The Ghosts of Buxley Hall (1980)

Ghosts of Buxley Hall DVD CoverRemember that movie called Taps? It starred Tom Cruise and Sean Penn and featured a bunch of fascist brats taking over their military school to protest its closure. Me neither. But if you did remember it, your reaction most likely would have been, “if they really wanted to do it right, they’d replace Timothy Hutton with a bunch of ghosts.”

Just think about it – ghosts haunting a military academy who use all their supernatural powers to thwart the evil forces trying to shut down America’s last bastion of freedom-loving, patriotic ass kickers in training. What could be a more noble calling for the spirits of fallen soldiers? Why, all those short haired, pants-wearing women teacher union types, who would inevitably oppose such an institution, wouldn’t stand a chance!

Of course, you still wouldn’t actually watch the movie since the presence of moronic left-wing git Penn forces all flag waving Americans to boycott it, but thankfully the Walt Disney Company again shows us why Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth! Way back before it sold its soul to computer animation and starlets who delight in showing their cooch on the Internet, Disney was a reliable source of family-friendly forgettably bad live action TV movies edited from episodes of its own TV show. And while titles such as The Secret Of Boyne Castle and Mystery in Dracula’s Castle promised heaps of spooky kid-jinks, it was left to The Ghost Of Buxley Hall to actually provide them in a satisfyingly predictable fashion!

Buxley Hall is a military school for boys and it is on the skids! Enrollment is down and Colonel Buxley is having trouble paying the bills! Realizing there’s only one way to save the school, Col. Buxley does the unthinkable and uses the school’s nuclear option! He agrees to let Buxley Hall go coed!

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Oh lord, can you imagine? There will be frilly curtains in the barracks! The military uniforms will be redesigned to have more panache! Weekend training maneuvers will be at the local shopping mall! And chow time at the mess hall will be preoccupied with counting calories and vegetarianism! Is it any wonder that the army of ghosts that inhabit Buxley Hall rise up in anger?

Now, a case could be made that these crabby ghosts are coming a little late to the party. For years, they’ve slumbered indifferently in their paintings while Col. Buxley struggled with changing times that valued pot smoking, bell bottoms, and hating our country more than strict military discipline. Shouldn’t they’ve been scaring rich dopes into investing money in Buxley Hall? Why couldn’t they’ve have pitched in and started some sort of annual haunted house bake sale to shore up the evaporating revenue?

But as soon Col. Buxley bites the bullet and does the only thing he can think of to save his beloved school, they get their ethereal panties in a bunch? You bet your otherworldly ass! We’re talking about stinky girls! They’re icky!

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And who can blame them? When the gals from Miss Wakefield’s school roll in, they’re a bunch of noisy undisciplined chicks who don’t honor the Code! You know the Code I’m talking about! These girls don’t understand that you’re supposed to kowtow to the older kids, ignore the great tradition of younger kids being bullied, and worst of all, play indescribably bad music that sounds like something either Satan himself farted out after a particularly heinous evening of munching on tacos and sinners or tunes from the old SWAT TV show! On the positive side, Miss Wakefield sports a mousy hairdo and often wears slacks that never once threatens to give any cadet a boner.

In the best Disney TV movie tradition though, the real villain isn’t ballbusting women, but evil relatives intent on controlling the fortune of an orphan boy! Jeremy is a rich pud whose uncle puts him in the school. He also has an aunt who wants custody of Jeremy so she can get her paws on his cash! And she will stop at nothing to do it! Like formulating plans that make sense only to her!

Somehow she gets it into her head that if Jeremy doesn’t stay at Buxley Hall, this will mean the uncle will lose custody of Jeremy and she will get him! She schemes to drive out the girls, puts in an offer to buy the school, backs out of the deal, has the bank foreclose, and bang – instant millions! Because as every divorced person will tell you, if your kid’s school shuts down, you automatically lose custody! It’s a freaking federal law!

Perhaps sensing that there must be an easier way to cheat her nephew out of his inheritance, she eventually settles on the fact that Jeremy is talking to ghosts as proof that he would be better off with her. Clearly, this is a great plan and would probably work almost every time. Except when there really are ghosts!

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The ghosts by this time have figured out that they need to keep the girls and Jeremy at the school in order for it remain open and pull out all the stops to make it happen! A school bus is ghostjacked and careens through town! The evil aunt gets a pie thrown in her face! Bad guys dressed up as ghosts get poked in the butt by the swords of the real ghosts! A cannon loaded with wet cement is fired at the evildoers! It’s a Walt Disney CLASSIC!

Expectations is the name of the game here. You’ll need to lower them. Lower. Lower. A little lower. That’s it. Now lower them once more! The ghosts here aren’t scary and don’t even look like very ghostly. There’s two guys in old cavalry uniforms and a woman in a dress. There’s a few floating objects and the sourpuss caretaker gets scared periodically. Obviously, this isn’t exactly the ectoplasmic orgasm that was Child Of Glass.

The battle of the sexes is limited to a prank involving mice and a boys vs. girls race up Suicide Hill. And Suicide Hill is pretty much just a hill. There is a rope slide down the hill over a mud pit and you can certainly be forgiven for drooling over the prospect over both Miss Wakefield and Col. Buxley ending up in it.

There is also a surprisingly hard edge to things as the aunt at one point makes a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to killing her nephew! She even gleefully directs the attempted destruction of the school while there were fifty to a hundred kids still running around in and around the school! It’s all marginally less annoying than other no name Disney TV show filler of the era like The Ghost Of Cypress Swamp.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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