A Lady In White: Review of 1988’s The Lady In White
Ah, remember Halloween was a magical time when you were a kid? Trick or treating, thinking of those frightful thoughts, watching TV where all those dumb sitcoms had their annual Halloween episodes, and playing in your backyard and suddenly you get a weird strange sensation something was in the woods watching you….or maybe you had to go back to the school to get your cap because some punk threw it on a top shelf in the closet and you get locked in school—oh, right, that just happened in that movie The Lady In White (1988).
This is another movie that fell through the cracks that should have been a bigger hit than it was. When I ask people if they have ever seen it, they either have never heard of it, or those that have—never forgot the movie. I first saw this film on a videocassette someone had recorded off HBO. Though at the time they liked the movie, they said HBO was running the crap out of it. They thought HBO had a stake in the profits. I’m not sure about that. But after I saw the movie, I had a feeling HBO knew what a little gem the film was.
Frankie Scarlatti is a horror author coming back to his hometown after being away for so many years. In the opening of the film, he recounts the story of Halloween, 1962, to a cab driver, and what helped him become a writer. The story of the Lady in White. We cut to the days of young Frankie (Lucas Haas) delivering papers in his idyllic hometown. We see that Frankie lives with his Father (the great Alex Rocco) and his brother, first generation Italian grandparents.
At school, Frankie is the teacher’s pet, helps her carry her books to her car, and she lets him read his little horror stories to the class (funny scene with the kids, not exactly mean-spirited, but real kids who are excited about things) and this causes some of his classmates to dislike him. Frankie is pranked by two boys who throw his ski mask on the top shelf in the cloak room. They tell him its cold outside and he might need it later. Frankie goes back in the school and gets locked in by those classmates, who found the teachers key.
While inside the cloak room, some very strange things happen to Frankie. He dreams of his mother, her funeral, and feels the grief over her death. Then he sees the ghost of a little girl. The little girl is playing with a rubber ball and it bounces away from her into a drain. She begins talking to someone invisible to Frankie, then she sings the Bing Crosby song, hauntingly. Then she is strangled by the invisible person. Afterwards, the person materializes and they see Frankie. The person begins to strangle Frankie. Frankie survives and the janitor is arrested.
Frankie recovers and reads in the newspaper that there were eleven other children before him. He also learns the name of the little girl that was murdered. They become friends and Frankie decides to help her by solving the mystery. I’m not going to tell you anymore about the story because if I do, it might spoil it for you.
This movie reminds the viewer of how it is to be a kid. No matter what decade, what year, there will always be legends, urban myths, and of course, ghosts. Some of you out there might find this film too sentimental, or not enough gore in it. You don’t need it for this kind of film, just the uneasy feeling of dread will do.
Frank LA Loggia wrote, directed, produced, and even composed the music for this film. Obviously a multi-talented guy. So why didn’t he do more? I found one other interview with him and he said he had such a bad time trying to be director for hire, he decided to drop out of film making. Interesting note he raise the money himself as a penny stock.
I haven’t actually been able to find much on him. I saw where he is the director of a film called Fear no evil in 19981. Which I have never seen. From this interview (2011) he has raised money to make a musical. I have to say good luck, I’m sure it will be great quality.
I know this movie was a labor of love and the town in it is based on his hometown and the viewer can see how lovingly he shot the locations. The script is tight, even if some scenes are a bit corny, but who says corny is bad? I know one thing, when LA Loggia turns his attentions to the hauntings, they are some of the creepiest I have ever seen. I know the film didn’t make much money, and I guess that could kill a career in tinsel town. Or maybe LA Loggia had other things he wanted to try. I think it’s a shame the movie isn’t remembered better. The film was first released on video by virgin, later by Anchor Bay in 1993. On DVD as a director’s cut on Elite entertainment in 1998. MGM released a version in 2005 with deleted scenes and commentary by LA Loggia.
If you haven’t seen this film, look for it so you can find out who the killer is and what happened next to Frankie Scarlatti.