witty, spooky and fabulously atmospheric comedy-thriller, The Phantom Light was
an early feature from British film legend Michael Powell. With leading roles
for the multi-talented Binnie Hale and endlessly popular character player
Gordon Harker, this classic Gainsborough feature remains a wonderful piece of
from Evadne Price and Joan Roy Byford's play, The Haunted light, this
delightful British thriller wastes little time and begins with the strange
murder of a lighthouse keeper. Since his death, the area (an unspecified Welsh
coast), has suffered a number of shipwrecks due to a phantom light or indeed a
failing light from the North Stack Lighthouse. A female detective in the
shapely form of Alice Bright (Binnie Hale) unites with new lighthouse keeper Sam
Higgins (Gordon Harker) and a navy officer Jim Pearce (Ian Hunter) in order to
solve the mystery. Directed with flare and confidence by Michael Powell, The
Phantom Light is a superior entry among the quota-quickie melodramas that were
saturating the British film market at the time.
Phantom Light was one of seven films released by Michael Powell in 1935 and was
essentially a star vehicle for the Cockney comedian Gordon Harker. The film
retains a great atmosphere with plenty of storm-tossed coastal action provided
by a combination of stock footage, fine model work and superb studio sets. For Michael Powell, it is an early exercise
into a pre-modern Britain that still continues on its isles and rocky locales
and would become a feature of his later films.
cleverly uses his low budget and without straying too far from the London studios
of Gainsborough Pictures. He successfully sells us his imaginary Wales from one
railway station, a pub set and a couple of process shots. A fun script,
enjoyable performances, and its sheer entertainment value bring all elements
together rather nicely throughout its 73 minutes.
DVD works very well, with film elements both clean and vibrant. Yes, there are
a few minor scratches here and there, but for the best part it does little to
disappoint or become an overwhelming hindrance. It has to be remembered, this
charming low budget film is now eighty years old. Audio is clear and crisp and
the film is presented correctly in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The DVD
also features a nice stills gallery (approx. 40 images) containing photos,
press book ads and even a cigarette card featuring the film, another lost
treasure of cinema’s past.