The Ghost Train


Rating 3

Directed by Walter Forde

Written by Marriott Edgar, Val Guest and J O C Orton from the stage play by Arnold Ridley

Starring Arthur Askey and Richard 'Stinker' Murdoch


Now we’re talking. ‘The Ghost Train’ is a famous English play, a comedy-chiller, written in 1925 by Arnold Ridley, who is best known now for playing the kind-hearted Private Godfrey in the long-running BBC series ‘Dad’s Army’, which ran from 1968 to 1977. The play was filmed three times, first in 1927, again in 1931 and finally in 1941 with Arthur Askey. This is the version I am interested in.

Basically, ‘The Ghost Train’ is a British equivalent of the Bob Hope / Paulette Goddard films ‘The Cat And The Canary’ and ‘The Ghost Breakers’, which were released in 1939 and 1940. The play’s original plot is altered to become a vehicle for the celebrated music hall and radio entertainer Arthur Askey and the smugglers are changed to Fifth Column Nazi sympathisers, understandably given the period when the film was made.

As might be expected, it’s a creaky old film and most of the acting manages to be both stubbornly wooden and farcically melodramatic. Arthur Askey’s particular brand of comedy hasn’t withstood the passage of time very well and he tends to be annoying more than anything else. However, his immaculate comic timing is still very much evident when he performs the song ‘The Seaside Band’ and the film must be viewed within the context of its time.

I love these kinds of films and I also have a soft spot for Askey. I’m old enough to remember him as a regular television personality when he was quite old and my parents were well acquainted with him from times gone by. He died at the age of 82 in 1982 from complication after both his legs had been amputated.

Even after all these years I can still quote some of his catchphrases – “before your very eyes!”


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