Throwback Thursday – Holy Ghost People (1967)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

This post first ran on the Treasure Chest back on Feb 24, 2011.

Holy Ghost People – This Spirit Does More Than Just Walk

Hiya kiddies! So this week we move from the fun of the old dark house mystery The Ghost Walks to a completely different kind of spirit with a completely different effect on people, and also a completely different kind of film.

Holy Ghost People is a documentary film released in 1967 which not only chronicles a Pentacostal Christian service taking place in Scrabble Creek, West Virginia, but also includes interviews with many of the participants within the service. Throughout the film we see the participants engaged not only in prayers, preaching, and singing, but also in activities such as speaking in tongues, healing through the laying of hands, and snake handling.

Beginning with a descriptive narration as we drive into town, which serves as set-up to what we are about to see, director Peter Adair soon steps back and lets his subject begin to speak for themselves. We never see the director himself on film, nor do we hear him directly ask his subjects any questions, as he seems satisfied simply to let them tell their own stories. Even when we move to the service, Adair seems content to simply let his cameras roll, never interrupting the service nor adding any additional narration. This is not to suggest that the presence of the cameras and the film makers is completely unobtrusive. Mention is made at various times of their presence, especially as the service begins, and there are certainly moments when the subjects cannot help but be aware that they are being filmed, and there are certainly timesxand shots that make the viewer question whether certain actions and reactions are not being done because the participants know that the cameras have turned to them. For the most part, however, especially as the service continues into its more outre moments and the congregation seems to become more and more swept up in the fervor of the moment, Adair seems willing to trust not only his subjects, but his audience, allowing any judgments on his part to be made only through scene selection and editing and leaving the final verdict on what actually is or is not happening to the viewer.

Fortunately for us, this rather fascinating documentary has fallen into the public domain, and I have embedded the first part of it for you below. The other parts can also be found on YouTube or the entire film can be see as a whole or downloaded for free at the Internet Archive (click here for the link). As far as I can tell, the film has yet to receive a proper release on DVD.

Ok, so here we go with the skinny:
Title: Holy Ghost People
Release Date: 1967
Running Time: 53 min.
Black and White
Directed by: Peter Adair
Produced by: Blair Boyd
Released by: Thistle Films

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

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