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An Invitation To Dinner
on 6 October 2011
THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE FILM ONLY, AND NOT ANY VIDEO RELEASE.
1920's England. Two couples challenge eachother to a car race during a party. One of the cars stops but the other carries on, getting lost in the mist shrouded countryside. Billy(Stewart Bevan) goes looking for petrol as the cars engine is empty, Daphne(Veronica Carlson) waits in the car. When Billy does not return, Daphne makes her way to the country house of Dr. Lawrence(Peter Cushing). She is greeted warmly, but her hosts seem to be whispering a lot to eachother, and Daphne is about to learn to her cost the dark secrets of the house in the country, secrets as far away from 1920's England as you can imagine...
This film is one of three horror films directed by Freddie Francis for the short lived Tyburn film productions, the others being the rather dull Legend Of The Werewolf, and the mean spirited and nasty psychological horror Persecution. The Ghoul is by far the best of the three films.
In fact, The Ghoul has a lot going for it. There is a nice period detail to the fashion and the sets, this being a Freddie Francis film it of course looks great, quite an atmosphere is built up by just panning through the empty rooms of Lawrence's house, haunting music playing in the background and there are a couple of really great performances, one from Peter Cushing as the tormented Lawrence, the other from John Hurt as the completely unhinged Rawlings.
This was a film that used to appear regularily on terrestrial television in the 1980's. Like so many other British horrors from thar period it has now virtually disappeared from the tv schedules. A shame, as it's not likely to recieve an official dvd release in the near future.
A couple of reasons I can't quite call this film a classic of British horror. First of all, there is the very underwhelming closing scenes, when the Ghoul finally is fully seen, having been glimpsed up to now half lit in the shadows, it turns out to be Don Henderson, playing an adult baby in an over large nappy. So what should have been a rather moving scene descends into farce and unintentional hilarity. Also the decision to cast Gwen Watford as the Indian housekeeper grates a little, this was the mid 1970's after all, surely they could have cast an Indian actress.
However, these are minor grumbles, as for the most part 'The Ghoul' is a very entertaining horror that tries to emulate the Hammer glories from the past. It is to Freddie Francis's credit that it mainly succeeds. 4 out of 5.