Not all ghosts are hell-bent on dragging poor mortals to their deaths, some just want to find peace after roaming the spectral plain for ages, and it is this is the kind of ghost that we find in Disney’s Child of Glass, a made-for-television movie based on the book “The Ghost Belonged to Me” by acclaimed Young Adult author Richard Peck.
Young Alexander Armsworth (Steve Shaw) finds his life uprooted when his family moves to a large antebellum mansion in the heart of Louisiana. His mom (Barbara Barrie) is more concerned with getting the place in shape for her big party – the social event of the season – than whatever shenanigans her youngest child is getting up to, but when Alexander is visited by the ghost of Inez Dumaine (Olivia Barash) the problems of the chores and a bossy sister fall to the wayside. It seems this sweet creole girl was murdered by a river pirate when she wouldn’t reveal where the family treasure was hidden, and the poor girl’s murder wasn’t even enough for the bastard, he also cursed her as well, causing her to forever roam the plantation after death.
Aiding our young hero is a local girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Blossom Culp (Katy Kurtzman), who insists that Alexander is gifted – this information she got from her palm reading Aunt Lavina (Nina Foch) – and that only Alexander will be able to help Inez find the rest she desires. Of course, the ghost has a time table and we soon learn that her curse must be lifted by midnight on All Hallows’ Eve, which gives Alexander and Blossom only two days to solve the riddle that will release Inez from her Earthly bonds, “Sleeping lies the murdered lass, vainly calls the child of glass. When the two shall be as one, the spirit’s journey will be done.”
Because solving a riddle to ease the suffering of a tortured soul isn’t enough for a young boy to handle the movie also tosses in drunken handyman Amory Timmons (Anthony Zerbe), who gets fired for repeatedly drinking on the job, and to get revenge on this “unjust firing” Amory decides to burn the barn down, unfortunately for him, Alexander was inside chatting with Inez at the time and witnessed the crime. Amory chases after Alexander who tries to hide in an old work shed and ends up hiding a little too well by falling into an actual well.
In what will surprise no one, Alexander will be rescued, Amory will be apprehended, the riddle is solved and the treasure found, and finally, Inez will be reunited with her family in the afterlife. Now, as ghost stories go this is not one to send shivers down the spine of any but the youngest viewers, and the mystery itself kind of falls flat as well, but what does work is the child actors who are both quite engaging in their respective roles, especially Katy Kurtzman as Blossom and she is really quite brilliant for one her age. There were three other books written by Richard Peck featuring Blossom Culp, and I for one would have liked to have seen those stories made into movies as well.
Speaking of the novel, there are quite a few differences between the book and the movie; the novel takes place in the year 1913 while the Disney film is a contemporary piece, and the “riddle” that Inez gives Alexander in the book is a premonition of a disaster surrounding a doomed streetcar that he is able to avert and results in him becoming a bit of a celebrity, and what releases Inez from her ghostly haunts is the standard “Find her remains and give them a proper burial” schtick which actually makes more sense than the way it was handled in the movie, which was just that she simply needed her doll back. Though to be fair it was a really nice doll.
Disney’s Child of Glass is a sweet and entertaining ghostly mystery and well worth a watch but tracking a copy could be a bit tricky, and I also highly recommend going to your local library and checking out the book and its sequels as they are all well worth the read.
Child of Glass (1978)
In this sweet Disney Made-For-TV movie, we get a couple of kids solving a nice little mystery to help a poor cursed ghost. Though not a scary ghost story the cast is engaging enough to make it well worth checking out.