The Ghoul (1933)

Nice to see this again too, although technically you could almost call it a first viewing… certainly it’s the first time I’ve seen this in its proper original form, as opposed to the mangled copy ABC still insists on showing (would it kill them to upgrade?) and which is on DVD here as one of those Rank triple-packs (and how disappointing was it to find that out); lost for three decades after a late 30s reissue until said mangled copy was unearthed, apparently by Bill Everson, in Czechoslovakia, and then the original negative reappeared a few years after that. While the film is not suddenly revealed as a masterpiece, it was still an improvement over my previous experience with it, indeed for the first time I think I was actually able to follow the story… Speaking of Bill Everson, I reread his chapter on the film in Classics of the Horror Film, and was amused to note how he criticises two contemporary reviews for getting key details about Boris Karloff’s character wrong, then gets the character’s name wrong himself… but he was right about the film veering at times towards farce, which it does even more than Doctor X; it’s an uneven and uneasy mix, but the horror elements still probably win the battle. Director T. Hayes Hunter seems to have been a comparative nonentity, and most of the work here is really done by the art direction, the cinematography, and the arrangements of Wagner that serve as the score (which is this film’s biggest advantage over the other two films I’ve seen today); now, as then I suppose, the presence of Karloff—in his first British film since hitting stardom in the US—is the chief point of interest, even if it’s a smallish role. If it’s not quite as good as some of the things he’d been doing in Hollywood, it was still pleasant to see the film in an actually watchable and listenable copy…

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