Friday, December 20, 2013


Gaumont British Picture Corporation's THE GHOUL, starring Boris Karloff and Ernest Thesiger, is 80 years old this year. It was released in August 1933 in London and 25 November 1933 in the U.S. When its copyright failed to be renewed, it ended up languishing on the desert island of Public Domain cast-offs. There exists as yet no definitive version on DVD or Blu-ray (Kino, are you listening?), but a "remastered" edition has been floating around the marketplace.

For years THE GHOUL was thought to have been lost. Then, a rough Czech copy was discovered, but was marred in the eyes of film historians because of its subtitles (a theatrical version was released that had the subtitles on the bottom portion of the screen blocked out, giving it a quasi-widescreen appearance). Finally, an uncut, British version was found and has been well-copied since.

THE GHOUL is creepy and atmospheric, but admittedly some of it relies on the beat up and noisy available prints that have the aged effect that many videographers can only hope to attain in post production. Portions of the story (it deals with Egyptian magic and reincarnation) and some of the sets are reminiscent of Universal's THE MUMMY, released just the previous year. Even Karloff's makeup by little-known Heinrich Heitfeld looks as though it could be a combination of Ardath Bey from THE MUMMY and Morgan from THE OLD DARK HOUSE.

The film has numerous trivia surrounding it. For instance, this was Ralph (later to be knighted, "Sir") Richardson's first screen role. Boris Karloff traveled from America to Great Britain to play in his titular role: it was his first time back in his home country of England for many years and it was also his first British feature film. Another interesting irony is that, in THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932), Karloff played Ernest Thesiger's butler, and a year later Thesiger was playing Karloff's manservant in THE GHOUL. In Argentina, the film was titled EL VAMPIRO (!), perhaps because there was no title in Argentinian that was suitable to use as "Ghoul"?

Issue #110 of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND included a "Filmbook" on THE GHOUL. The cover image of Karloff from the film was rendered by renowned men's magazine illustrator turned Warren cover artist, Basil Gogos.

Following are very rare, original lobby cards that were sold at auction in 2005. Some went for as much as nearly $5,000.

THE GHOUL is a film worth remembering and anyone who has yet to see it are missing the great team of Karloff and Thesiger, pre-BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN!

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...