Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bloody Hell! It's British Horror Week! - Happy Birthday Boris Karloff! The Ghoul (T. Hayes Hunter, 1933)

I'll confess that due to post work fatigue I was tempted to be lazy and skip another day but when my good friend Brad of Yellow Razor informed me it's Boris Karloff's birthday today, I had to take the opportunity to talk about a movie of his I just re-watched last night (funnily enough!)... and while I'm not quite gonna be able to do this one justice right now, I'll try and briefly tell y'all why you should check it out if you haven't...

While somewhat reductive, a description offered by one critic of the film being like The Mummy meets The Old Dark House still gives you a reasonably clear and concise idea of what you can expect here. Karloff plays Professor Morlant, who just before dying, spends most of his fortune on an Egyptian jewel that he believes will allow him to come back from the dead and achieve immortality. His faithful servant Laing (played by Ernest Thesiger... reversing roles with Boris here from what they played in The Old Dark House), is on hand to help carry out his esoteric instructions relating to what to do when he passes. And around all this are assorted scallywags all trying to get their hands on said jewel.

The film is not only an excellent example of the old dark house mystery thriller but also an important British horror film in general. This is for a couple of reasons... firstly, and if my research is correct, it was the first sound horror film made in the country (or apparently the earliest that survives I should say) and secondly, it was lost for many years. It's also important from a British actor point of view in that it was the cinematic debut of Ralph Richardson, who plays the parson, Nigel Hartley.

All the cast are excellent (including the hilarious Kathleen Harrison, seen above, who is also a hoot in The Ghost Train from '41)  but the real star here (apart from Boris of course!) is the atmosphere. Shot by Austrian émigré Günther Krampf, this is an absolute feast for the eyes and makes for an ideal watch on a dark and stormy night (it's all set after dark if memory serves). I was fortunate to find the print I have (from a budget triple pack) is the recent(ish) MGM restoration and I'm glad I got to see it that way. A must see for British horror, Boris Karloff and old dark house fans. Oh and Happy Birthday Boris!

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