Lady in White
|Lady in White|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank LaLoggia|
|Written by||Frank LaLoggia|
|Music by||Frank LaLoggia|
|Edited by||Steve Mann|
|Distributed by||New Century Vista Film Company|
|Budget||est. $5 million|
|Box office||$1.7 million|
Lady in White is a 1988 American mystery horror film directed, produced, written and scored by Frank LaLoggia, and starring Lukas Haas, Len Cariou, Alex Rocco and Katherine Helmond. The plot follows a schoolboy in 1962 upstate New York who becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding a series of child murders after he witnesses the ghost of a young girl who was murdered in his school's coat closet.
Much of filming took place in Wayne County, New York, which took advantage of the appropriate local lore and scenery. The story is based on a version of The Lady in White legend, concerning a woman who supposedly searches for her daughter in Durand-Eastman Park in Rochester, New York, where the director hails from.
On Halloween 1962, 9-year-old Frankie Scarlatti is tricked by school jokesters Donald and Louie, and locked inside the school coatroom at the end of the day. Trapped well after dark, he witnesses the apparition of a young girl and her murder in the coatroom. Moments later, a man hidden in the shadows enters the coatroom, and attempts to open a vent grate on the floor, but notices Frankie, and strangles him to unconsciousness. In a vision, Frankie again sees the girl, and she mysteriously asks for his help to find her mother. Frankie is revived by his father, Angelo, and rushed to the hospital. The police arrest an African American janitor, Harold "Willy" Williams, believing him to be the attacker.
As Frankie recovers at home, Frankie's brother, Geno, brings him a newspaper article about the attack, and he learns it was linked to the deaths of eleven other children, all apparently at the hands of a child serial killer. The name of the girl he met is also revealed to be Melissa Ann Montgomery. She continues to haunt Frankie, and the two form a tenuous friendship. Striving to help her, he returns to the cloakroom to investigate. Frankie removes the cover of the net to discover several dust-laden objects, including toys, a hair clip, and a high school class ring. Later, Frankie overhears the chief of police talking to his father, who reveals the case against the janitor is crumbling, and that the coatroom is also the scene of Melissa's murder. After considering this new information, Frankie confides in Phil Terragarossa, a family friend, that the class ring likely belongs to the killer and that he thinks the killer returned to the cloakroom to retrieve it as the air system was due to be replaced soon. Unbeknownst to Frankie, the ring, which had accidentally fallen out of his pocket earlier, has been found by Geno and hidden away again.
Later, Donald and Louie lure Frankie out to the nearby cliffs, where they encounter a ghostly lady dressed in white. All three boys take off running and Frankie collides into Geno within the surrounding forest. Frankie tries to explain the link between Melissa, the attacker and the lady in white, but is unsuccessful. One evening, Melissa appears to both Geno and Frankie. The town clock begins to chime and Frankie realizes that her nightly death re-enactment is about to commence. They follow her ghost to the school then wait until her lifeless body reappears, which is then carried by an invisible figure out of the school and onto the cliffs. At the last minute, she awakes and begins screaming as she is thrown over the cliffs. A pale, blond woman dressed in white then comes out of the cottage. Upon seeing Melissa's lifeless body on the rocks below, she flings herself off the cliff and also plunges to her death. The ghostly scene ends and the brothers head home. Finally, Frankie understands the source of Melissa's anguish. He vows to help her bring her killer to justice.
Willy finally has his hearing, but a grand jury fails to indict him due to insufficient evidence. Outside the courthouse, the distraught mother of one the murdered children shoots him to death in his car. Geno begins to research the class ring he found. Using one of his father's old yearbooks and class ring, he realizes that their father and the killer wore the same type of class rings. Angelo's yearbook reveals that the initials on the ring, "MPT", belong to Michael P. Terragarossa. Geno quickly deduces that the "P" stands for Phillip—as in their family friend Phil—and he rushes to tell his father. Frankie happens to be with Phil at that same time, and Frankie realizes Phil is the killer after he begins whistling "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?", Melissa's song. Phil realizes that Frankie has deduced his secret and attacks him, but Frankie escapes and runs to the cliffs. Phil catches him and confesses to the murders just before he starts to strangle Frankie again. Suddenly, Phil is struck from behind and they both collapse to the ground.
Regaining consciousness, Frankie finds himself in Melissa's old cottage with Amanda Harper, and learns that she was the one who saved him from Phil, and that she was the lady in white Frankie earlier saw when he was with Donald and Louie. Amanda reveals that she is Melissa's aunt and has been living in the cottage since the deaths of her sister and niece. Without warning, Phil attacks and kills Amanda, setting the building ablaze in the process.
Pulling Frankie from the burning cottage, Phil attempts to throw him over the cliff. However, Frankie drops safely to the ground when the ghostly lady in white suddenly appears and frightens Phil, causing him to tumble over the cliff's edge. Melissa emerges from the burning cottage and the two ghosts happily reunite, ascending into the sky in a cascade of light. As Frankie crawls away from the ledge, Phil grabs his ankle. Angelo, Geno, and the police arrive and save Frankie. Angelo also tries to save Phil, but overcome with shame, Phil lets go and falls to his death, despite Angelo's pleas. Everyone watches the cottage burn to the ground as the snow begins to fall.
- Lukas Haas as Franklin J. "Frankie" Scarlatti
- Alex Rocco as Angelo J. Scarlatti
- Len Cariou as Michael Phillip "Phil" Terragrossa
- Katherine Helmond as Amanda Harper
- Jason Presson as Geno Scarlatti
- Henry Harris as Harold "Willy" Williams
- Renata Vanni as Mama Assunta
- Angelo Bertolini as Papa Charlie
- Joelle Jacobi as Melissa Anne Montgomery
- Jared Rushton as Donald
- Gregory Levinson as Louie
- Karen Powell as Anne Montgomery (Melissa's mother/"Lady in White")
LaLoggia partly based the screenplay of the film on The Lady in White legend, regarding a woman who supposedly searches for her lost daughter in Durand-Eastman Park in Rochester, New York, LaLoggia's hometown.
The film has had a mostly positive critical response focusing on the stylish small town vibe and suspense without gore. Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert stated: "Lady in White, like most good films, depends more on style and tone than it does on story, and after awhile [sic] it's the whole insidious atmosphere of the film that begins to envelop us." New York Times critic Caryn James mostly praised the film, but pointed out that: "the heavy-handed subplot about 60's racism loads the film with more social weight than it can carry. And most damaging, we guess who the murderer is very near the film's beginning." Lady in White maintains a 67% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Awards and nominations
Lukas Haas and Katherine Helmond were both nominated for a Saturn Award in 1990, Haas was also nominated for and won a Young Artist Award. The film itself received nominations for a Young Artist Award and a Fantasporto.
The film was first introduced to the home video market on VHS by Virgin Visi and later by Anchor Bay on October 15, 1993. It was also released on laserdisc and DVD through Elite Entertainment, who released a Director's Cut with an extended 4 minutes on March 25, 1998. The director's cut was reissued on DVD by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on September 20, 2005, and featured bonus materials including 36 minutes of deleted footage and commentary from director Frank LaLoggia. In 2016, Scream Factory issued a Blu-ray edition of the film featuring the original 113-minute theatrical cut, the previously-released director's cut, and a never-before-seen extended director's cut running 127 minutes.
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