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This movie holds a special place in my heart as I was forbidden to watch it.  I wasn't the only one barred from watching this film either. I'm fairly certain it was policy at our two local area Mom and Pop video stores not to rent the tape to anyone who had yet to graduate middle school (junior high).  This odd stipulation was because Lady in White was partially filmed in my local middle school in upstate New York.  I guess that parents didn't want their kids to be afraid to go to school.  

Now, what kid doesn't want to see a movie where ghosts or a child killer inhabits their school?  It was the perfect setting as the building is surrounded on three sides by cemeteries!  Nothing like the view from the cafeteria window of countless aging headstones as you ponder your mortality on pizza day. 

Above: Yearbook photo in black and white. 

The film perfectly captures Autumn and the Halloween essence of my youth as it was filmed around where I grew up. I'm not referring to the second half of the film that resembles a soundstage Dagobah that opens to a house perched on a Hawaiian cliff, but the Canandaigua lake vistas and nearby Lyons, NY, that stood in for the small town of Willowpoint Falls.

  Director and Rochester native Frank LaLoggia built this film on the local ghost story of the Lady in White that roams around a Rochester park looking for her daughter.  In his ghost story, LaLoggia sought to capture family life and a slice of small-town Americana that was celebrating Halloween while dealing with the real-life monsters that opposed the civil rights movement or preyed on children.

I'm not going to give a full review of the movie, but here are a few asides that may be interesting.

Unfortunately, the iconic half circle window did not exist on the school. I even once drove by to double-check, and after thinking about its placement, it definitely was never a feature of the building.

However, some of the classrooms looked exactly as depicted, so it's always nostalgic for me to see them again. 

The child that played the droopy eared bunny was a local extra and lived down the street from my Grandparents.

This scene with the teacher in her car was not in the theatrical release, but I'm glad it was added back in. I have a not so fond memory of the windows in the background. A classmate and I were bored on a beautiful day where the teacher had the windows open, and for whatever reason, we thought a good way to pass the time would be by spitting out the window. Kids are weird.  Since we were on the ground level, we were spotted by another teacher who had her class outside right where the bullies asked the main character about his hat the film. She walked up to have us interrupt the class and get our teacher's attention. When our teacher arrived at the window, they then proceeded to rat me and my expectorating compatriot out for spitting in front of the entire class.  Thanks.

Top billing was given to Lukas Haas, who shone in the role of young Frankie Scarlatti. Haas later appeared as The Pin in Rian Johnson's Brick (2005), A fantastic neo Noir that you need to check out if you haven't. One of Brick's standout images ( there are many) used as the film's poster seems to be a direct reference to Lady in White. 

Lady in White

Some of the soundstage scenes and special effect shots in Lady in White may not have aged the best in the last 30 odd years, but the passionate filmmaking and technical shots sure have. One that really stands out is the ambitious tracking shot during a dream sequence that involves multiple sets.  Another is a scene that looks like a Maxfield Parrish painting, such as Daybreak.

This movie is a yearly tradition for me that is both nostalgic and spooky, so grab some popcorn and sit back with this underrated Halloween treat that haunts my youth's hallowed halls.

1h 53min | 1988
 Director: Frank LaLoggia
Writer: Frank LaLoggia 

By Grindhousecellar

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