Monday, September 30, 2019

The Ghoul (1933)

When you have as long and prolific a career as Boris Karloff, it's inevitable that there will be some films that fall into obscurity and that is certainly true of this flick. I first heard of it when it was briefly mentioned on that VHS documentary that I've mentioned many times, The History of Sci-Fi and Horror, and I learned that Karloff co-starred in it with Ernest Thesiger, just a couple of years before they would re-team for Bride of Frankenstein, but other than that, all I basically knew from the documentary was that the movie existed. I virtually heard nothing else about it over the years and never saw it available, save at horror conventions on DVD-Rs that I'm sure were far from the best-looking prints, given this film's public domain status. Since this movie wasn't exactly very high on my pecking order, I never bought any of those copies and didn't see it at all until 2018, when I happened across the 2003 MGM DVD of it at a large used movie and book store in Chattanooga that I often frequent. Going into it, I wasn't expecting much, and at the most, I was just hoping for a nicely atmospheric old chiller, with Karloff as a murderous, undead monster, wiping out a bunch of people. I got half of my wish: the film is certainly atmospheric and moody, with enough dark shadows, fog, and an old, rundown house as the chief setting to make you'd think it was another Universal horror film. However, the plot left a lot to be desired for, as the "ghoul" in question barely has any bearing on the plot (he doesn't emerge from his tomb until after the halfway point), other than shambling around and menacing the other characters, who are all vying for a valuable jewel that was buried with him. That's the main crux of the story, which is not very interesting to watch, and in the end, it's revealed that there was nothing supernatural going on at all. While the movie does have some historical significance in that it was Great Britain's first sound horror film and how, after a reissue in 1938, it was thought to be a lost film, as a good, uncut print of it was not discovered until the early 80's, it's a pretty forgettable movie at the end of the day, with only a scant few memorable aspects.

One night, after unknowingly being spied on from the streets and followed back to his apartment in England, Aga Ben Dragone, an Arab man, is threatened by a knife-wielding Egyptian, Mahmoud, who demands he return an ancient jewel called the Eternal Light. Dragone tells him that he has sold the jewel to Prof. Morlant, a dying Egyptologist who believes that it will grant him immortality through Anubis if he is buried with it. As he lies dying in bed at his dreary, English countryside estate, with his lawyer, Broughton, waiting, Morlant gives his servant, Laing, explicit instructions as to how he is to buried in his estate's Egyptian-themed tomb. He also has Laing place the Eternal Light into his hand and wrap it secure with a bandage, warning him that if it is taken from his grip at any time, he will resurrect and kill the one who has taken it. Shortly afterward, Morlant dies and he is interred per his instructions, but Laing is revealed to have taken the Eternal Light from his grip beforehand. Knowing of the jewel himself, and finding that it's been removed, Broughton has his personal driver, Davis, stay behind and keep an eye on Laing. Laing, meanwhile, hides the jewel in the house and then, after writing a note, has a parcel carrier take him to the nearby train station. That evening, Broughton has a meeting with Ralph Morlant, the professor's nephew, who isn't at all happy about not being informed of his uncle's death, seeing as how he and his estranged cousin, Betty Harlon, are the sole heirs. Despite Broughton's warnings, Ralph decides to head to his uncle's house, and that night, Betty receives a letter from Broughton, telling her of her uncle's death. When she heads out to telephone him about a meeting, Laing approaches her and gives her the note, but just as she can read it, Broughton, who followed Laing after being informed by Davis of his whereabouts, attacks Betty, gets the note away from her, and tears it up. Little does he know that Dragone is nearby and finds the discarded pieces. Betty meets up with Ralph, tells him what the note said about something valuable being hidden at Morlant's house, and, despite their disdain for each other, they decide to go to there, along with Betty's roommate, Kaney. As everyone assembles at the house, it seems like, unbeknownst to them, Morlant's vow to return from the grave on the night of the full moon and kill who took the jewel has come to pass, putting them all in serious danger.

