Starring: Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Willie Best
Director: George Marshall
Running Time: 85 mins
The Ghost Breakers is an American film about a radio broadcaster and an heiress who investigate a mysterious haunted castle in Cuba.
While this is a light-hearted and fairly enjoyable movie, and one that’s very much of its time, The Ghost Breakers isn’t the most hilarious watch, particularly for viewers of the current day. In comparison to some of the other Golden Age horror comedies that have held up over time – Abbott and Costello comes to mind above all – this movie doesn’t quite have the energy or ingenuity to really grab you, and although it features a trio of likable performances from Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard and Willie Best, it’s not a film that had me rolling on the floor laughing at any point.
One of the strange things when watching this film is that you might think of it all as very generic, following the most predictable and clichéd of horror comedy plots. Well, while this isn’t the first of the genre ever to be made, the style that seems dated and clichéd nowadays was very much the fashion then, and therefore the same level of criticism you might give a film now for falling such a generic line doesn’t necessarily apply here.
On the whole, though, The Ghost Breakers is a fairly enjoyable film, and most of its entertainment value comes from the odd fun comedic setup, as well as those very enjoyable lead performances.
The first act in particular proves a chuckleworthy watch, as we see Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard brought together through a series of comic mishaps, and end up on a wild adventure as we jump between ridiculous misunderstanding to ridiculous misunderstanding. Again, it’s not comedic gold dust, but it does enough to provoke a grin or two throughout.
What’s more is that Hope and Goddard are very entertaining on screen together, and as well as having a good bit of chemistry that makes their relationship all the more convincing, both pull off a good amount of comedy throughout, with Hope excelling in his classic role, while Goddard is also delightful to watch. Meanwhile, there’s an unsung hero in the form of Willie Best, who’s just as entertaining as the lead two in the sidekick role of Hope’s bumbling manservant.
Of course, there are elements of the way Best’s character is written that seem rather outdated nowadays, but if you look past that, he plays the dunderheaded assistant with a good bit of energy, and adds a pleasing degree of slapstick to proceedings alongside the lead duo, which I was very entertained by throughout.
With all that said, watching this film isn’t quite the laugh-a-minute rollercoaster you may want. In comparison to the likes of Abbott and Costello, The Ghost Breakers doesn’t quite have the zip in terms of energy to really entertain, getting a little too bogged down in its story to allow the sillier side of the movie to flourish.
It’s an undoubtedly easy-going film, but if things were a little less serious at times, and a little more slapstick-oriented, I feel that this could have been a significantly funnier film, rather than one that occasionally sparks a chuckle, but little more, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.9 overall.