Ghost Story (1981)



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Movie Info

This 1981 John Irvin picture constitutes an adaptation of Peter Straub's colossal, bestselling novel. The central plot -- shared by both book and film -- revolves around the four elderly members of the Chowder Society (Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and John Houseman), who gather in each other's drawing rooms each winter to sip cognac and spin elaborate ghost stories. The four men also share a dark secret far more unsettling than fiction -- a secret which has literally come back to haunt them, as well as their own adult offspring. Each man is visited by a hideous specter bearing the likeness of a young woman (Alice Krige) they accidentally killed 50 years ago when spurning her mischievous sexual advances.

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Fred Astaire
as Ricky Hawthorne
Melvyn Douglas
as Dr. John Jaffrey
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
as Edward Charles Wanderley
John Houseman
as Sears James
Craig Wasson
as Don/David Wanderley
Alice Krige
as Alma/Eva
Miguel Fernandes
as Gregory Bate
Lance Holcomb
as Fenny Bate
Mark Chamberlin
as Young Jaffrey
Tim Choate
as Young Hawthorne
Kurt Johnson
as Young Wanderley
Ken Olin
as Young James
Guy Boyd
as Omar Norris
Robert Burr
as Peterson
Helena Carroll
as Mrs. Meredith
Robin Curtis
as Rea Dedham
Breon Gorman
as Nettie Dedham
Cagle D. Green
as Eva's Ghost
Lance Helcomb
as Fenny Bate
Kyra Carleton
as Eva's Ghost
James Greene
as The Postman
Ruth Hunt
as Florence
Virginia P. Bingham
as Sears' Mother
Deborah Offner
as Helen Kayon
Russell Bletzer
as Reverend Wilkinson
Alfred Curven
as Man in the Coffin
Michael O'Neill
as Churchill
William F. Conway
as Sears' Father
Hugh Hires
as Student Solt
Raymond J. Quinn
as Ricky's Father
Barbara von Zastrow
as Ricky's Mother
Alvin W. Fretz
as The Coroner
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Critic Reviews for Ghost Story

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (1)

The Shining is about decay. Ghost Story talks about decay.

Mar 26, 2016 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

A film driven by atmosphere and a quiet sense of foreboding dread, Ghost Story is the hauntingly provocative adaptation of Peter Straub's novel that may be a tonal mess, but still has this weirdly hypnotic power to it after all these years.

Jan 6, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

An OK film adaptation whose primary point of interest is its collection of superlative seniors in the leading roles.

Dec 5, 2015 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

creepy but muddled

Feb 26, 2005 | Rating: 2/5

The classic Hollywood stars lend distinction to this rather tepid spook show.

Jan 16, 2003 | Rating: 4/5

Impressive cast can't advance the flick's snail pace.

Jul 28, 2002 | Rating: 2.5/5

Audience Reviews for Ghost Story

Ghost Story is an average horror yarn that had the potential of being something truly memorable. As it stands, there are some effective moments here and there, but overall the material is mostly flat with minimal chills to be had. I enjoyed the film as a mindless time waster, but I also felt that the filmmakers could have put a bit more effort into the film's script to really make it stand out among other ghost tales. Acting wise, there are some good performances, unfortunately there are no standout performances either. Genre fans may enjoy it, and there some good things about the film. However like I said, there should have been more effort put into delivering something truly horrifying. Ghost Story is mildly chilling, and it leaves a lot to be desired. Is the film worth seeing, you ask? Well, it is, if you want something in the vein of Amityville horror, where it's not too scary, and then this is a perfect film to watch. Ghost Story is one of those films that is perfect for newcomers of the horror genre as the horror content is quite soft, but suggests more that what is going on, on-screen. In that sense, it leaves the imagination run wild, and it that respect, the movie succeeds at being quite entertaining and overcoming its shortcomings. The film could have been reworked, but as a whole, it's mindless entertainment that will appeal to new fans of horror, but for the veteran, they notice its flaws very early. The plot on the other hand is quite good, but good have been perfected a bit more to really make Ghost Story a memorable horror classic. In the end, it's worth seeing, and if you can get past its imperfections, you might like it as a cheesy horror tale.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer


Great to see old vets Astaire, Houseman, Fairbanks, Douglas and Neal headlining a major film its just too bad that film isn't better.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer


And speaking of Fred Astaire . . . It's almost painful to see some stars grow old on screen. I can well understand Jamie Lee Curtis' statement about needing to set a date for retirement because she does not want to be a witness to herself growing old on film. Not that Astaire does not grow old gracefully -- by any means. It's just that his aging is more pronounced because of the added dimension of his great dancing ability. I could not imagine him, in this movie, breaking into a dance over the furniture during a meeting of the Chowder Society -- and that hurts.

I loved this book when it first came out. The movie does bring together some aging heavyweights, and they acquit themselves like the acting legends that they are, given the limitations of age. But if you really want to have the pants scared off of you, you gotta read the book. It's right up there with The Shining for me.

Lanning : )
Lanning : )

Super Reviewer

Sloppily directed, sloppily edited, with a bare-thread, can-be-seen-coming-from-miles-away storyline, it all adds up to the giant waste of time that is "Ghost Story". The dialogue is so bad that it's sometimes laughable, but unintentional laughs can't even save this movie from being an incredible bore. Neither can rubber masked ghosts or gratuitous nudity. Nor can feeble old actors on their way to death's door. In fact, there's no point in writing anymore about this movie, it only prolongs the amount of thinking I must continue to do about it. It's best to strike it from your memory, I promise not to mention it again if you won't.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

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