Despite how much it looks and feels like a forgotten Universal horror film, The Ghoul was produced by England's Gaumont-British Picture Corporation, which is probably most well-remembered for producing some of Alfred Hitchcock's finest British films of the 30's, such as The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. It's ostensibly an adaptation of a 1928 book of the same name, which was later made into a play, but its plot just barely resembles its source material, save for some character names, the main setting of a rundown house, an item sought by the "Ghoul," (a MacGuffin, as Hitchcock called it), in this case, a diary rather than an ancient jewel, and the ultimate revelation that there was nothing supernatural going on. Gaumont-British basically took the bare minimum of the book's plot and made their own thing, apparently tailoring it for Boris Karloff by making it The Old Dark House with a sprinkling of The Mummy, both of which he had starred in the year before.

The film was directed by T. Hayes Hunter, an American-born director who began making films in the early 1910's, with some notable works being a 1916 serial called The Crimson Stain Mystery, about a scientist who concocts a formula intended to turn people into geniuses but, instead, create deadly criminals that terrorize New York; Earthbound, a 1920 drama that was lauded in its day for its use of double-exposure; and two 1924 films, Damaged Hearts and The Recoil. Hunter also patented a type of film frame design that allowed advertisements to be displayed in the corners of the frame, making this type of advertising rather novel for its time. In 1927, Hunter left Hollywood for England, his first English film being that year's One of the Best, and he went on to do movies like A South Sea Bubble, The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel, The Man They Couldn't Arrest (his first sound film, in 1931), and The Frightened Lady. The Ghoul ended up being one of his last films, as he only directed three more afterward: Warn London, The Green Pack, and Josser on the Farm, the latter two of which were both released in 1934. After that, Hunter retired from filmmaking and died in London in 1944, at the age of 59.

Though Boris Karloff, as he always did, does the best that he can with it, his role of Prof. Morlant is a pretty thankless one in the grand scheme of things, as it just barely has more to it than that of Morgan, the mad butler that he played in The Old Dark House. When we first see him early on, Morlant is lying in bed, coughing and looking very haggard. He's convinced that he's dying but also that, should he be buried with the Eternal Light in an Egyptian-style tomb on his estate, Anubis will grant him eternal life. He's so certain of this that he's rejected the typical faith of his country, saying, "I put my faith in my own gods," and instructs Laing, the only person he trusts, to wrap the jewel in his gripping hand, place his statue of Anubis in the tomb, and instructs him on how he is to be interred in the tomb following his funeral. He also warns Laing that, should the jewel be taken from his grip, he will come back to life on the night of the full moon and take murderous revenge on those who made off with it. Following that, Morlant seemingly dies and is laid to rest in the tomb, only for it to be revealed that Laing indeed took the jewel from his hand. Eventually, Morlant's threat seems to come to pass, as he emerges from the tomb and, finding the jewel gone, begins stalking the grounds, menacing and attacking those present to get it back (though, he only kills one person). Once he gets it back, he heads back into the tomb and makes a blood sacrifice to Anubis for immortality. Though Anubis appears to accept (it turns out to be a hoax), Morlant dies for good from cutting the god's symbol into his chest and it's later revealed by a doctor whom Ralph had called ealier that he wasn't dead before but, rather, was buried alive due to having suffered from catalepsy.

As you can see, the makeup created for Karloff, by Heinrich Heitfield, is very well-executed, as it truly looks like he's a gaunt, decrepit, dying man, with his face looking not unlike his legendary Frankenstein monster makeup. The fact that Karloff was a pretty thin guy helps immensely, as his chest, when he opens shirt up to cut Anubis' symbol into himself near the end, looks hideously skeletal and malnourished. But, the makeup and the performance that Karloff manages to elicit are about the only noteworthy aspects of Morlant, because after he seemingly dies at the beginning, he doesn't come back for quite a while and when he does, he's little more than a shambling zombie. Moreover, he has almost no significance to the plot that's unfolding, which is all about how all of these characters are either out to get their hands on the priceless Eternal Light or find themselves caught up in their plots. That's where the comparison to Morgan in The Old Dark House comes from: in that film, Morgan, despite how menacing and sinister he is, is really separate from the true meat of the plot and only pops up now and then to threaten the protagonists. This was still fairly early in Karloff's career as a horror star and not that far removed from Frankenstein, so the studios probably didn't yet grasp how talented he was, but, regardless, he deserved better. It would have been interesting to see how he would have played Morlant in a more faithful adaptation of the book, as that character seemed to have a lot more to him. Either that, or at least keep things as supernatural as they appeared to be, which I think would have been a bit more interesting and enable the movie to deliver more on what it seemed to promise.

