“ Genre: Horror / Theatrical Release: 1988 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Frank Laloggia / Actors: Lukas Haas, Katherine Helmond, Len Cariou, Alex Rocco ... / DVD released 2009-04-13 at Optimum Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Director's Cut, PAL „
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RELEASED: 1988, Cert. 15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 115 mins
DIRECTOR/SCREENPLAY/MUSIC: Frank LaLoggia
PRODUCERS: Andrew G La Marca & Frank LaLoggia
Lukas Haas as Frankie Scarlatti
Alex Rocco as Angelo Scarlatti
Len Cariou as Phil
Joelle Jacobi as the ghost of Melissa
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Told in flashback format when adult Frankie Scarlatti returns to his home town, the story begins in 1962 when Frankie is aged 9, and while hanging around school with his two friends when everybody else has gone home, they lock him in the cloakroom and run away.
Frankie is unable to get out and his cries for help go unheard, as there is nobody else around. He manages to fall asleep but a strange dream wakes him up, after which he 'sees' the ghost of a young girl as she is being murdered. Frankie is then himself attacked and just before losing consciousness, witnesses the young ghost girl plead with him to help her find her mother.
Frankie's father, Angelo, manages to find and rescue him....then the following day, it emerges that the school caretaker has been arrested and charged with the murder of several children in the district over a period of years.
From then onwards and at intervals, Frankie continues to 'see' the young ghost girl, finding out that her name was Melissa.
There is also talk of a 'woman in white', another ghost who roams around the countryside looking for something, and a little way off from the town, lives an elderly reclusive lady who once tried to commit suicide by setting fire to her own house.
That sets the scene.....watch the film to find out what happens.
Once the main part of the story began, I got a feeling that it may perhaps have been intended for older children, mainly due to the setting, the type of language used in the dialogue and the kind of humour which is present in a couple of the early scenes. The music reminded me of what might be used for a Disney adventure film, aimed at a young audience, and I also felt there to be a bit of an atmosphere of one of these serialised TV programmes they used to put on the box back in the 1960s and 1970s, especially created for kids aged from about 11 to around 15-ish (that was in the days when youth of those ages were still relatively innocent and harmless!).
The acting, although it certainly isn't bad, is pretty average and I can't say that any one member of the cast stood out above the others, but there is a short scene edging towards the end of the film which I feel is particularly well done....it is when somebody suddenly realises something about somebody else, and the little bit of drama which occurs after that realisation, is pretty realistic and well-acted.
I can't say that the small pieces of humour in the early part of Lady In White amused me, simply because I believe the whole film is targeted at a much younger audience than myself (despite it currently holding a 15 certificate), nor can I say that I found any moments contained within that scared me, but it is a very watchable film that concentrates quite highly on adventure, as well as the supernatural.
On the more serious side, there is a racial issue present in the storyline in that the man who is arrested and tried for attacking Frankie and murdering several other children over a period of time - the school caretaker - is black, and it seems the police are using him as a convenient scapegoat, them being disinterested in true justice, pointing the finger at a man simply because of the colour of his skin. Regarding the racial issue and as part of the outcome of the school caretaker's trial, there is another quite startling moment which is totally unpredictable and very well done. In fact, I probably found that the most moving part of the whole film.
Even though it is my belief that this film originally could have been directed at a younger audience and bearing in mind I didn't find it particularly scary myself, I do consider it likely that people under a certain age would be at least a little unnerved by some of the film's supernatural aspects.
The special effects in Lady In White are good for the era in which the film was made, but will come across as dated to a modern-day audience who no doubt is used to a much more complex level of movie technology. Watching Lady In White through the eyes of today's technological standards, these special effects look almost laughable, but I feel it is important to accept an era's cinematic limitations for what they were at any given time.....rather like living in the moment, than expecting something from the past to be delivered with the utilisation of things that probably weren't even invented when the film was first made.
I'm going to stick my neck out and wander into territory I usually steer well clear of, and say that Lady In White could possibly stand a re-make, but if a modern director were to take on the challenge, I feel it would be extremely important to retain the film's original innocence of mood and not turn it into some kind of blood, entrails and throat-ripping fest.
I did quite enjoy Lady In White, but at the end of the day it isn't really the kind of film that moves me in any way. I watched and appreciated it more from a place of almost light-heartedness, and it's something I feel befits Bank Holiday viewing, as it is, in my possibly mistaken opinion, quite family-friendly. I don't think I'll be giving myself a second helping of this film though, because it's one of the type which once you've seen it, that's it....you just take it for what it is, then move on to something else.
