Ghoul, The (1933)

Ghoul, The (1933)

“At the first hour, I will make my offering of the eternal light to Anubis, opener of the ways.”

A dying professor of Egyptology (Boris Karloff) asks to be buried with a valuable jewel known as the Eternal Light, which he believes will grant him immortality in the afterlife. When his butler (Ernest Thesiger) steals the jewel from his tomb, Karloff returns from the dead to seek revenge.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Boris Karloff Films
  • Egypt and Egyptology
  • Horror
  • Life After Death
  • Ralph Richardson Films
  • Revenge

This early British horror flick was believed lost for many years, until a print was finally found in 1969. Unfortunately, however — despite the presence of Boris Karloff in a starring role — it’s far from a missing classic. The pacing in early scenes is deathly slow, the film’s overall tone shifts awkwardly from comedy to horror, and Karloff is gone from the screen for far too long (he doesn’t “rise from the dead” until more than 45 minutes into the story). While it’s redeemed somewhat by effectively creepy lighting and sets — as well as Karloff’s surreal makeup and performance — overall, The Ghoul is a dull disappointment. See TCM’s article for in-depth background information on the making and context of the film.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Highly atmospheric lighting and set designs

  • Boris Karloff as Professor Morlant

Must See?
No. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Ghoul, The (1933)

  1. Not a must. I concur with the assessment.

    Pretty dull, even though many of the necessary elements are in place: spooky house, spooky lighting, full moon – when nasty things are to start. It does seem like it was originally intended as a straight horror flick – and that someone-on-board wasn’t totally enamored of that idea, so bits and pieces of light comedy were added. (Some of the latter does work, thanks to the efforts of a very game Kathleen Harrison as closet-adventuress Kaney; I esp. like when Karloff is about to strangle her from behind as she stands at a French door, and is deterred when she begins waving in a schoolgirl manner to someone outside.)

    Overall, the film builds in a progressively ridiculous manner, and the various sudden complications as the wrap-up nears are met with unintentional laughter as various characters jump out of nowhere to hold others at gunpoint.

    [Ralph Richardson’s debut, in an odd manner.]

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