Ghost in the Well
AKA - Ghost Story of Broken Dishes at Bancho Mansion
Here is another Misora Hibari film with the word Ghost in the title and this
time the Japanese title gives hope that there really is a ghost present -
Kaidan Bancho sara-yashiki. And in fact there is a ghost though not a very
scary one. A mournful one. The female ghost just wants to be with the man
who loved her - and killed her. This comes in at a quick 45 minutes which
is fairly unusual - almost all of these films are about 90 minutes long -
perhaps because the story was so familiar to audiences that they didn't see
the point of extending it. It is based on an old Japanese folktale called
Bancho Sarayahiki and has been told many times in many forms in many places.
Perhaps it was just a gift for audiences to see Hibari get to play the tragic
figure and was added on to a feauture as a double bill.
It is 100% pure refined melodrama that drips like tears from a crying young
widow. A tale of forbidden love that crosses class lines and ends badly as
they always do. Lord Harima (Chiyonosuke Azuma) gets himself into trouble
by involving himself in a street brawl in the Red Light area which is a no
no. He is put under house arrest with the threat of having to commit seppuku
hanging over his head. House arrest isn't so bad though since he is in love
with Kiku (Hibari), one of the maids. He promises to marry her. Neither of
these characters seem to understand Japanese society and obligations. You
don't marry the maid. Maybe a little tuck and tickle on the side but to marry
them adds no value to the family name.
Harima's uncle comes to tell him that the only way to escape disgrace and
perhaps death is to marry the daughter of a well connected fixer. What is
he suppose to do? As a dowry his family is giving the bride's family these
ancestral plates worth a fortune - a nice set of ten - oops makes that nine
- oops make that eight, Kiku is not a happy girl and tells Harima as he is
about to cut off her head - please go ahead but don't look angry. When the
body doesn't bob up from the well, it may be a bad sign. But this is a love
tale, not really a horror one. A bit too drenched in melodrama for my taste
and they keep Hibari very muted and submissive (except for those broken plates!)
throughout. Not the way I like to see Hibari.