April 14, 2010

For The Love of Peter O'Toole: High Spirits

Title: High Spirits (Neil Jordan, 1988)
Role: Peter Plunkett, Irish proprietor of a "haunted" castle

This film stars Steve Guttenberg. Wait, don't run away! It's actually not that bad. OK, it's pretty bad, but it's kind of amusing and madcap, so stick around. This is a very formulaic dinner party/haunted house movie. O'Toole cons a bunch of American tourists to spend the weekend in his supposed "haunted" castle because he's flat broke and if he doesn't come up with some dough, the Plunkett manse that'd been in his family for ages would be sold to some horrible land developers. Or something. Anyway, the ghosts are fake. Or are they? Surprise plot twist! There ARE real ghosts, who had just never bothered to get seen by anyone until these American tourists came around. One tourist in particular (Guttenberg) just happens to be the soulmate (soul, geddit?) of Daryl Hannah, who plays a spectral Irish lass of all things. Turns out, Mary (Hannah) is doomed to repeat the night she was murdered by her husband (a very young Liam Neeson) every day for the rest of her afterlife until she meets and falls in love with a mortal who breaks the spell. The rest of the cast is very funny as well, especially Peter Gallagher as a priest who's tempted by Jennifer Tilly and Beverly D'Angelo as Guttenberg's frustrated shrew of a wife. 

It's all very madcap as the castle becomes a funhouse full of walking suits of armor and hidden passageways. O'Toole is in fine form in the first half, orchestrating the great deception of a haunted house. Although everything is very dumb, it's not unentertaining. The last half an hour, especially, is very entertaining, as every subplot comes hurtling to a conclusion and every character is paired up for a happy ending. Good times.

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