“Good evening my dear.”
Once a year Charles Kessler (Bela Lugosi) goes crazy. His wife (Betty Compton) left him several years ago for another man. Since then, every year on their wedding anniversary Charles has a romantic dinner with his wife’s empty chair. His daughter Virginia (Polly Ann Young) is concerned for him. She tries to explain the situation to her boyfriend Ralph Dickson (John McGuire).
It turns out that Charles’s wife ended up in a car accident. In the accident her lover died and she suffered some memory loss. The family gardener Jules (Ernie Adams) found her and was keeping her in the basement. I’m not sure why, something to do with not wanting Charles to see her in such a confused state, and he doesn’t have the heart to tell him that his wife is alive. I know it doesn’t make any sense to me either.
There have also been several murders near the Kessler estate. That evening, Mrs. Kessler wanders around the grounds and ends up outside Charles’s window. When Charles sees her outside the window he goes into a hypnotic trance. He then wanders into the maid Cecile’s (Terry Walker), bedroom and strangles her.
The police find out that Ralph had dated Cecile in the past. They believe he killed her to get her out of the way so he could marry Virginia. Ralph is found guilty of murder on circumstantial evidence and is put to death. Ralph’s twin brother Paul (John McGuire) shows up from South America. Not believing his brother could murder anyone, he is determined to find out what really happened.
“The Invisible Ghost”, also known as “Murder by the Stars” and “The Phantom Monster”, (none of which make any sense) was released in 1941 and was directed by Joseph H. Lewis. The movie is another low budget Monogram Picture. A poverty row movie. If you’re looking for some kind of plot twist, forget it. Whenever Kessler sees his wife he short circuits and strangles somebody. And the state executed an innocent man. What plot there is makes no sense. The movie itself pretty much sucks.
But Lugosi is very good. Not great mind you. I’ve seen performances from him that I liked better, but you do get to see him in what is basically a dual role. He plays a concerned gentle man and a horrible monster. It’s not the plot of the movie that is complex; it’s the character that Lugosi plays that is complex. This is not the kind of movie you watch to see a mystery. You already know what is going on. You watch it for the performance. Lugosi fans should be pleased with it.
Least we forget Clarence Muse’s performance as Evans the butler. Although still relegated to the butler role he, at least, is allowed to play it with dignity and poise.