Ernest Thesiger is best remembered for having played very quirky characters like Horace Femm in The Old Dark House and especially Dr. Pretorious in Bride of Frankenstein but his role here as Laing, Prof. Morlant's servant, is different in that it's a pretty straight role, for the most part. Speaking with a noticeable Scottish accent, Thesiger plays Laing as loyal to his master, despite believing that his faith in Anubis is that of a heathen, and carries out his instructions for his burial with the Eternal Light, despite fearing for his eternal soul. Once Morlant is apparently dead, Laing is intent upon staying with his body until it's interred and you later find out why, as he removed the jewel from his grip before he was sealed in the tomb. Initially, you may think Laing took it for himself but, it's gradually revealed that he did so to ensure that Morlant's heirs would rightfully inherit it. Knowing that he's being watched after the funeral, Laing hides the jewel in a coffee can in the house's kitchen and heads out to personally deliver a note about it to Betty Harlon, unaware that he's being followed by Broughton. On his way back to the house, Laing has some trepidation upon hearing that it's a full moon, as he remembers his master's threat to return from the grave for revenge should the Eternal Light be taken from him. He tries to write it off as nonsense, only to be horrified when sees Morlant emerge from the tomb, running off in a panic at the sight of it. Heading back into the house, he takes the jewel from the coffee can he hid it in and places it in Betty's suitcase, telling him and Ralph to leave as soon as possible. He then prays for forgiveness, saying that he was tempted by the jewel but assures that it's safe. However, when he's then attacked by the seemingly undead Morlant, Laing tells him that "the girl" has it but doesn't specify who he means, leading to Morlant initially targeting Kaney. Near the end of the film, when Ralph decides to investigate the tomb, he learns from Laing that that's probably where Morlant has gone and he has him lead him and Betty to the tomb. When they get close to it, Laing's nerves get the better of him and he goes back to the house, not to be seen again for the rest of the film.

Cedric Hardwicke has an early role here as Broughton, the lawyer who handles Prof. Morlant's affairs. From the outset, he's portrayed as a cold, heartless, schemer, who, on the night of Morlant's apparent death, looks through his study and finds out about the Eternal Light, which he paid 75,000 pounds for. Knowing about it, Broughton becomes suspicious about Morlant's bandaged hand and Laing's determination to stay with the body until it is interred. Before the tomb is sealed, he checks the body's hand and finds that the bandages have been cut open. He questions Laing about the possibility of Morlant having had something valuable in his possession, which the servant denies any knowledge of, and, knowing that he's lying, before he leaves, he has his driver, Davis, remain behind to keep an eye on Laing. Later, when he's dealing with Ralph Morlant, who's irate over not being told of his uncle's passing, he tries to dissuade him from probing into it, telling him that Morlant may not have had as much money as he believes and that he'd best not go to the house, as it wouldn't be comfortable for him. At the end of their tense meeting, Broughton receives a call from Davis, who informs him that Laing has left the house. Broughton follows Laing and, when he gives Betty Harlon a note about something valuable being at the house, he takes it from her and rips it up after reading it. He quickly makes his way back to Morlant's house and tries to find the jewel but is unable to do so before Betty, Ralph, and some other unexpected visitors come calling. He's then forced to handle them, saying that he's there to finish up some business, and keep them from interfering as he continues to look for the jewel. When Laing shows up, scared out of his mind, Broughton takes the opportunity to spy on him to try to find the jewel's whereabouts, only to be quite shocked when he sees Morlant attack Laing. Freaked out at this, he decides to hit the booze, not keeping what he saw a secret from the others, despite their not believing him, and when Betty is attacked by Morlant, Ralph sends him to find Kaney. He then disappears until near the end of the film, when he confronts Aga Ben Dragore, believing that he has the Eternal Light, but when they learn that Kaney has it, they chase after her, leading to a standoff between them when she threatens to drop it down a well. Fortunately for her, the police arrive along with the doctor whom Ralph called earlier and Broughton and Dragore are arrested.

