A knife-wielding, enigmatic Egyptian Arab Aga Ben Dragore is seeking an sacred jewel which has been stolen from an ancient tomb.
The thief tells him that he sold it to Professor Morlant, a fanatical Egyptologist who fervently believes in the pagan power of the ancient Egyptian gods.
Dying from a mysteriously disfiguring ailment, Morlant entrusts his faithful manservant to bandage the jewel in his hand and warns him of dire consequences if his dying wishes aren't carried out. After his burial in an Egyptian-type tomb on his estate, an anonymous robber steals the precious stone from the corpse.
Although the ghastly-looking dead man rises at the next full moon to seek revenge, neither he nor the audience know which member of the household possesses the powerful jewel.
Boris Karloff ... Prof. Morlant
Cedric Hardwicke ... Broughton
Ernest Thesiger ... Laing
Dorothy Hyson ... Betty Harlon
Anthony Bushell ... Ralph Morlant
Kathleen Harrison ... Kaney
Harold Huth ... Aga Ben Dragore
D.A. Clarke-Smith ... Mahmoud
Ralph Richardson ... Nigel Hartley
DivX 5 / MP3
This copy of "The Ghoul" is a transfer of a recently discovered practically unused and complete print of the film found at the British Film Institute. The image is unbelievably clear and the sound has been processed (by the engineers at Sonic Solutions) so that it is quite comparable to recordings made at least 30 years later and possibly even better since it is engineered to fill up both channels of a stereo set-up (with no background hiss or grating of any kind). The original music by Louis Levy (aided by Leighton Lucas) is innovative and prescient for the time.
The photography and art direction - by two German expressionists of renown, including The Archers' legendary Alfred Junge - are stupendous, especially the London fog scenes and the great details of the interior scenes. I was also pleasantly surprised by the mobility of the camera at all times and the realistic aspect of the action scenes. The atmosphere is suspenseful and chillingly mysterious and all the actors are extremely good (and famous!), including the two "young adorables" acting as principals, shapely Dorothy Hyson and stalwart Anthony Bushell.
The dialog is at least twice as witty as that found in the Universal horror flicks of the same era and the story actually makes sense, although, unfortunately, it is of the "Scooby-Doo" school of old dark house mysteries where everything is neatly tied up with a rational explanation at the end., leaving absolutely no room for belief in the supernatural. But this doesn't distract from the extreme intelligence of the whole, the great fun of watching all those clever actors turning in memorable performances and the extra bonus of watching a relative unknown one (Kathleen Harrison in an amorous Carol Burnett-type of persona) stealing the show from everyone else at the end.
This film has a little bit of everything for everybody but it should be prized at least for having been saved from total disappearance and as a precious time-travel piece that actually shows the viewer what a brand-new horror film looked like on its first day of projection back in 1933. I enjoyed Ralph Richardson (as a country pastor) in every frame he's in and I am still in awe of Cedric Hardwicke's interpretation of an enigmatic solicitor which so closely resembles an impersonation of "Mr. Rat" from "The Wind in the Willows". Karloff is underemployed but effective as usual as Professor Morlant (which sounds like "slow death" - mort lente - in French) but Ernest Thesiger is priceless as a slow-witted butler with a club-foot and a Scottish brogue.
This film has very high entertainment and repeat value for the discriminating viewer and the DVD is being sold for practically no money. After surviving 70 years on the shelf, "The Ghoul" has become a must-have instant classic.
* This was the first British film to be labeled "horrific".
* This was the first British horror film of the sound era.
* For years this was regarded as a "lost film" with no prints or elements known to exist. A nitrate release print was discovered in the Czech National Archives in Prague. This print was a subtitled edited version that was in poor condition and contained numerous splices. Years later, a print of the uncut British version was finally discovered.
* Some U.S. theatre prints were shown in spherical widescreen. The movie wasn't shot in widescreen. The bottom of the screen had been matted to cover up the Czech subtitles (present on the only known existing version at the time) thereby creating the rectangular widescreen shape.