Because “ghost” anything bores me. But I got caught up in this somewhat creaky British flick that’s more comedy than supernatural thriller.
In wartime, the British film industry consciously avoided potentially upsetting or disrespectful themes, and the recently installed “H” Certificate almost eliminated horror movies entirely. So, when Forde remade his 1931 film ten years later, humor was brought to the forefront. The Ghost Train became a showcase for a new star in British comedy, Arthur Askey. (…)
The problem for modern viewers is that any charm that Askey held for British radio listeners or Music Hall aficionados is elusive, to say the least. Askey is incredibly annoying and unfunny.
In fact, “incredibly” isn’t a strong enough word. His character is the type who normally prompts me to turn off the TV to prevent myself from smashing it.
(And if you’ve endured Lawrence Olivier’s unrelentingly grim The Entertainer, about a similar Music Hall “star” scraping out a living in mean, seedy post-War England, it’s impossible not to superimpose his rancid, seedy “Archie” character onto Askey.)
However, “unfunny” is another matter. I laughed in spite of myself at some of Askey’s bits.
I can’t decide whether routines like the following demonstrate the unique genius of the English and their/our remarkable language, or are examples of the worst kind of “entertainment”:
The Music Hall continued to influence those who grew up during its post-war decline. You can hear its echoes in Paul McCartney’s worst “novelty” type songs, for instance.
“New Wave” performers, one generation removed from McCartney (and Ray Davies, et al), actually put its particular tropes to far better use.
Take the beloved Squeeze song “Pulling Mussels From a Shell,” a “holiday at the seaside” ditty not far removed from Askey’s routine, except it’s a collection of snapshots of the utterly mundane:
“Baggy Trousers” by Madness — not to mention many of their other songs — is another “end of the pier,” “panoramic” song surveying the singer’s particular down at the heel locale and its denizens at breakneck comic speed.
And yes, the “last” “official” Madness single was called “Waiting for the Ghost Train,” but it was one of those obligatory, best forgotten “anti-apartheid” songs of its time that had nothing to do with the movie.