1001 Flicks

Regularly updated blog charting the most important films of the last 104 years.

Friday, June 02, 2006

10. Korkarlen (The Phantom Carriage) 1921

Directed by Victor Sjostrom


Ok, this is not an easy one to "synopsise", it's all non-linear and such. It's just not linear at all. But, here goes: it's New Year's Eve, three drunkards are sitting in the graveyard looking at the church tower waiting for the end of the year. One of the drunkards, David Holm starts telling a ghost story, and in a meta-meta narrative tells of how one year ago he heard a ghost story from Georges, another drunkard, the ghost story was about the phantom carriage, a carriage which every year takes the person who dies closest to New Year to be its driver and gather the dead of that year. Curiously, Georges dies right on the stroke of 12. Meanwhile, back at the present time, Sister Edit, a Salvation Army volunteer, who has taken good care of David Holm and caught consumption off him is now dying and wants to see Holm before she does. Holm refuses to go see her because he is an asshole and he gets in a fight with his mates who want him to go see her. He dies at the stroke of 12. Georges with scythe accessory shows up in the phantom carriage and talks to Holm. He takes Holm to go see Sister Edit and in an extended flashback shows him his life, where as a drunkard he had driven away his wife and children, and has since then been looking for her all over Sweden, for revenge! Through the flashback he understands the error of his ways and as a ghost sees his wife preparing a mass-suicide tea (available from the best tea-shops) for her and the children. How Swedish! Holm goes back to his body and he is actually not dead, he runs to his wife and kids and all ends well! It's a wonderful life after all!


Well, it was a good film, and with great special effects. I say great, what I mean is realistic looking. Basically ghosts are made by simple double exposure, which although simple is very effective. And it has been extremely influential, the image of the ghost getting up from the body has been done endlessly from this film onwards.

Also plot-wise, its the old Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life thing, the main character is taken on a trip of his life where he realises something about himself and comes out as a reformed character. Thing is, this is the first film version of this and it is damn cool. The carriage looks great, with its ghostly horse as does Georges the Death-Helper. I can only imagine what it looked like for cinema viewers in the early twenties. It must have looked good because it was quite the box office hit at the time.

Still, the story is not that exciting, it is important however and as one of the most influential horror films it is quite good. The acting is much more contained than Griffith's hystrionics and the director Victor Sjostrom plays a throuroughly dispicable main character in David Holm, one of the best bad guys in the films reviewed until now. Still there is a kind of religious morals to it that just seem a bit silly to the modern secular mind, you just snigger a bit at the obviousness of it. Buy it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From wiki:

Victor Sjöström , in US sometimes known as Victor Seastrom (born September 20, 1879 – January 3, 1960), was a Swedish actor, screenwriter, and film director.

Born in Silbodal, Värmland County, Sweden, he was only a year old when his family moved to Brooklyn, New York where he remained until the death of his mother when he was seven years old. Returning to live with relatives in Stockholm, he was 17 years old when he began his acting career on stage as a member of a touring theater company. From this, he went on to become one of the most important forces in the development of the Swedish film industry.

Drawn from the stage to the fledgling motion picture industry, he made his first silent film in 1912 under the direction of Mauritz Stiller. Between then and 1923, he directed another forty-one films before accepting an offer from Louis B. Mayer to work in the United States. In Sweden, he acted in his own films as well as in those for others but in Hollywood, he devoted himself to directing. In 1924, using the Americanized name, Victor Seastrom, he made Name the Man, a dramatic film based on the Hall Caine novel. He went on to direct great stars of the day such as Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Lillian Gish and Norma Shearer in another eight films in America before his first talkie in 1930.

Uncomfortable with the modifications needed to direct talking films, Victor Sjöström returned to Sweden where he directed two more silent films before his final directing effort in 1937, an English language drama filmed in the United Kingdom titled Under the Red Robe. For the next fifteen years, Sjöström performed a variety of leading roles in more than a dozen films and worked as director of the "Svensk Film Industri." At age 78 he gave his final acting performance, an acclaimed effort in the 1957 Ingmar Bergman film, Wild Strawberries.

Victor Sjöström died in Stockholm at the age of eighty and was interred there in the Norra begravningsplatsen.


  • At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    FYI, this film is available on Google Video as well, if you want to update the availability.

    This is a good thing to know, because I couldn't find it on Netflix.

    list link is:

    actual movie link is:

  • At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yikes, sorry about the long links. I thought the comments would word wrap.

    You can delete that previous comment if it is screwing up your layout for this post.

    Here are the shorter links to this film:

    List Link

    Link To Film

  • At 7:29 PM, Blogger Francisco Silva said…

    Thanks for the links! :)


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