Movie Magazine

Headbanger Movie Review

By Mad Professor Mike

Return to Glennascaul, AKA Orson Welles's Ghost Story

USA/UK - 1951

Hello, America!! This is Mad Prof. Mike with the Headbanger Video Capsule!! It may surprise you that your humble Professor, for all his mad profession of love for splatterry fare like Dario Argento and George Romero movies, is a real lover of dark, moody, quiet ghost stories. Nothing cranks my tractor the way a gloomy Val Lewton flick or a James Whale shadow-fest does.

Which brings me to the upcoming video release of an arcane Orson Welles two-reeler from 1952: "RETURN TO GLENNASCAUL."

Made while Welles was devoting three agonizing years of his life to filming "OTHELLO," "RETURN TO GLENNASCAUL" is an Oscar-nominated short feature, directed by Welles' mentor and co-founder of the Gate Theater in Dublin, Hilton James. In it, Welles plays himself (in the midst of directing "OTHELLO"), side-tracked by a stranded traveler on a dark road outside Dublin. The traveler tells him about something that happened to him on the same stretch of road a year before, something... kind of spooky involving two mysterious women who live in a house called Glennascaul, which in Irish means "glen of the shadows." Heh-heh...

On the surface, "RETURN TO GLENNASCAUL" is a standard ghost story in the J. Sheridan LeFanu vein. What makes it special is the incredible rich black and white photography used by Hilton James to create a creepy, desolate mood. James uses all the tricks developed by his pupil for "CITIZEN KANE" and runs with them, creating huge, looming shadows for some scenes, and the amazing look in other scenes that they'd been filmed by the light of a lantern.

The one drawback is the very end, which puts a jaunty, jovial, "nudge-in-the-ribs" spin on this dark and stormy Irish ghost story that kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

The video release has a short introduction by Peter Bogdanovich on the making not only of "RETURN TO GLENNASCAUL," but also of Welles' "OTHELLO" that is itself worth the price of rental.

Of course, the real beauty of "RETURN TO GLENNASCAUL" is the fact that once you've seen it, you can casually mention it to all those drippy, pretentious, annoying movie fans who claim to know EVERYTHING about Orson Welles, and really stick it to them for not having heard of it. Heh-heh-heh.

On our Headbanger scale of 1-4, the upcoming MPI Home Video release of "RETURN TO GLENNASCAUL" gets three and a half headbangs. With the Headbanger video capsule, I'm Mad Prof. Mike for "Movie Magazine!"

© 1994 - Michael Marano - Air Date: 8/31/94

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