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Ghost Camera, The (1933)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Ghost Camera, The (1933)
35mm, black and white, 68 mins
Directed byBernard Vorhaus
Production CompanyReal Art Productions
ProducerJulius Hagen
ScreenplayH. Fowler Mear
StoryJefferson Farjeon
PhotographyErnest Palmer
EditingDavid Lean

Cast: Henry Kendall (John Gray); S. Victor Stanley (Albert Sims); John Mills (Ernest Elton); George Merritt (the detective); Felix Aylmer (the coroner); Ida Lupino (May Elton)

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A camera holds the vital evidence needed to unravel a case involving theft and murder and to help set free an innocent man.

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Following the successful release of the independently made Money For Speed (1933), co-starring Ida Lupino and edited by David Lean, Bernard Vorhaus accepted an offer to work for Twickenham Studios, at that time one of Britain's busiest. Twickenham's resident editor, Jack Harris, was otherwise busy and so Vorhaus was able to get Lean to edit The Ghost Camera (1933), one of Vorhaus' best-known British films which again starred Lupino as a girl with a guilty secret. This neat little thriller was based on a story by J. Jefferson Farjeon, who also provided material for Hitchcock's Number Seventeen (1932) and three early films by Michael Powell, including The Phantom Light (1934).

The film shows many of the characteristic touches that graced Vorhaus and Lean's previous collaboration, with inventive camerawork and fast pacing and a fondness for using real locations whenever possible. The story is decked out with a number of unusual and innovative stylistic touches, such as a pre-credit sequence and creative use of subjective camera during a flashback, devices that were highly original at the time and would only become more common years later.

There are also a number of imaginative and witty transitions from one scene to the next, such as the shots in which Kendall's silly ass hero tries to track down Lupino. Lean's editing is seen at it's most creative and flamboyant in the sequences following the arrest of John Mills' character - the word 'murder' is spelled one letter at a time, cutting from one journalist's report to another - and in the dizzy overlapping dissolves used when Mills staggers into the court room.

By combining such ambitious touches with atmospheric low-key cinematography and a light touch with his actors, Vorhaus and Lean signalled their desire to move on to bigger and better things.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. Round the houses (2:15)
2. May's brother (1:14)
3. M for murder (2:14)
Last Journey, The (1935)
Lean, David (1908-1991)
Mills, John (1908-2005)
Vorhaus, Bernard (1904-2000)
B Pictures