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GHOUL, THE (director: T. Hayes Hunter; screenwriters: Roland Pertwee/John Hastings Turner/based on the novel & play by Leonard J. Hines & Dr. Frank King; cinematographer: Gunther Krampf; editor: Ian Dalrymple/Ralph Kemplen; music: Louis Levy; cast: Boris Karloff (Professor Morlant), Anthony Bushell (Ralph Morlant), Dorothy Hyson (Betty Harlow), Ernest Thesiger (Laing), Cedric Hardwicke (Broughton), Kathleen Harrison (Kaney), Harold Huth (Aga Ben Dragore), Ralph Richardson (Nigel Hartley), A. Clarke-Smith (Mahmoud); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Balcon; MGM Home Entertainment; 1933-UK)
“Creaky and weighed down with poor plot execution.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Creaky and weighed down with poor plot execution, this Old Dark House type of horror film takes a long time getting started before any action kicks in and even when it does the action is not worth much. In 1961 it was remade as What a Carve Up! It was lost for many years until a print was located in 1969; in 2002 a DVD was released. The film marked Britisher Boris Karloff’s return to cinema in his native country after a 24 year hiatus and was his first British horror film, but the atmospheric gothic thriller was a big disappointment; it also marks the film debut of Ralph Richardson playing a phony vicar. Director T. Hayes Hunter (“Sally Bishop”/ “White Face”/”The Green Pack”), an American who was D. W. Griffiths’ successor as house director at Biograph Studios, seems lost in how to move it along with excitement and suspense. It’s based on the 1928 novel & play by Leonard J. Hines & Dr. Frank King and written by Roland Pertwee and John Hastings Turner. German photographer Gunther Krampf applies his usual Expressionist visuals to give the film its needed dark atmosphere. The Ghoul was made by the Gaumont British Picture Corporation.

Professor Morlant (Boris Karloff) is an eccentric British Egyptologist who seeks immortality through the power of a stolen ring he recently purchased that was buried in the Egyptian tomb of an Oriental idol. When on his dying bed Morlant’s clubfooted manservant Laing (Ernest Thesiger) steals the eternal ring (called the Eternal Light) that’s wrapped inside his bandaged hand, even though his master warned him that if the jewel is stolen he will return from the grave seeking revenge. Morlant dies and is buried in his tomb without his precious eternal ring. His nephew, Ralph Morlant (Anthony Bushell), comes to the eerie isolated country house he inherited with his estranged cousin Betty Harlow (Dorothy Hyson), the second heir, and her man-chasing spinster chatterbox friend Kaney (Kathleen Harrison), as the brusque Ralph questions what happened to his uncle’s fortune. They are joined by the following uninvited guests: Morlant’s shady lawyer (Cedric Hardwicke), an irksome character posing as a vicar (Ralph Richardson), a sinister mysterious Arab character (Harold Huth) who claims to be a longtime friend of the professor and the frightened Laing fearing for his life. When Morlant returns from the dead to get even with the one who swiped his ring, the story comes to life at last as Karloff returns to the pic he was absent from for far too long and unleashes some ghoulish moments he was famous for over at Universal.

REVIEWED ON 10/31/2008 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”