LADY IN WHITE (1988)
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I have to admit I only just saw this for the first time a short while ago. One of those flicks that slipped between the cracks. I’ve watched it twice now and, to be honest, can’t say that it really worked for me. Film, based on a real legend from Rochester N.Y., is considered a bit of a classic and tells the story of young Frankie Scarletti (Lukas Haas) who sees the ghost of a murdered girl and is almost himself killed by the man responsible. Now the spirits of the girl and her mourning mother, known as The Lady In White, won’t let Frankie rest till he solves the mystery of who done it…a mystery that could add him to the list of the fiend’s young victims.
Biggest problem for me is that the tone of the film is all over the place. One minute it’s a whimsical Spielberg-ish comedy such as in the opening scenes, the next minute a supernatural thriller in a Disney vein complete with floating, glowing specters and the next, a serious drama dealing with racism and the murder of little kids. It goes back and forth and writer/director Frank LaLoggia never settles on exactly what film he is trying to make. And when it comes to it’s more whimsical moments, the whimsy often slips into outright silly. LaLoggia does have a sumptuous visual eye and the film looks great, especially during the fairy tale-like supernatural scenes but, those scenes and the slapstick humor don’t gel with the more serious issues such as the murder of young children and the accusing of the wrong man solely because he is black. LaLoggia’s scene staging is also a bit clumsy and his work with actors isn’t much better as most of the performances across the board are wooden and even from veteran actors like Len Cariou and Alex Rocco, though Haas does good work for a kid his age. The fact that Frankie’s family is filled with cartoonish Italian stereotypes also weakens any potency the film tries to build…especially when it tries to make statements about racism and prejudice…and the dialog all-around is weak at times. Not to mention that we the audience have solved the who-dunnit long before the last act reveal. Overall, the film comes across as very corny, silly and a bit bombastic at times, which overpowers some of the simple charm it develops in quieter moments. The FX are also pretty cheesy by today’s standards and it’s hard to be chilled by what they represent. On the plus side, there is an atmospheric score by LaLoggia himself and Russell Carpenter provided the beautiful cinematography which really shines when the film delves into it’s more fantastic elements.
So, I can’t really say I like the film, because I really didn’t. There are some nice fantasy sequences and the visuals are sumptuous but, the tone is uneven and LaLoggia isn’t really a good director when it comes to getting performances out of the actors and staging scenes. He doesn’t seem to know what kind of film he really wants to make and never decides on a tone to properly set his tale. He also is overindulgent when subtle was working just fine. The film has some nice moments but, is too scatterbrained to be completely effective. Overall, it’s a bit of a silly film that has serious aspirations that just don’t blend with the more whimsical and fantastic elements. At least it is far better than his Fear No Evil, which is absolutely awful.
2 ladies in white.