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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Canterville Ghost
The Canterville Ghost
Sony Screen Classics by Request // Unrated // March 4, 2011
List Price: $20.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted June 23, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:
 
Based (rather loosely) on a story by Oscar Wilde, 1986's made-for-TV film The Canterville Ghost is a nice family friendly flick.  Staring John Gielgud who plays his role nicely and a very young Alyssa Milano, the film is light fun especially if you go into it without high expectations.
 

Young Jennifer Canterville (Milano) is being forced to move to England by her father Harry (Ted Wass) and his new wife Lucy (Andrea Marcovicci).  Jenny doesn't like that she had to movie from America and leave all of her friends behind, and is even more upset that her father has remarried after the death of her mother.  But when Harry lost his job at about the same time that he discovered that he had inherited a castle, there wasn't much choice.
 
Except that he doesn't quite own it yet.  For some vague reason the whole family has to live in Canterville Castle for three months before Harry can claim ownership, and there's the rub.  The house is haunted by one of his distant relatives, Sir Simon (John Gielgud), who doesn't like the idea of anyone living in his castle.  Apparently no Canterville has been able to stay in the house for three weeks, let alone three months, and Sir Simon aims to remove the new interlopers in record time.
 

The first evening there Sir Simon warns the family to leave and tries to terrorize the adults by putting a large spider in their bed (that's the best he can come up with?).  Lucy is frightened, but Jennifer is intrigued.  She follows Sir Simon's green glow through the castle, up some stairs, and into his private rooms.  He tries to scare her off, but she's more interested in getting her dead relative to terrorize her step-mother.  With a little luck Lucy will run off, and Jennifer is willing to help all she can.
 
As the days go by Jennifer continues to talk to Sir Simon, rumored to be a ghost because he murdered his wife, and the two start to become friends.  So much so that when Jennifer's father announces that he plans to sell the castle as soon as he gets the deed, Jennifer confides in Sir Simon who comes up with a plan to scuttle the idea.
 


Being a family friendly made for TV movie, the haunting of Canterville Castle is played mainly for laughs and even the youngest viewers shouldn't have to worry about becoming scared.  Most of the terrorizing is done off screen and in the past, with Sir Simon laughing as he relates how he made one relative or another run off into the night after presenting himself to them.  The rest of the time the ghost limits himself to hiding cookies and moving the parent's bed outside into a bog (with them sleeping in it of course).  As is mentioned, it is more comic than scary.
 
As it is, the film is innocuous and inoffensive.  I wish they had spent a bit more time developing the characters, especially Sir Simon (it's never really explained why he's haunting his relatives... he certainly has a lot of respect for his heritage).   The humor isn't quite as funny as it could be, and the drama isn't as emotional, but it's still a decent way to spend some movie-watching time with young kids. 
 
The DVD:

   
Audio:
 
The original mono track is decent but not extraordinary.  The dialog is clean and clear but the background music isn't a deep and rich as it could be.  This is an average sounding disc for a made-for-TV movie.
 
Video:
 
The full frame image, like the audio, is fine.  The colors and detail aren't as impressive as a new film would be, but it was a decent transfer from a nice looking master.
 
Extras:
 
Nothing... there isn't even a menu.
 
Final Thoughts:
 
A fun if innocuous TV movie that can be enjoyed by the entire family, The Canterville Ghost may not be high art and a waste of John Gielgud's talents, but it's still enjoyable and worth watching.  Recommended.
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