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THE GHOUL ($15) is one of the few early Boris Karloff horror movies that I had never had the opportunity to see, so I was more than excited when I heard that MGM would be issuing this rare British genre outing on DVD. Right up front, let me say that THE GHOUL is a bit creaky and there is a moment or two that will elicit an unintended laugh, but otherwise, I found this movie to be a whole lot of fun- and it will appeal to fans of vintage horror movies. Aside from Karloff, the cast of THE GHOUL also features such notables as Cedric Hardwicke, Ralph Richardson and the wonderful Ernest Thesiger, who made a rather sizable impact on early classic horror cinema.

The plot of THE GHOUL focuses upon dying Egyptologist Professor Morlant (Karloff), who has become a true believer in the ancient faiths. Morlant has recently come into possession of a valuable jewel known as "The Eternal Light," which is said to grant eternal life. On his deathbed, Morlant has his servant Laing (Ernest Thesiger) bind the jewel in his hand, so that he may be entombed with it. Just before Morlant dies, he warns his servant that should "The Eternal Light" be stolen from is possession; he will rise from his grave to seek murderous revenge. Of course, the jewel is stolen after Morlant dies, and the Egyptologist does rise from his tomb, only to discover a house full of treasure seeker- each trying to discover the whereabouts of "The Eternal Light." THE GHOUL proves to be an atmospheric horror movie that benefits from Karloff’s eerie presence and an effective dose of comic relief from the film’s supporting players.

MGM Home Entertainment has made THE GHOUL available on DVD in a black and white presentation that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. Long considered a lost movie, THE GHOUL has been digitally rejuvenated from the surviving 35mm film elements. The first thing one will notice about the transfer is the total absence of scratches and other blemishes, as well as appreciable film grain. While it is astonishing to see a near seventy-year-old movie look this clean, fine details in darker scenes would seem to have been sacrificed in the process. However, having no frame of reference for this particular film, I am not sure if the indistinct quality of a few darker moments is intentional, something lost to time, or a result of the digital cleanup. Other than the few moments I mentioned, the image on the DVD appears fairly sharp and pretty nicely defined. There is some occasional softness, but it isn’t worth complaining about. Blacks appear accurate and the whites are stable. Contrast is good, as is the grayscale. There are a couple of missing frames in the rejuvenated picture, as well as a few of brief instances of wavering, but otherwise, this a pretty great presentation, especially for this kind of seven decade old material.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack doesn’t fair quite as well as the image. There is some hiss on the track, as well as some other audio anomalies. These are only minor annoyances and it’s really not bad for a film that has been around for seventy years. Dialogue is crisply rendered and always completely understandable, although some of the vocals are, on occasion, a bit raspy. Fidelity is decidedly limited, which affects the film’s music- rendering it thin and reedy. No other language tracks are provided on the DVD, although English, Spanish and French have been included. Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, although no supplemental features have been included on the DVD.

THE GHOUL is a rare Karloff horror outing that his fans will definitely want to see. Since THE GHOUL was once considered a lost film, MGM has done a rather remarkable job with the DVD presentation- thus making the disc well worth acquiring.  Recommended to Karloff fans and devotees of early horror cinema.



The Ghoul (1934)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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