As per usual in films like this, the young couple of the film, Ralph Morlant (Anthony Bushell) and Betty Harlon (Dorothy Hyson), are among the less interesting characters. There is something unique in that, when the movie begins, they're barely on speaking terms, despite being cousins, as the two sides of their family are estranged. Furthermore, Ralph is not too thrilled with Broughton for not informing him and Betty of their uncle's death and decides to run out to Morlant's house, incensed to do so even more when Broughton tries to dissuade him. He also decides to be there when Broughton goes to meet Betty about the situation later that night, and ends up arriving just before Broughton himself assaults her for the note Laing slipped her. As for Betty, she lives in a small apartment with her roommate, Kaney, who gives her the note from Broughton about meeting with him that night and runs out to telephone when she's attacked. Though she and Ralph are still not at all enamored with each other, he goes with her back to her apartment, where he learns of the note, which informed her that there's something of value at Morlant's house. That, coupled with how Broughton tried to keep him away, convinces him that something fishy is going on and he then leaves for the house, along with Betty and Kaney, much to his annoyance. Upon arriving there, Ralph continues to battle with Broughton over what's going on, as well as disagree with Nigel Hartley, a "parson" who shows up at the house, with his believing that Morlant's beliefs and practices were blasphemous, saying that he figures it was harmless if it gave his uncle peace of mind. In spite of their continued arguing, Ralph and Betty decide to bury the hatchet, especially they both now have a feeling that there's something afoot against them. They quickly go from being friendly to romantically interested in each other, and when Laing and then Broughton claim to have seen Morlant rampaging across the grounds, they believe it's a ploy to get rid of them. Ralph decides that the answer to what's going on is in the tomb and decides to go down there, even after Betty is attacked by Morlant, as he doesn't believe there's anything supernatural happening. Before they go down there, Ralph phones the nearby doctor and police, and when they get down to the tomb, they find Morlant dead for real and end up trapped in there by Dragore, who takes the Eternal Light from Hartley, who'd tried to steal it himself. Though Ralph is grazed across the head by a bullet and he and Betty find themselves in a tomb that's rapidly burning, they manage to escape, thanks to some dynamite Hartley had used earlier to try to blow the tomb open.

Kaney (Kathleen Harrison), Betty's roommate, is a rather twittery and overly anxious girl, one who decides to go with her and Ralph to Morlant's house because she doesn't think it's wise for Betty to be alone with a man she's not even speaking with. Once there, though, the creepiness of the place and the weird happenings make Kaney wish she'd stayed home, as she ends up blinding herself with dust when blowing into an old pot and being revolted when a cat she goes to pet turns out to be stuffed. She's rather taken by Aga Ben Dragore when he shows up at the house to visit Morlant's tomb, as he says, out of respect, finding him to be exotic and fascinating, especially when he claims to be a sheik. As a result, she sticks to him like glue, aggravating the crap out of him and often unintentionally stopping him from carrying out his plans, such as when he attempts to shoot Morlant upon seeing him with the jewel. As they roam the grounds together at one point, Dragore manages to shake Kaney by making her close her eyes for ten seconds, which she mistakenly thinks is a ploy to kiss her, and when she runs into him again later, after his struggle with Ralph for the Eternal Light has left him battered and bruised, he pushes her out of the way in irritation. Unbeknownst to him, he drops the jewel and Kaney picks it up off the ground, making her the target of both Dragore and Broughton when they realize she has it. After being chased by them, she threatens to throw the jewel down a well if they come any closer, but fortunately for her, she's saved when the doctor Ralph called arrives with the police. Giving the police the jewel and explaining that it's what they're after, she promptly faints and is carried into the house by one of the officers.

