Thursday, 21 July 2016

Night of the Ghouls (1958)

























Ah the Ed Wood cinematic universe with the odd crossover. Well there are certainly a few interesting tit bits to mention with this movie. For starters it didn't actually get released until 1984 due to money issues. Secondly the film is supposedly part of an unofficial trilogy called 'the Kelton trilogy'. The reason being that Paul Marco stars in all three films (the third being 'Plan 9 from Outer Space') as the same character of patrolman Kelton. In fact there are two reoccurring characters altogether and a one reoccurring actor playing a different role. And lastly, as already said, this is in fact a sequel of sorts to 'Bride of the Monster', something I didn't realise until I watched the movie.

Now when I say a sequel, its definitely a loose sequel, there is little continuity apart from one main character really, and that's Lobo. Basically the local police are sent to investigate a so called haunted house, the old Willows place which has been rebuilt. The reason local folk think its haunted is because a conman and his small gang are using the house as a base of operations to run a fake medium enterprise. They are charging people lots of money by making them believe they can contact their dead loved ones. Little do the tricksters know that the house is actually haunted and ghouls do roam the grounds, for some reason. I'm guessing it may be down to the areas tortured history, where Dr Eric Vornoff once resided and experimented on people, or not, this is an Ed Wood flick after all.

So Lobo is really the only main reoccurring character here. His face is now badly scarred after the huge fire and nuclear explosion that wreaked havoc on the area (can you tell I'm being sarcastic?). No but seriously, he does actually have a big burn on his face, because surviving a nuclear explosion does that. Not sure what actually happens to Lobo this time though, he takes some bullets to the chest again, wrestles some people, then kinda disappears, he's more of a background character this time. On the other hand patrolman Kelton gets more screen and dialog time only to be knocked unconscious again by Lobo, still manages to live through it though. Despite the fact this is a sequel and there are a couple characters from the previous movie, there isn't really much talk about the events from that film, no mention of Vornoff or anything. Instead the focus is all on the new characters, mainly the rather stupidly named antagonist Dr. Karl Acula (Dracula) played by Kenne Duncan who wears a turban because that's what all mediums wear. Then you have Sheila, the white ghost (Valda Hansen), which is actually one of Acula's girls who is suppose to scare away the locals, and the black ghost! A spectre that appears to actually be real much to the distress of Sheila but not so much Acula.

The story is bookended by Wood regular Criswell (much like 'Plan 9') and has him rising from a coffin right at the start to introduce you the viewer to the film. Its cute and all but because Criswell is also playing a role in the movie, as one of the dead risen from the grave, you're not too sure whether he is just narrating at the start, or if he's actually part of the plot. Alas with Wood you can never tell because everything was so cheap and cheerful. I'm tempted to think Wood just used Criswell in more than one role simply because he liked the guy and he had no other biggish names to fill the roles. But on the other hand, as his role is essentially a zombie, and he is seen awakening from a coffin at the start, it does kinda tie up, it also foreshadows the events at the end of the movie. Bit unfortunate that old Cris is constantly dressed in his splendid tux, doesn't quite look right, doesn't convey the right mood.

So can you expect anything different effects wise with this? not really, in fact there isn't really much to speak of unlike other Wood flicks. The usual array of official offices used by the police throughout, complete with an easter egg 'wanted' mugshot of Wood on the back wall in the local police station. You don't see anything of the old Willows house exterior this time, its all inside apart from some shots in a wooded area which are primarily for the black and white ghost shots. Everything set inside the house is pretty tacky, its all been shot across a few rooms with a few corridors and there's hardly any set dressings outside of the main room where Acula does his tricks. Said main room is chock full of many rudimentary, corny objects which do convey a massive sense of cheesiness that's for sure. The crystal ball, the fake skulls, obviously fake skeletons sitting at the table, elaborate candles, and a big curtain concealing the rest of the set. It all looks like a very lazy funhouse or spookhouse at a fairground. I'll bet the coffin we see being used is Criswell's personal coffin (he owned one).

In the end the plot remains unsolved technically, the police are baffled about what happened, heck I'm not so sure myself! Half the people we see just vanish, including Lobo, Acula is presumably buried alive by the very clean cut corpse or Criswell, Sheila is killed or turned into a real ghost? I guess that's the ironic little twist in her tale. The black ghost isn't really explained but does kill off Sheila for some reason, probably because she was in cahoots with the dastardly Acula. Criswell signs off with a  final poignant note to us the viewers, again making me unsure if he's simply the narrator or still in character for the sake of the plot, unsure...but I suspect he's still in character.

Overall the plot is weak and ends up becoming an even greater mess. As the dead Criswell explains to Acula near the end, apparently once every 13 years when summoned by a medium, the dead get to rise from the grave and be free for 12 hours precisely. So...do mediums tend to come around every 13 years to accidentally raise the dead? Who sets the 12 hour rule for the dead? Why would a medium somehow raise the dead by accident? what on earth do they do to trigger that?? Why are these walking corpses so clean and smart?? Meh, I guess its best not to think about it too much, there's no point really, I'm just amazed there wasn't a shittonne of stock footage strewn about the place, there was some, but not as much as usual. Honesty, I didn't really find myself enjoying this Ed Wood adventure, too bland, not exciting enough, no flying saucers or Lugosi makes it seem a tad dull. 'Bride' is by far the better picture in my opinion, more of a classical look and feel to its horror and sci-fi.

5/10