible Ghost.

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 35 — Invisible Ghost (1941)

A Poverty Row film released by Monogram Pictures, Invisible Ghost is directed by Joseph H. Lewis, sometimes referred to as “Wagon Wheel Joe” for the style he employed for his many B-movie westerns. It tells the story of Charles Kessler (Bela Lugosi), whose wife (Betty Compson) has disappeared. As Kessler and his daughter Virginia (Polly Ann Young) resolutely remain in the house for Mrs. Kessler’s possible reappearance, people keep dying around them. How many have been murdered, we asked? “A lot,” we’re told. Then a man (John McGuire) is executed for one of the murders only to be replaced by his twin, and the murders continue even after the execution. Overseeing the whole mess is Kessler’s butler, Evans (Clarence Muse).

This episode’s Grue Crew are confused as to the whys and “what fors” of the story. There’s little rhyme or reason to the killer’s motivation. There’s no ghost. Nothing is invisible. Characters just die. Everything just is. Welcome to Poverty Row.

The hosts all recommend Invisible Ghost for Clarence Muse’s performance. IMDb and Wikipedia list co-writer Helen Martin as one in the same as the African American actress who starred as Pearl Shay in 227 (1985-1990) among her 60+ acting credits. Your faithful Grue Crew could find no other collaborating information and questioned this connection. Since recording the podcast, we have found other online mentions of her work on the script on the Classic Horror Film Board. If she is indeed the co-author of the screenplay for Invisible Ghost, it would explain why the part of Evans is written as such an integral, smart, and dignified character. If any of our listeners have additional verification regarding Helen Martin as a screenwriter, please let us know via comment or email.

Chad has a particular affection for the comic relief provided by Fred Kelsey, who plays Detective Ryan and Jeff points out the many, many, many roles with nicknames played by Ernie Adams, who plays Jules the gardner in Invisible Ghost. Adam marvels at the ineptitude of the police and the jarring cuts as several scenes in several locations cover a day in 20 seconds. Joseph loves the use of the visible wall as the camera follows characters from room to room. The hosts also get in another mention of the classic film noir Gun Crazy (1950) and yet another connection to Batman, this time the classic serials produced by the producer of Invisible Ghost, Sam Katzman. The Grue Crew also appreciates Invisible Ghost for giving Lugosi a chance to play a character counter to his usual monstrous characters. Please take an hour of your time and check it out!

We plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule is the classic, Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era and what films you’d like to hear us cover! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you for listening!

Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long-time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an Old Boy. Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for Horrornews.net and SQ Horror Magazine. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is a co-host of the Decades of Horror podcasts - The Classic Era, 1970s, and 1980s - and the Gruesome Magazine Podcast.