TITLE: The Ghosts of Berkeley Square
YEAR RELEASED: 1947
DIRECTOR: Vernon Sewell
CAST: Robert Morley, Felix Aylmer, Yvonne Arnaud, Claude Hulbert, Abraham Sofaer, Ernest Thesiger, Marie Lohr, Martita Hunt, A.E. Matthews
DAVID SAUNDERSON reviews The Ghost of Berkeley Square, a fictionalised 1947 fantasy film inspired by the infamous London haunting
Despite its paranormal themes and links to one of London’s most horrific hauntings, The Ghosts of Berkeley Square (1947) would probably fit more into the fantasy category of film, rather than horror.
The Ghosts of Berkeley Square stars Robert Morley (Theatre of Blood) as half of an amusingly-pompous 18th century duo, who have been made ghosts after ‘inconveniencing’ Queen Anne.
General “Jumbo” Burlap (Morley) and Colonel “Bulldog” Kelsoe (Felix Aylmer) are two army officers who accidentally kill themselves while waiting on a royal visit to their home in Berkeley Square, London.
So annoyed is the Queen that the newly-deceased are court marshalled post humorously and condemned to stay in the house, until another reigning monarch deems it fit to visit it again.
Over the centuries, the ghosts must come to terms with the changes in London society and their own home, as various living occupants move in and out of the house.
This includes a French-run bordello and a PT Barnum-like theatre, which tries to profit from the haunting.
The Ghosts of Berkeley Square is enjoyable enough, but it bares great similarity to The Ghost Goes West (1936), which did the cursed posh ghost over the centuries seeking to redeem itself much better.
Having said that, the film gives a different slant on ghost lore and shows our ghosts having to learn how to do spooky things, like disappear and walk through walls, via a ghost manual they are given upon their death.
It also shows the ghosts aging and growing facial hair etc, which is slightly unusual too.
The film has a wonderful cast, including Ernest Thesiger (Bride of Frankenstein) who a Psychical Research Society researcher who investigates the property, and some fun special effects ghost effects.
However, there’s something missing and I’m not really surprised it didn’t do very well at the box office when it was released.
The only laugh I really had was when Morley turned up in blackface playing Nawab of Bagwash, a foreign monarch who takes over the house during Queen Victoria’s reign.
Terribly un-PC, I was laughing more at the appalling nature of it rather than the intended ridiculousness.
Interesting, the ghost house in the film is 7 Berkeley Square rather than the real life 50 Berkeley Square which is reputed one of the most haunted houses in London. I’m not sure why this is the case.
The Berkeley Square link is non-existent, to be honest, so don’t go expecting any real insight into the world of paranormal.
The Ghosts of Berkeley Square is a light-hearted and somewhat charming ghost-themed comedy, which will bring back memories of watching old films as a kid on a Saturday afternoon.
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