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Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Once Rarest Of Karloffs Back Among Us


A Horror Star's Homecoming Yields The Ghoul (1933)

Boris Karloff UK-bound to go his Yank chillers one better, this a back-from-dead venture where he's an Egyptologist in possession of a charm said to be bridge between here and beyond. A practical problem is bedridden Boris checking out at a start, an arid Act Two denied him, then fitful resurrect as titular "Ghoul," sans dialogue. What talk there is (lots) comes courtesy a Dickensian lot led by Ernest Thesiger, Cedric Hardwicke, and Ralph Richardson, with Anthony Bushell and Dorothy Hyson as bickering romancers. The Ghoul was ambitious, its aim clearly set upon US markets, but this was early among Gaumont pics distributed stateside and had to compete besides with slicker Karloffs done by Universal. There was boomer fever to see The Ghoul thanks to mouth-watering stills Forrest Ackerman used to publish; you'd think from these it was an acme of all things horrific, but where were prints? For years, we figured The Ghoul among lost ones, and it might as well have stayed so for all of a muddy and subtitled bootleg that saw circulation on 16mm and later video. Who dreamed we'd have it finally on pristine DVD and even HD streaming on Netflix? Digital wonders never cease.

1 Comments:

Blogger Reg Hartt said...

From Wikipedia: The Ghoul was released in the UK in August 1933, in the US in January 1934, and reissued in 1938. The film was popular in the UK but performed disappointingly in the US.

Subsequently, it disappeared and was considered to be a lost film over the next 31 years. In 1969, collector William K. Everson located a murky, virtually inaudible subtitled copy, Běs, behind the iron curtain in then-communist Czechoslovakia. Though missing eight minutes of footage including two violent murder scenes, it was thought to be the only copy left. Everson had a 16mm copy made and for years he showed it exclusively at film societies in England and the United States, memorably at The New School in New York City in 1975 on a Halloween triple bill of Lon Chaney in The Monster, Bela Lugosi in The Gorilla and Boris Karloff in The Ghoul. Subsequently, The Museum of Modern Art and Janus Film made an archival negative of that scruffy Prague print and it went into very limited commercial distribution.
Inadvertently in the early 1980s, a disused and forgotten film vault at Shepperton Studios, its door blocked by stacked lumber, was cleared and yielded the dormant nitrate camera negative in perfect condition. The British Film Institute took in The Ghoul, new prints were made, and the complete version aired on Channel 4 in the UK. Bootleg videotapes of this broadcast filtered among collectors for years, but when an official VHS release arrived from MGM/UA Home Video, it was the virtually unwatchable Czech copy. Audiences were grateful to simply see a major lost Karloff film in the 1970s and 1980s, but the film was disappointing in its battered condition. Finally, in 2003, just as the title was prepared for DVD, MGM/UA obtained the superior material for release. The restored copy has substantially raised critical appreciation of the film in modern times.


I ran that lousy vhs version to a packed house. Then when the crystal clear dvd showed up I ran it to an empty house. Go figure.

5:48 AM  

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