As outlined above, I feel Lady In White is a film more suited to a young audience, but I would strongly recommend any parents to vet it thoroughly first before making any decisions as to whether it would be appropriate viewing for their offspring....99% of the material contained within is quite innocent, but there is one short scene that could be classified as 'adults only'. I definitely wouldn't recommend as suitable for under-12s though.
At the time of writing, Lady In White can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £4.32 to £60.00
Used: Only one copy currently available @ £4.31
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
In 1960s America at Hallowe'en, a boy called Frankie Scarlatti is locked in his school by his friends as a joke. Something dreadful happened in the school ten years before, but it is never spoken of. That night, Frankie is treated to a vision of what happened - the murder of a small girl called Melissa Anne Montgomery. And although he cannot see the face of the murderer himself, he knows that it is someone Melissa Anne knew well. Then a man appears, threatening Frankie with his life, but luckily Frankie manages to escape. But he cannot forget the little girl; all the more so when he discovers that an innocent man is being accused of her murder and the murder of several other children. Can Frankie discover who the real murderer is?
The Lady in White (1988) was directed by Frank LaLoggia, and is a little known ghost story that probably deserves to be much better known. It is unusual in that it features a small boy investigating the murder of a small girl; yet it is quite creepy and has a rating of 15 and so is not really suitable for children of the same age as the lead character. Nevertheless, it is an interesting ghost story that should appeal to all who like films of this genre - I can imagine it would be perfect for a Hallowe'en party. Unfortunately, the special effects are dated, which may put some viewers off.
The acting is nothing out of the ordinary, although all the performances are competent. Frankie Scarlatti appears in two guises - as a small boy and as a grown-up man returning to his home-town while narrating the story. However, it is Lukas Haas as the younger version that has the most screen time. For a child actor, he is not bad. He is not made up to be too cute - he is just an ordinary little boy who fights with his brother and likes to know things that grown-ups don't. There is no over-acting or big doe eyes here, which I like. This does make him a little unmemorable, because he tends to blend into the background, but it enables the viewer to concentrate on the ghost story instead of Frankie as a character, which is what I think was intended.
The rest of the actors are all secondary characters and don't really stand out at all - in fact, having only seen the film yesterday, I am struggling to remember what any of them look like. Frankie's father, played by Alex Rocco, probably has the biggest part and gives a good performance as a man who clearly cares deeply for his son, particularly because Mrs Scarlatti died some time before, leaving him to raise his two sons alone. Some comic value is added by the performances of Renata Vanni and Angelo Bertolini who play Frankie's grandparents. They fight virtually non-stop, particularly over his smoking - unfortunately (or fortunately) we can't always understand what they are saying because they speak in their native Italian.
Visually, this is a really interesting film. Frankie's vision when he is locked in the school is very Hitchcock-esque - he sees part of it through a kaleidoscope of colour, predominantly red. I enjoyed watching it, but it did feel strange for a film that was made in 1988 - it made it feel quite dated. The rest of the vision, and later ghostly appearance, feels a little more modern, but it is still dated when compared to today's special effects. I can imagine that this would limit the audience for the film to those who like films that are a little quirky and don't mind the fact that the special effects are a bit off kilter. It seems that director Frank LaLoggia has done very little else apart from this film (in which he also plays the older Frankie), which does seem a shame, because I think this film shows promise.
The story is not really anything special - innocent man accused of mass murder when real murderer gets away scot-free is not exactly original. And to be honest, it doesn't start off particularly well - it was a good twenty minutes in before the story grabbed my attention. I think there is a little too much scene-setting - I like to find out something about the background of the main characters, but in this case, we were bombarded with it before having time to work out whether the characters were worth spending any time on. There is quite a good twist towards the end which helps make up for this - it isn't exactly the shock of the century, but it did make me sit on the edge of my seat, albeit briefly.
There is little that we see on screen that is particularly scary. It is more about what we don't see; the little girl's murder, for example, is quite clean because we don't see anything very gory. Nevertheless, the threat behind her killing is quite disturbing and it is probably for this, and the ending involving threats towards Frankie, that has given this film a rating of 15. I can imagine that children younger than 15 could cope with the film, but I think parents should certainly do their research before deciding whether to let their children watch or not.
There are a few special features: some deleted scenes, that are nothing special and a trailer. Marginally more interesting is a behind the scenes documentary on the film, narrated over by Frank LaLoggia. It is, frankly, quite dull and really badly made - for real fans of the film only.
This isn't a film that I had heard of before (and shouldn't be confused with the 1938 film directed by Mario Mattoli). However, it is an interesting little film that is definitely worth a watch if you have an interest in ghost stories and the supernatural. It is certainly a film I would like to get out again around Hallowe'en. Recommended.
The DVD is available from Amazon for £9.48. Cheaper versions are available if you have the facilities to play Region 1 DVDs.
Running time: 112 minutes