Old Mother Riley’s Ghosts (1941)

Article #803 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-27-2003
Posting Date: 10-14-2003
Directed by John Baxter
Featuring Arthur Lucan, Kitty McShane, John Stuart

Old Mother Riley hooks up with an inventor and inherits a haunted castle.

Title Check: It’s a perfect title… for about two minutes of the movie. As for the rest of the movie, a better title would have been OLD MOTHER RILEY AND THE PORTRAIT OF HIS (pardon me; HER) DECEASED HUSBAND.

Back when I watched the admittedly quite bad MY SON THE VAMPIRE (a.k.a. OLD MOTHER RILEY MEETS THE VAMPIRE), I actually managed to find a smidgen of charm in that bottom-of-the-barrel slapstick comedy. It must have been Lugosi; this is pretty much the same, only without the smidgen of charm. Arthur Lucan is truly annoying this time around in the title role; he is strident and frantic, and tries to get laughs chiefly through screeching, mugging and wild gesticulating; the small handful of funny lines (the best of which involves a comment about someone having “designs on her underwear”) are lost in the melee. The ghosts have about a minute of screen time (and we know ahead of time that they’re being faked), but since part of the plot involves the invention of a new fuel engine, there’s also a smidgen of science fiction in the mix. Not that it makes this particular recipe that much more inviting, but it is useful to know what’s in something before you ingest it.

I need to lie down.


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