Aga Ben Dragore (Harold Huth) is introduced at the very beginning of the movie, having been the Arab man who first acquired the Eternal Light and sold it to Prof. Morlant. He's followed back to his apartment and threatened at knife-point by an Egyptian, Mahmoud (D.A. Clarke-Smith), who demands he return it, only for Dragore to inform him of Morlant's purchase and that he is going to die soon. Knowing the ritual, they both deduce from this fact that the jewel will be buried with Morlant. Mahmoud is then later shown watching Morlant's funeral procession, as well as Laing and Broughton afterward, while later Dragore comes across the pieces of the torn up note Laing slipped to Betty Harlon. When all of those involved gather at Morlant's house, both Dragore and Mahmoud arrive there, with the former going outside while the latter lies in wait at the treeline, though he's ultimately killed by Morlant when he seemingly returns from the grave. Whether or not Mahmoud forced Dragore to become part of the plot is never made clear but it is clear that Dragore is as interested in the Eternal Light's material value as anyone else. Telling them of how he met Morlant in Egypt some years ago, he says he has come to have a look at his tomb before leaving England, as he believes that's where the jewel is, but relents his desire to do so when Nigel Hartley decries it as paganism. Dragore spends most of the latter half of the film dealing with the unwanted attention of Kaney, whom he humors for the most part and tries to impress as much as he can for her to do what he says. When the two of them witness Laing barging in, scared out of his mind, Dragore tries to follow him but Kaney prevents him from getting anywhere with it, prompting him to separate himself from the group under the pretense of going outside to warn his "chauffeur" of what's going on. He later sees Morlant with the jewel and tries to shoot him but Kaney, again, thwarts his plan. Making her walk with him across the grounds, he manages to give her the slip by asking her to close her eyes for ten seconds, which she does, allowing him to get the jewel from Hartley and leave him, along with Ralph and Betty, to die in the now burning tomb. However, after shoving Kaney out of his way, he realizes too late that he dropped the jewel out of his pocket and he and Broughton chase after her when they see that she now has it. They both try to get it back from her but are arrested when the doctor arrives with the police.

Nigel Hartley (Ralph Richardson), a supposed parson, first appears early on when he arrives at Morlant's house on the night of his impending death, saying that he hoped the professor would repent for his "wicked" ways now that he's so close to dying. When he's told by Laing that there's no hope of that happening, he leaves, but reenters the story later when Ralph Morlant, Betty Harlon, and Kaney meet him right outside the house's gates when they arrive there. He comes off as a decent and cheerful man, albeit one who's very staunch in his beliefs, decrying Morlant's personal faith as blasphemous and refusing to allow Dragore to visit the tomb, an act that he says is paganism. After that, he mainly acts as little more than somebody who's simply along for the ride, so to speak, but when Ralph tells him at one point to mind his own business when he tries to get everyone to get a grip on themselves, saying that they're not in Sunday school. With that, Hartley decides he's not wanted and seemingly leaves, but when Ralph and Betty later find Morlant in the tomb, making his offering to Anubis, it's revealed that Hartley had his hand in place of the idol's, where the professor placed the Eternal Light, per the directions of the ceremony. Simply a thief rather than a parson (how he knew about the jewel is never explained), Hartley tries to make off with it, threatening Ralph with a knife, but he's easily dispatched with a pot to the head. However, Dragore then shows up, takes the jewel, and manages to fight off Ralph and seal them all inside the tomb, which catches on fire from a falling lamp. As the flames spread, Hartley tries to stop the flames from reaching some dynamite that he placed in the tomb's walls from the outside earlier (that's what he'd been doing when they first met him there) but it ultimately blows open a large hole, killing him but creating an exit for Ralph and Betty.

Aside from plenty of good performances, the best thing I can say about The Ghoul is that it's dripping in Gothic atmosphere. As you've probably gleaned from the images I've shown up to this point, the cinematography by Gunther Krampf is very dark and expressionistic to a T, with lots of shadows and contrasts (Morlant's bedroom is given an eerie shimmering effect from the burning fireplace), and it feels as if the entire movie takes place at night. Even Broughton's meeting with Ralph Morlant, the one scene that's possibly meant to take place in the daytime, given how Broughton tells him, "Good afternoon," when he leaves, is filmed in such a way that it still looks as if it's dark outside, and it helps give the film a very gloomy and kind of depressing air to it, although it can sometimes make it hard to tell who you're looking at in a given scene when you first watch the movie. The exteriors of Morlant's creepy old house benefit greatly from the dark cinematography and there's also a scene in the streets that's shot in thick fog, with shafts of light streaming out of the windows of the houses and streetlamps glowing in the darkness, all of which is right out of a Jack the Ripper type of story and makes it come off as especially striking and foreboding. And they also manage to convey the feeling of it being rather chilly outside, with the darkness and the thick clothes that the characters often wear.

