Thursday, October 03, 2013
31 Days of Halloween - Day 3 - Movie 2
The Phantom Carriage (1921) is a morality story along the lines of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The last person to die on New Year's Eve as the clock strikes midnight is doomed to take over the task of driving Death's cart and to collect the souls of the dead for the next year. In this role, each day seems as if it were 100 years. Just as a mean-spirited, abusive, alcoholic, played by director Victor Sjöström, is about to become the next year's driver, the previous driver, who comes to collect him, shows him the points in his life that led him to his sorry fate. Seemingly unrepentant, it takes the dying Salvation Army worker who never gave up on reforming him to lead him to redemption.
The Phantom Carriage is a bit long and a bit preachy with its redemption story, but otherwise a solid, melodrama full of advanced cinematic techniques for its time, some good performances, and interesting special effects. The phantom carriage itself is a really strong visual, but whenever the driver lowered his hood I was reminded of Alec Guinness as Ben Kenobi, particularly since he was serving as an aid to his successor, much as the old Jedi Knight was to young Luke Skywalker. This movie also has the distinction of being the film which inspired Ingmar Bergman to become a filmmaker himself.