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  Night of the Ghouls Rare Medium
Year: 1959
Director: Edward D. Wood Jr
Stars: Kenne Duncan, Duke Moore, Tor Johnson, Valda Hansen, Johnny Carpenter, Paul Marco, Don Nagel, Bud Osborne, Jeannie Stevens, Harvey B. Dunn, Margaret Mason, Clay Stone, Marcelle Hemphill, Tom Mason, James La Maida, Anthony Cardoza, Criswell
Genre: Horror, Comedy, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Here is Criswell (as himself) to introduce this tale of terror which will chill the blood in your veins, a tale of monsters to be despised which started one night at the police station when an elderly couple who had been driving through the evening showed up in a state of distress. This had something to do with an old, dark house out in the middle of nowhere, one which was supposed to be deserted but might have had someone inside after all, something to do with the unearthly experiments the previous owner was purported to have carried out, perhaps?

Seeing famed (if not exactly accurate) celebrity psychic Criswell emerge from his coffin can only mean one thing, that's right, you were watching an Ed Wood movie. Or Edward D. Wood Jr as he liked to style himself in the credits to his no budget, ho hoper epics, and in this case it was fortunate that we ever got to see Night of the Ghouls at all, for it had been held up from public consumption by an unpaid bill at the developing lab. Once The Golden Turkey Awards raised his profile by proclaiming him the worst director of all time, there was a renewed interest in Wood's work, which led B movie fan and entrepreneur Wade Williams to buy the rights to Plan 9 from Outer Space, his masterwork.

Wood's widow then informed him there was another, lost film which Williams could have access to, so he paid the bill and unleashed this upon an eager world, though understandably it never quite hit the same levels of cultdom as Plan 9 did. Not that it was any better, as it was still ludicrously amateurish and ill-conceived as his fans would have hoped, but there were strong signs here that Wood had intended to make a comedy - you were supposed to laugh at this one, basically. Not that it wasn't meant to be scary as well, for some scenes are apparently played straight, but step forward Paul Marco as Kelton the Cop from Plan 9 to bear the weight of the humour as the extensively used comic relief.

At various times Kelton seems to be undergoing some kind of breakdown - no wonder after that last film - but with so much of this given over to his antics Night of the Ghouls began to look like something Disney had made for the kiddies then rejected as unsuitably shoddy. Not that Ed's sense of humour was any more successful than his motives towards scaring his audience, but it does result in a work which tests the patience as you await the next supernatural moment. The plot which had Kelton so upset was concerned with a phoney medium, named Dr. Acula (bit part heavy Kenne Duncan) who has hired actors to pretend to he ghosts, all the better to cheat money out of his clients, only to find there are actual spirits hanging around.

The elderly couple at the beginning saw one of those actors ("Woman in White" Valda Hansen) and alerted the cops, which sends not only the panicking Kelton but the tuxedo-wearing Lieutenant Bradford (Duke Moore) to investigate as well. Bradford is made of sterner stuff, but he has to negotiate a railing he finds terrifying (huh?) and more importantly, Tor Johnson reprising his crowd-pleasing role as Lobo from Bride of the Monster, presumably one of those creatures the previous tenant left behind, judging by his melted face makeup. Tor doesn't get much to do, alas, though he does interrupt the seance at one point by getting shot at by Bradford, then dragging him out of the room, something Dr. Acula (geddit?) passes off as part of the experience. The customary Ed Wood lunacy was there, as you can see, but the tone was too jokey as if self-deprecating in its methods, which didn't really suit him. Although Criswell is revealed to be a ghost at the end, which is oddly satisfying.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Edward D. Wood Jr  (1924 - 1978)

American writer-director of trashy low budget movies, hailed as the worst director of all time by The Golden Turkey Awards and others. His interest in cross-dressing and angora sweaters informed Glen or Glenda, after which he turned to science fiction and horror - Bride of the Monster, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Night of the Ghouls - all starring his motley crew of friends (Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, Criswell, et al).

Wood's career opportunities got worse as he drifted into writing softcore porn like Orgy of the Dead, and he eventually became an alcoholic. Sadly, he died just before receiving the peculiar adulation his eccentric movies deserved. Also the author of many pulp novels.

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