In addition to the cinematography, the film's art direction, by A. Junge, also creates a Gothic vibe that's very palpable, particularly with the interiors of Morlant's house. It's your classic dark, dreary old mansion, where the only source of light seems to be from candles and oil lamps, despite the fact that the film does take place in the earl 30's, alluding to just how old and ancient a place it is. It's also a rather dusty and rundown place, hinting that Morlant never truly lived there, and that Laing has maintained it to the bare minimum of livability. Its most notable rooms are the foyer, the very large library, Morlant's upstairs bedroom, and the downstairs kitchen, all of which are often lit as darkly and creepily as possible. Besides its Gothic feel, there's also the hint of Morlant's obsession with Egypt and its beliefs, with the statue of Anubis up in his bedroom and especially the tomb on the grounds, a stone crypt that's adorned on the inside with hieroglyphics on the wall, a coffin for Morlant that's more akin to an Egyptian sarcophagus, a snake-shaped gas lamp hanging from the ceiling (the gear that works it is found on the hillside in back of the tomb), and the Anubis statue, which is moved in there after his death.

While the film takes place in England, there are a few sets that actually remind me of something that you'd see in a German expressionist film, particularly Broughton's office, which you see in the scene where Ralph Morlant calls on him. The primitive way it looks, being a fairly small room with a high ceiling, adorned with a desk for Broughton and shelves behind it that are stacked to the brim with boxes and papers, reminds me of what you'd see in a movie set in an earlier time and made in Germany; specifically, it reminds me of a similar set in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Caligari's office at the asylum (though not nearly as bizarre and warped in how it looks). Also, maybe it's because they're meant to be very low-rent but the apartments that Dragore and Betty Harlon are shown to be staying in also makes me think of sets you'd see in those types of movies, with how primitive and small they are, with almost everything made out of old wood. I don't know why but I expected the decorum and upholstery in 1930's England to not remind me of something older and foreign. But what do I know?

None of these compliments, however, change the fact that I don't find the story to be that interesting. While it is unique to see how the main plot is The Old Dark House with a bit of the Egyptian mysticism of The Mummy sprinkled in (you're not likely to see many movies where an Egyptian-style burial takes place on the grounds of an English estate), what I was expecting was Boris Karloff's character returning from the dead and going on a killing spree, not this game where the Eternal Light finds itself being passed from one person to another. That's really all that you're watching for the better part of the film's second half, with Laing and Broughton insisting that they saw the resurrected Prof. Morlant, Dragore sneaking around as he tries to get his hands on the jewel, Nigel Hartley trying to get everyone to take hold of themselves, and Ralph and Betty trying to figure out what's going on. As I've said before, despite the title, the eponymous "ghoul" doesn't emerge from the tomb until near the 50-minute mark in this 80 minute movie and when he does, he comes off as little more than an afterthought, doing nothing but stalking around the grounds and menacing those who come across him as he tries to get the Eternal Light back. He's never portrayed as that much of a threat, especially since many of the characters are oblivious to his presence, and he only kills one person before he recovers the jewel and tries to get Anubis to grant him immortality, shortly after which he dies and is revealed to have never been undead to begin with. Once he's all wrapped up, you have a double climax involving the jewel and the new couple of Ralph Morlant and Betty Harlon, with the latter becoming trapped in the tomb by Dragore, who takes the jewel from them and, after a fight with Ralph, grazes him across the head with a bullet. As Ralph and Betty try to find a way to get out, Dragore attempts to escape with the jewel, only to be faced with Broughton, who demands that he hand it over, and they then both discover that he dropped it and that Kaney now has it. Inside the tomb, a falling oil lamp from the ceiling sets the place ablaze (how could it set fire to a tomb that's made completely of stone?) and they try to extinguish it before managing to escape just in time, thanks to the dynamite that Hartley had attempted to use earlier. At the same time, Kaney is pursued by Dragore and Broughton, leading to a standoff where they have her trapped and she threatens to toss the jewel down a well if they come any nearer to her. Ultimately, she's saved when the police arrive and arrest both men. Neither climax is satisfactory or that exciting, as by this point, I was ready for the movie to end, and couldn't care less about Ralph and Betty managing to escape the burning tomb, the film ending with Ralph carrying her in his arms to safety.

