“If it be a natural thing, where do it come from? Where do it go?”
When Tommy Gander (Arthur Askey), a vaudeville comedian, pulls the emergency brake on the train to Fal Vale Junction, to retrieve his hat, it causes eight passengers to miss their connection to Truro. Stranded at the platform with Tommy are; Jackie Winthrop (Carole Lynne), Teddy Deakin (Richard Murdoch), Richard Winthrop (Peter Murray-Hill) Herbert (Stuart Latham) and his fiancée Edna (Betty Jardine), spinster Miss Bourne (Kathleen Harrison), and the tippling Dr. Sterling (Morland Graham).
Not realizing they missed their train the passengers are waiting on the platform. A torrential rain moves in and everyone goes into the station. The stationmaster, Saul Hodgkin (Herbert Lomas) tells them that there won’t be another train until the next day. He tells them they must leave so he can lock up. They refuse to go until the rain stops.
Hodgkin tells them that the station is haunted. He tells the story of how, one night a train was scheduled to go over a branch line that crossed the river. It was the stationmaster’s job to close the swinging bridge so that the train could pass over the river. This one night the stationmaster had a heart attack and could not close the bridge. The train plunged into the river. Since then the legend of the ghost train is said to pass through the station on the river branch. Anyone looking at the train will die.
The stationmaster leaves. Later footsteps are heard outside. Richard opens the door, and Hodgkin collapses into the room. Dr. Sterling pronounces him dead. Still later, a woman in black (Linden Travers) runs into the station pleading for help. Her brother (Raymond Huntley) shows up and says his sister is unbalanced. She refuses to leave. She says she once saw the ghost train and she is positive that it will show again tonight. Having pitched his car into a ditch in the rain her brother goes to find other transportation. While the passengers are trying to placate the young woman, they hear the sound of a train approaching on the river line.
“The Ghost Train” was released in 1941 and was directed by Walter Forde. It is a British film. The movie is a re-make of a partially lost film called “The Ghost Train” released in 1931. Only five reels of picture and two reels of soundtrack survive. There was also a play done in 1923.
Although Arthur Askey gets the lion’s share of the spotlight, Arthur and Richard Murdoch, who plays Teddy Deakin, were a comedy team at the time.
The film is labeled a comedy/horror and mystery/thriller. I didn’t find it funny, but I did find it a decent thriller. Arthur Askey is, in a word, annoying. He is annoying to the passengers and annoying to the audience. At least the audience with me in it. I’m usually not big on comedies to begin with and vaudeville has never been something I would voluntarily watch. I found Askey totally irritating and of absolutely no benefit to the movie. Why he is in it is a mystery.
That’s unfortunate since the rest of the movie was so much better. Without him the film would have been a good ghost story full of the usual spooky trappings. The sets were dark and dreary and the torrential rain was, even though a plot devise to keep everyone in the station, wonderful. It’s like a really eerie campfire story but with cool sound effects. I actually liked the movie, except for every frame that Askey occupied.