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October 07, 2005

The Changeling

Peter Medak - 1980
HBO Home Video DVD

I finally decided to see The Changeling after twenty-five years. Part of my wanting to see it is historical. There was a mansion near where I use to live in the Capitol Hill section of Denver that was said to be haunted and the inspiration for the movie as well. That building has since been converted to several offices after being empty for several years.

The Changeling stands between Robert Wise's The Haunting and Jan DeBont's The Haunting as hauted house movies go. It's not as explicit as later horror films, but after it's not particularly subtle either. George C. Scott moves to Washington state after seeing his wife and daughter killed in an accident. A composer, he wants to move to a place where he can play his piano without disturbing anyone. He moves from a large New York City apartment to a large, haunted house about the size of the palace at Versailles. Things go bump in the night and day, basically whenever the ghost of a dead boy wants to annoy Scott.

I know that The Changeling has its fans. For me it had a couple of good moments. I have seen a fair number of Peter Medak's films. I wish I could make better sense of a career that has one classic, a cult film, and prime cheese. While there was a jolt from a scene with a shattered mirror, seeing Trish Van Devere chased by a wheel chair provoked guffaws instead of chills. The film's best performance belongs, not surprisingly, to Melvyn Douglas. In a relatively small role, Douglas fills his part with a genuine sense of anger and sadness as a very wealthy man with a very dark secret.

In the early part of his career, Douglas appeared in James Whale's The Old Dark House and The Vampire Bat. He closed out his career with The Changeling and Ghost Story. Maybe after almost fifty years, Douglas decided the time was right to revisit cinematic haunts.

Posted by peter at October 7, 2005 04:03 PM