The music score, which was done by Louis Levy, who went on to work with Alfred Hitchcock on his films The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, and Under Capricorn, along with an uncredited Leighton Lucas, isn't great but it's certainly not bad. The opening main theme is pretty good, though not as memorable as those of other horror films of the time, and the same goes for the music that plays during Morlant's funeral procession, which has a creeping, rhythmic sound feel to it, along with a forlorn aspect. That rhythm is used again in some of the more suspenseful scenes, like when Morlant is prowling around the grounds; there is some subtle, ethereal music for the more atmospheric scenes; and the music that plays when Morlant emerges from the tomb and sees that the Eternal Light has been taken from his hand definitely alludes to how his wrath has now been unleashed. The score for the more exciting scenes also accentuates them well, rounding out a score that, if nothing else, is suitable for the movie it accompanies.

A film's plot going in a different action from the one you expected isn't always a bad thing, as it can lead to a pleasant surprise, but that's not how I feel about The Ghoul. As much of a fan as I am of Boris Karloff and think he did the best he could with the superfluous role he was given, which included some very memorable makeup for him to wear, it's a shame that the film really isn't about him but instead completely centers around this MacGuffin of the Eternal Light. The actors do give fine performances all around, the cinematography and art direction is nicely Gothic and expressionistic, it's interesting how the story combines elements from a couple of films Karloff had made at Universal, and the music score is fair, but I would have rather had a movie that was all about Karloff stomping around and killing people as a marauding, undead monster, rather than focusing so much on this jewel getting passed around amongst these characters, some of whom spend much of the film oblivious to it all. I also think it would have been nice had there been something supernatural going on but that's just me. Due to how it went unseen for many decades, you may be tempted to check it on that basis and if so, be my guest, but don't let the title give you a false pretense of what it's really about.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

This October... Things are gonna get Schlocky

By now, you should know why I disappeared after that review I did of Summer Rental on the Fourth of July: I've been getting ready for October. The first couple of years I did this, I just did a bunch of random reviews with no common theme to them, but this year, I've decided to change that. And to start out, I figured, "Why not do something that I know a lot of people would find entertaining?" So, this October is going to be "Schlocktober" on here. Yeah, I know it's not an original title and it's been used before but if it was good enough for those other reviewers, then it's good enough for me. I was originally going to call it "Craptober" but that insinuates that I think all of these films suck, which isn't the case. Some of these movies will definitely fall into the so bad, it's good category, while others will just be kind of "blah," and then, there will be the instances where I basically decided to be a sadomasochist and force myself to watch and talk about some really bad movies. I won't give anything away, as I'd like for you all to be surprised, but let's just say you can look forward to my meeting with a certain Mr. Wood, another visit with Mr. Castle, some meetups that didn't live up to their potential, some horrendous Canadian horror, a sequel to a beloved classic that nobody asked for, and one of the worst movies featuring a classic monster that I have ever seen.

And, as if that wasn't bad enough, we're going to end on a truly horrendous movie that, for the longest time, nobody but one person knew about but he's been trying to turn it into a cult classic. How has he been going about that, you ask? By aggravating the people he knows to death until they do watch it just to get him to shut up, and I, unfortunately, happen to be friends with this unnamed person. After years of him bugging me to death, I finally broke down and watched this damn thing and, after it was over, I realized that I had to review it soon or he was going to nag me relentlessly until I did. So, for you, sir, I'm going to do it. I'm going to put a grin on, rewatch that fucking movie, do a nice write-up on it, and after that, I don't want to hear it mentioned EVER AGAIN! So, for everyone else, be sure to start checking in October 1st and coming back all month long. And as for you, my "friend,"

and shove it up hard!