The Stone Tape (1972)

The Stone Tape DVD CoverSo little transpired in The Stone Tape that it attempted to ratchet up the suspense by introducing a subplot about a guy trying to invent a really nifty washing machine!

The crisis involving the washing machine doesn’t crop up until a little ways into things though. First of all, we need to set up our haunted house situation. An electronics outfit buys an old haunted country mansion, moves its research team into it, and discovers that one room out of about one hundred and fifty is haunted by some gal who manifests herself in Princess Leia hologram style.

Since these blokes are men of science, they immediately see this haunting as a way to get a leg up on the Japanese in the technology race. If you had any questions as to why we’re all buying Japanese electronics instead of British electronics, this film answers them.

Brock is the guy in charge of the project. As is the case with most really short men, he’s loud, abrasive, and generally a blustering boob, as if the sheer volume of his words will somehow make up for his genetically defective growth. He’s also prone to wearing some Earth toned slacks that are simply way too tight in the crotch area.

The Stone Tape 1

Since all ghost stories need a woman in them because of their valuable contributions such as their women’s intuition (it’s a bit like a dog being able to sense supernatural forces or barnyard animals spazzing out before a big storm hits), Jill is on the project.

Though many in the group can sense the ghost to varying degrees, Jill is the one most affected by it. However, Jill immediately brands herself as a bit of a flighty ditz when at the very beginning of the movie, she arrives at the mansion and somehow almost manages to get squished between two big trucks in the mansion parking lot!

So what exactly is the deal with this troublesome ghost anyway? Well, we all know that ghosts are merely the disembodied spirits of the dead who for some reason or other (usually an unsolved murder) missed the bus to the sweet hereafter and are bound and determined to make life a living hell for those of us who aren’t dead yet.

The Stone Tape 2

Best I could tell with this one was that she fell off some stairs and ended up being scraped off the stone floor a hundred years ago or so. Was she pushed? Did she jump? Did she fall when some guy was trying to pinch her bum? (That was Brock’s guess!)

Once Brock figures out he has a ghost in the room that was supposed to be used for data storage, he hauls a ton of scientific gear in there to take various measurements and readings. You can imagine what this entails – lots of people hunkered over teletype machines, looking at graphs, and talking about charting where “hotspots” are.

Finally, they convince themselves that they aren’t really dealing with a ghost, but an image that the room has somehow retained. Following that theory, they further assume that the image must be recorded in the stone of the room itself and the next thing you know everyone is jumping around and celebrating the fact that they have just discovered a cheap, recordable medium that could be used for storing all kinds of information!

In most movies, having your ghost be the basis for the discovery of some Flintstones version of videotape would be the lamest idea you encounter. The Stone Tape takes it to the next illogical step when Brock attempts to make the ghost appear when he wants to using a bunch of sound waves and ends up erasing it altogether! Whoops! Better hold off on that Nobel Prize!

The Stone Tape 3

In a plot twist that that makes everything else in the film seem perfectly logical, the room wasn’t just inhabited by one pissy spirit but by a whole succession of them. When Brock taped over the girl ghost, it acted to peel back a layer and reveal an earlier, and even scarier ghost! This was just a couple of red spots, but somehow it could drive an unbalanced woman to fall off stairs to her death!

None of what happens is very convincing, especially the part where Brock’s first thought is that he’s somehow going to market this stone as a way to store stuff. What would make you think that if a stone could somehow retain the residue of something as ethereal and unexplainable as a ghost that you’ll be able to figure out how to let Aunt Blabbie store pictures of her family reunion on it?

And they mention that the stone in question is very common. Then why isn’t England overrun by these rock videotapes of spirits bitching and moaning at every opportunity?

The cast does do a nice job of trying to bring some believability to things, but can’t really compete with the lame story. Go ahead and run a magnet over this stone tape.

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