Ye olde Brit horror
Release Date: 20 April 1933 | PG | Blu- ray Director: T Hayes Hunter Cast: Boris Karloff, Cedric Hardwicke, Ernest Thesiger, Dorothy Hyson, Anthony Bushell, Ralph Richardson
Once thought lost, The Ghoul has some significance as the first British horror film with sound, and for featuring Boris Karloff, back from Hollywood hot off the success of Frankenstein and The Mummy. It’s an antediluvian effort, but this HD transfer plays up its better qualities.
Karloff plays a dying Egyptologist who makes his servant bandage a sacred jewel in his hand, hoping that it’ll cause him to rise from the tomb after he pops his clogs. The jewel is stolen – but that doesn’t stop the dead man from waking up, and now that he’s miffed he goes on a bloody rampage, picking off some of the many folk now wandering around his Old Dark House.
The Ghoul is a mixed bag: what still impresses is the expressionist photography by Austrian veteran Gunther Krampf and much of the set design – particularly an office that’s like something out of a Dr Seuss nightmare. Less captivating is the script, which allows a gaggle of stage actors to wander in and out of repetitive scenes, rabbiting in eccentric fashion as they go. Much of it is tiresome, confused and silly – and the comic relief from actress Kathleen Harrison grates rather.
Karloff doesn’t have much screen time and that’s a pity, but when he does, particularly after his resurrection, the king of horror makes it count: those striking features demand attention.
Extras: An affectionate and informed commentary from journalists Kim Newman and Stephen Jones, plus a picture gallery. Russell Lewin One of The Ghoul’s writers was Ronald Pertwee, father of Third Doctor Jon Pertwee and grandfather of Gotham’s Sean Pertwee.
House viewings were always edgy when Frank was around.