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Friday, October 17, 2014

Child of Glass (1978)

Not all ghosts are hell-bent on dragging poor mortals to their deaths some just want to find peace after roaming the spectral plain for ages; this is the kind of ghost we find in Disney’s Child of Glass a made-for-television movie based on the book The Ghost Belonged to Me by acclaimed Young Adult author Richard Peck.

Young Alexander Armsworth (Steve Shaw) finds his life uprooted when his family moves to a large antebellum mansion in the heart of Louisiana. His mom (Barbara Barrie) is more concerned with getting the place in shape for her big party, and social event of the season, than what shenanigans her youngest child is getting up to. When Alexander is visited by the ghost of Inez Dumaine (Olivia Barash) the problems of the chores and a bossy sister fall to the wayside. It seems this sweet creole girl was murdered by a river pirate because she wouldn’t reveal where the family treasure was hidden, and murder wasn’t even enough for the bastard as he cursed her as well, causing her to forever roam the plantation after death.
unlikely pair 
Alexander and Blossom Culp.

Aiding our young hero is a local girl from the wrong side of tracks, Blossom Culp (Katy Kurtzman). She insists that Alexander is gifted, information she got from her palm reading Aunt Lavina (Nina Foch)  and that only Alexander will be able to help Inez find the rest she desires. And of course the ghost has a time table; her curse must be lifted by midnight on All Hallows’ Eve which gives Alexander and Blossom only two days to solve the riddle that will release Inez from her Earthly bonds, “Sleeping lies the murdered lass, vainly calls the child of glass. When the two shall be as one, the spirit’s journey will be done.” 

In the barn with a ghost 
Someone should inform ghosts that information via riddles isn’t all that helpful.

Because solving a riddle to ease the suffering of a tortured soul isn’t enough for a young boy to handle the movie tosses in drunken handy man Amory Timmons (Anthony Zerbe) who he gets fired for repeatedly drinking on the job. To get revenge on this “unjust firing” Amory decides to burn the barn down but unfortunately for him Alexander was inside chatting with Inez at the time and witnesses the crime. Amory chases after Alexander who tries to hide in an old work shed and ends up hiding too well by falling into…a well.

anthony zerbe 
What good is a kid’s movie without a dangerous drunk?

Of course Alexander will be rescued, Amory apprehended, the riddle solved, the treasure found, and Inez will be reunited with her family in the afterlife. As ghost stories go it is not one to send shivers down the spine of any but the youngest viewers and as a mystery it kind of falls flat as well. What does work is the child actors who are both quite engaging, especially Katy Kurtzman as Blossom. There were three other books written by Richard Peck featuring Blossum Culp and I for one would have liked to have seen those made into movies as well.

Ghost belonged to me book cover

Speaking of the novel there quite a few differences from the book to the movie; the book takes place in the year 1913 while the Disney movie is a contemporary piece, the “riddle” that Inez gives Alexander in the book is a premonition of disaster which he is able to avert and becomes a bit of a celebrity, and what releases Inez from her ghostly haunts is the standard “find her remains and bury them properly” schtick which actually makes more sense than the way it was handled in the movie which was she just needed her doll back.  Though to be fair it was a really nice doll.

inez 
Note: Inez’s dog was not cursed just loyal from beyond the grave.

Disney’s Child of Glass is a sweet and entertaining ghost/mystery story well worth a watch though tracking a copy could be a bit tricky, but I do highly recommend going to your local library and checking out the book.

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