Autopsy of a Ghost (1967), MOVIES, PHOTOS
Comments 26

Autopsy of a Ghost (1967)

Well, The Baz is spanning the entire spectrum of Basil Rathbone’s career this week. From 1923 to 1967, and from the sublime (THE SWAN) to the…well, I’m not sure what word of choice would do justice to AUTOPSY OF A GHOST, but it is indeed this film that is the subject of Marcia Jessen’s latest review on basilrathbone.net

I haven’t seen this movie, so I am perforce neutral, but my other Two Sisters have divergent views about its qualities. Marcia thinks it’s awful. Anna likes it quite a lot. I understand this polarity extends to most people who watch it. If I ever summon up the courage to actually sit through it, I’ll let you know what I think,but if any of our readers want to share their thoughts, it might prove an interesting counterpoint to the question of how and why Basil Rathbone managed to start his career as a Broadway Prince and end it, not playing King Lear or Prospero (oh, imagine his Prospero!), but as a guest player in Mexican Absurdist Cinema.

Meanwhile here are some pictures:

Don’t ask. Couldn’t possibly tell you what is going on. Err…he’s wearing a hat, if that helps.

I think he’s Don Quixote and she’s a robot woman (Don Quixote is another part he ought to have played!)

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26 Comments

  1. GRETCHEN says

    I actually thought this was kind-of a CUTE kids’ movie…it’s supposed to be a puppet-show in live-action format. Even though I don’t know much Spanish, I could understand the story pretty well. It’s too bad Basil FINALLY finds someone he can love, only to have the poor robot-chick end-up DEAD at the end…alas!! At least he looked TOTALLY HOT in his costumes…AND he was 75! I would’ve married him if he’d asked… 🙂

    (Oh— and John Carradine was good as the devil-guy, TOO.)

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    • GRETCHEN says

      If I got offered 10,000 BUCKS to do what Basil did in this thing, I’d also say “HECK-YEAH, I’LL DO IT”!! (And I’m talkin’ in TODAY’S money…in the “60s, you could buy SEVERAL Cadillacs for that price. Good-goin’, BAZ!) I WISH I could make money that easy…and perhaps he didn’t REALLY suffer doing this film, since he supposedly thought the director was a GENIUS. (Of course, this WAS when he was going through the beginning stages of DEMENTIA— just sayin’.)

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  2. Roberta says

    I found this film as a torrent and watched it last night. It was weird, quite funny in places, but also quite tragic that Basil was forced to work for money at this time of his life. The sweep and scope of his life is just awesome in that way and I am wondering why no one ha dramatised it before now.

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  3. roesbette says

    I fast forwarded to Basil, and he is so frail, I can’t bear to watch. It looks like he is very near death. I’m not surprised that he passed away not long afterward.

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  4. A reader asked me to post this link to the movie, and added this:

    ” I wish they had found someone else to do Basil’s role so he could be spared the experience. Yet, from the filmmakers’ perspective, he is ideal, a perfect Don Quijote as Neve had said back a few weeks ago.”

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  5. Adrian says

    I don’t think it’s fair to say he sold his soul for money. He was just trying to earn a living, and this was all the work he could get! I believe he was actually not rich when he died.

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  6. Neve, I own a VHS copy of Autopsy, purchased from Sinister Cinema. The print is pristine but there are no subtitles and the English speaking actors are dubbed into Spanish… likely that’s how it was made and released. Though it’s choppy, heavy handed, and quite insane, it’s not entirely worthless: it has some imaginative touches and clever bits, and John Carradine has some amusing moments. I agree with the posters above that Basil looks very frail, and despite the fact he’s the main character, there’s less of him in the film than you’d expect. Which is all to the good. In her writeup, Marcia says “it’s not a horror film, or scary in any way,” which is not quite true… as a final exclamation point on the lesson of what selling your soul for money leads to, it’s pretty horrifying.

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  7. roesbette says

    I second Walter. I would feel the same watching Autopsy as I do about watching Errol Flynn’s later films. The difference being that Flynn abused himself, and I think Rathbone was ultimately abused and discarded by the studio system.

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  8. Anita Vaudricort says

    Honestly though of all the late films he made I think this is the least depressing. It’s at least trying to be original and isn’t just another cheap horror rip off. “Hillbillies In a Haunted House” beats this hands down for depressing. Pity we don’t get to hear him speak though.

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  9. Walter says

    Gahd. Someone needs to figure out the tragic mystery of Rathbone’s failure.

    And sorry, can’t even watch that film, I’m with the blogger on this. Carradine was a jobbing movie actor and this was his stock in trade, but Rathbone was a thoroughbred and one of the finest actors of his generation. he should have been spared it. Shame n the movie industry and shame on Broadway. He’d given them his best, and wtf did they do for him?

    Sorry, he’ a great hero of mine, and this is beyond awful.

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    • Robson says

      You think this is bad, check out THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI. You can see him thinking ‘kill me, kill me now’

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  10. Rathbone was a frustrated Shakespearean. He does a hilarious Macbeth take-off in ‘Comedy of Terrors,’ gasping out the ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech while falling into a cataleptic fit. It’s much funnier than it sounds; his parodying is about the best thing in that film.

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    • Yes, I love that part! In fact I’ve a lot of affection for the whole film. In fairness, though Basil wasn’t exactly a frustrated Shakespearean. He WAS a Shakespearean. He’d worked with Benson and at Stratford, and had played everything from Romeo to Iago.

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  11. Basil and John Carradine were both amusing.I think both did the best they could.The most disturbing thing for me was seeing how frail Basil looked.I ended up coming away from this film feeling sad and sorry for him. I read the stage requires a great reserve of energy for an actor,especially Shakes-Spear.I think Basil was beyond it ,sadly.I would have rather seen him ended his career though with the stage.He gave some really fine film performances,but he was made for the stage.That is just my opinion.

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    • Henry Elsworth says

      But even if he was too frail for the stage in 1966, he wasn’t a few years earlier. He could have played some great parts.

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    • Lemony Snicket says

      If he could work on a film at high altitude he probably wasn’t as frail as he looked. I still tend to agree with Carradine’s layman opinion that it was the altitude killed this man more than any underlying disease.

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  12. Margaret G says

    I really really hate this film I have to say. It’s an obscenity Basil was forced to do this garbage just to eat.

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  13. hideous kinky is back says

    Good question – why the hell was classically trained actor not welcomed back to the stage? Most of the actors who fell on serious hard times were movie actors who just dropped by the wayside, but Rathbone was a stage actor who made movies. When he returned to the stage he should have been doing Shakespeare and the classics at Stratford Ontario and the like. Why the hell did he never play lear or Prospero?

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