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The Ghoul Review

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Dying Egyptologist Professor Morlant insists he be buried with a valuable jewel taped to his hand, so he can revive in the tomb and perform a ritual he believes will give him eternal life. Various parties scheme to get hold of the jewel.

★★★★★

Having become a horror star in Hollywood, Boris Karloff returned in triumph to Britain for the first time in decades to take the leading role – reminiscent of his just-completed turn in The Mummy – in this homegrown stab at taking back some of the gothic action from the upstart Americans. The opening and closing reels are the most effective, with a hollow-eyed Karloff expiring in bed surrounded by grasping Dickensian grotesques like the club-footed butler (Ernest Thesiger) and an untrustworthy lawyer (Cedric Hardwicke) and – after sitting out too much of the middle-section of the movie – reviving in the tomb and lumbering about zombie-like as he tries to offer up the sacred scarab to a statue of Anubis.

The actual plot is a combination of proven old properties like The Cat and the Canary (heirs and schemers gather in an isolated house to get hold of treasure) and The Moonstone (knife-wielding foreigners out to reclaim the jewel stolen from their ancient culture) and has as much silly comedy, like the spinster who is overly-impressed by an Egyptian on the strength of having seen Rudolf Valentino in The Sheik too many times, as it does proper creepy stuff. A young Ralph Richardson enjoys his screen debut as an unctuous curate who turns out to be another crook who has set enough gunpowder under Karloff’s tomb to allow for an explosive finale.

Based on a novel by Frank King, which was remade in more comical mode – with Sid James, Keneth Connor and Shirley Eaton – as What a Carve-Up! in 1962.

Boris Karloff doing his thing to great effect.

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