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Almost his last words were a threat to return from the dead. In my opinion, he was mad!
on 24 May 2014
A tricky one to review in some ways, for someone like myself who loves to submerge himself in anything Noir, Expressionistic or Gothic. There's also the added impact value here of the cast list, with Karloff, Hardwicke, Thesiger and Richardson making a quadruple list of British treasures. While of course there's the not so small fact that the film was sort of lost for decades, and even when it surfaced it was the victim of some awful transfers onto home entertainment formats. So it has been like discovering a Holy Grail of Karloff movies to finally have it available with a very good transfer.
The Ghoul is very uneven and it takes the slow-burn approach to the extreme, even rendering much of the film as ponderous. A better director than T. Hayes Hunter could have made this story work, which in essence is a bit of a "Mummy" clone in all but name. It's crammed with characters musing about the plot dynamics, which is pointless because we have grasped very early on in the play what we need to know. There's some over acting, which again a better director would have reined in, while the action sequences are poorly constructed. But...
It looks absolutely terrific. In the pantheon of Old Dark House movies, this is top draw. Günther Krampf photographs it with his Germanic Expressionistic badge pinned firmly on his chest. Boasting Nosferatu and Pandora's Box as photographic assignments on his CV, Krampf blitzes The Ghoul with such atmosphere and mood setting skills, his work really deserves a far better movie. It's creaky for the wrong reasons, and it very much proves to be a product of its time, but it's an important movie in the history of British horror. These things, coupled with the photography, make it one you need to at least see and tick of your list. 5/10