Oscar Wilde's ghost story takes on recent life on this fun and classy animated adaptation

Oscar Wilde's ghost story takes on recent life on this fun and classy animated adaptation
24 March 2024 J.W.H

Oscar Wilde's “The Canterville Ghost” seems quite spooky in itself and doomed to walk the earth through quite a few adaptations. There were at the very least 14 television versions, latest in 2021and it hasn't been long since audiences encountered the French-Belgian version from director Yann Samuell, The Canterville Ghost (2016).

However, Oscar Wilde's 1887 comic ghost story was a late creator on this respect. Although there was a comic book opera in 1905 (Mud spirit) and Spanish art from 1929 (The Canterville Ghost), no film version appeared until MGM loosely adapted from the 1944 production.

Canterville Ghost movie trailer.

The film took the slightly unlikely path of reworking Wilde's cheerful Victorian fantasy right into a war story a few cowardly soldier (Robert Young) who, with the assistance of a ghost (Charles Laughton) and child star Margaret O'Brien, found his courage.

Perhaps adaptations were slow because Wilde's story seemed so timely. The Canterville Ghost owes something to the comedy America vs. Britain, based on Tom Taylor's play, Our American cousin (1858), through which a wealthy American tries to associate with British aristocrats.

The important inspiration, nevertheless, were quite a few articles from Victorian magazines through which recent inhabitants of old houses encounter troubled ghosts. Peace is restored when some past mistaken is righted, often with the invention of the earthly stays of a spirit.

Wilde imagined a rather different scenario. The American Otises family buys Canterville Chase. The home is haunted by a seventeenth century specter, Sir Simon de Canterville. He murdered his wife and was killed in turn by her family, and it’s his fate to haunt the halls of the manor until the prophecy comes true.

But it's actually modern Americans who’re harassing Sir Simon. They ridicule his terrible habits, treat mysterious blood stains at home with Pinkerton's Champion stain remover, and offer him a Tammany Rising Sun grease gun to quiet the clanking of his chains.

The rambunctious young Otis twins make his life a misery until their kind-hearted sister Virginia frees his spirit from the spell that binds him along with her tears and prayers. The Eighteen Eighties was an era through which real “dollar princesses” were marrying English aristocrats, and the story ends with Virginia receiving “the coronet that is the reward of all good American girls” when she married the young Duke of Cheshire just a few years later .

Updating Wilde's world

2023 Canterville Ghost movie directed by Kim Burdon, is a clever and classy animation. The outstanding forged included Stephen Fry as Sir Simon, supported by Hugh Laurie, Emily Carey, Imelda Staunton, Toby Jones, Miranda Hart and Meera Syal.

The Eighteen Eighties setting is modified to 1900, and the Otises arrive in a state-of-the-art automotive. Hiram Otis (David Harewood) wastes no time electrifying Canterville, much to Sir Simon's chagrin.

Quite a lot of characters have been added to the story – most notably an excellent gardener who can be a grim reaper (Laurie) and the vicar's wife, Algernean Van Finchley (Hart), who’s an amateur ghost hunter.

Virginia just isn’t the little girl in Wilde's story, but a confident and athletic young woman.
Signature entertainment

Sir Simon became a more sympathetic character. In this version, the story that he was a cruel aristocrat who killed his wife Eleanor is unfaithful and he was in actual fact dedicated to each her and the stage. The flashbacks to his past are beautifully presented and appear inspired Victorian toy theaters.

The film centers around two love stories: that of Sir Simon and his beloved Eleanor, separated for 300 years, and the budding romance between Virginia Otis (Carey) and their neighbor Henry, the accident-prone young Duke of Cheshire (Freddie Highmore).

Virginia just isn’t the little girl in Wilde's story, but a confident and athletic young woman in breeches who desires a lifetime of adventure slightly than “being someone's wife.”

Stylish animation

There are great animated set pieces, including a lavish banquet hosted by the Otises that Sir Simon turns right into a burning disaster zone. However, the standout sequence is “The Garden of Death”, where Virginia secures Sir Simon's release.

In Wilde's story, Virginia's experiences within the garden happen offstage, but here they constitute an prolonged motion sequence through which the sort gardener reveals himself because the grim reaper. Sir Simon, Henry and Virginia must duel him as he transforms from one monstrous avatar to a different. The garden itself is shown in a distinct visual style than the remainder of the film, paying homage to Golden Age children's illustrations by artists similar to Edmund Dulac AND Kay Nielsen.

A family of animated characters.
The American Otis family.
Signature entertainment

Ultimately, as in Wilde's original, love does indeed conquer death and Sir Simon is finally free. Virginia marries Henry and we see them flying off into the long run together – she's on the controls, in fact.

With stylish and inventive animation, an excellent forged, and overall good humor, The Canterville Ghost is an enjoyable film, perhaps geared toward family audiences in search of a brand new tackle a classic tale.

The closing credits suggest a fancy story with a global scope, involving British writers and directors (Space Age Films and Sprout Pictures), Indian animators (Toonz Media Group) and British and Irish government funding, in addition to American finance and distribution.

The film itself, nevertheless, stays quite near Wilde's vision of the Anglo-American world order, through which wealthy Americans mix with the English titled class. Perhaps this was intended to be a part of its nostalgic charm.

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Image Source: Pixabay.com

  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”