Galactic Theater

Welcome to the Galactic Theater, where we'll explore the works of master manipulators of light waves, examine the themes brought to play, and critique the final products of months of hard work.

W A R N I N G !

This review does not represent the opinions of the general public. It reflects my personal thoughts and opinions on the movie.

That said, on to the review!

Now Showing: Ghost
Broadcast Dates: 1990
Format: Cinematic, VHS

For the living, death is a bereavement, a separation from loved ones. It is a time of grief and pain, not soon forgotten. But for the it truly the end? And what if the dead don't know that they've died? What if they're clinging--for good or ill--to the life they left behind?

Sam and Molly have moved into their new loft and are enjoying the start of their life together when tragedy strikes: a quiet night walk becomes filled with gunfire and sirens. Sam struggles with a mugger over his wallet, then chases after the man after he flees. He loses the man and returns to Molly, only to stop when a strange light touches upon him from the sky. It beckons to him, calling to him, but he can think only of Molly. It is then that he discovers the painful truth: when the gun went off, he was the one who got hurt. What's more, he died.

Now thrust into a strange new world filled with ghosts who stick their heads through sheets to look at corpses, or who rise from the operating room and vanish into that same, peaceful light, Sam has no way of warning Molly of the truth. The mugging was a set-up, the objective to obtain certain passcodes for the bank Sam worked at, and the mind behind the mugging was someone whom Sam never suspected, and who Molly could never suspect. Sam's only hope is a skeptical medium who fleeces the people who visit her by making up the stories they want to least until she discovers, through Sam, that she can really hear the dead. Desperate to get a message to Molly, Sam haunts the medium, Oda Mae, until she agrees to help. But the grieving Molly won't listen to her, leaving Sam with an angry Oda Mae and a few new problems of his own.

Now it's becoming a race for time, because while Sam is more or less untouchable, Molly and Oda Mae are less safe. And the person who plotted the mugging-turned-murder has other things to attend to, none of which are legal. Sam--again with Oda Mae's reluctant help--thwarts one of those plans, but in turn places both Molly and Oda Mae in terrible danger. Along the way Sam acquires the ability to affect the solid world, and soon he's hard on the path to avenging his own death. But will he be in time to save Molly from a similar fate?

Okay, if you've ever read my essay, Teary Eyes and Choked-Up Throats, then you know I'm not afraid to admit to crying during a movie or cartoon or book. Well, as I said in the essay, this is one movie which can move me to tears. There's no particular reason off-hand why precisely my eyes should water, except that the plot is so dramatic and romantic, and the storytelling so exceptional, and the acting so phenomenal, that you can't help but be touched by the intensity of the movie,

Patrick Swayze, whose best known role prior to this was probably Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing, provides Sam with all the emotions a person could imagine a ghost could feel: anger, regret, longing, pain, hatred, compassion...the list goes on. The expressions his character adopts are also amazingly expressive: by turns he can be sad and mournful, confused and surprised, cold and dispassionate, and warm and loving. Now, that's a lot of things for an actor to bring to the screen in a single movie, and many actors succeed in this. Swayze, to my mind, did this so well at times that it was easy to see how much he regretted certain things even as he recognized the inevitability of them. Towards the ending of the movie, I found myself thinking of Sam as a sort of avenging angel: steadfast of purpose and determined in exacting the retribution he sought, but still regretting the necessity of it and being honestly sorry when he succeeds in avenging his own death.

Swayze may do an outstanding job, but he could no more do without the assistance of his castmates than Sam could do without Molly or Oda Mae. Demi Moore (Molly) brings a tragic air of innocence-turned-maturity that shows the audience at all times that this is a woman who has had to move away from the joys of life to the shadows of death in a very short and unexpected time. The reluctance to believe that Moore brings to her character--the refusal of the possibility that Sam might actually still be with her--smoothly counters Swayze's character's refusal to leave her side. Whoopi Goldberg, who plays the con artist-turned-legitimate psychic, provides her character with every nuance and twist--both comic and dramatic--that the audience could want. Whether it's in her reluctance to believe that she can talk to spirits, or how she seems to be having one-sided conversations with the air, or how relucant she is to part with a check for more money than she's ever seen in her life, or how she finally gives in and helps Sam (albeit not until after her own life is threatened), the audience will have as much pleasure of watching her as when they see her on Hollywood Squares.

On another note, a significant part of the impact of this movie is the effectiveness of the soundtrack. Unchained Melody, sung by the Righteous Brothers, was a big hit during its original run, but Ghost gave it new life (pardon the pun). I remember how often the song played on the radio when the movie first came out. On the other hand, while this song played to great effect during the movie at the most appropriate scenes, the instrumental/symphonic version of the song was even better, and the end theme was stupendous. Back to Unchained Melody, though. Imagine one of the most touching ballads you've ever heard--Colors of the Wind, for example--and take away the vocals. Then slow the music down slightly, adapt it for a full orchestra, and perform it at full intensity during some of the most intense scenes of a movie. That's about what the musical director did for Ghost, and it was so effective, that the music alone--if a person realizes what scenes it accompanied and can remember them acutely--can bring tears. That's how good it is.

Ghost is most definitely not a horror movie, despite the inclusion of ghosts and other spirits. This is a romantic drama with a few bits of action, suspense, and comedy thrown into the mix. The human relationships are real, and the portrayals entirely believable. Have a box or two of tissue ready at hand by the end of the movie, because you might find it hard to stop crying. The ending is that beautiful.

Interested in buying this video? You can! Just follow the link to order the VHS version. You can also visit the Stellar Video Store for other titles.

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