The Bad Movie Report

Night of the Ghouls

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It was pretty inevitable that eventually we must look in the direction of Ed Wood, Jr. He is one of the stellar luminaries of the world of Bad Movies. It is possible that he owes his current fame to The Golden Turkey Awards, in which he was voted the Worst Director of All Time and Plan 9 was selected as Worst Movie. Neither is really true - both are far too entertaining for those categories - but that Eddy was woefully inept and possessed a vision that far outstripped his abilities is beyond argument. To sum up - there are directors just as bad, if not worse, than Eddy - but they haven't had movies made about them yet.

For a while there, Night of the Ghouls was the Great Lost Ed Wood Movie... Ed couldn't get up the cash to pay the lab for the developed film, so they proceeded to hold on to it for 26 years, when its bail was paid and it received a video release. Theoretically a sequel to Bride of the Monster, it typically eschews much of the first movie except for a couple of characters and continuous references to "that mad scientist and his monsters, that were destroyed by lightning".

Well, somebody rebuilt "that house on Willow Lake", and now people are getting murdered thereabouts by the Black Ghost, a woman wearing, yes, black. Who might she be? Why is she doing this? Who knows? Maybe this was to be addressed in the next movie.

Criswell predicts... this movie will suck!No, let us start at the beginning. With Criswell arising from his coffin, promising to tell us "a tale of the threshold people, so astounding some of you may faint!" A tale filled with "monsters to be pitied, monsters to be despised." We then see a sign for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, as Criswell advises us this is "Your town...any town!" Inside the paneled office, there is one lone picture on the wall... perhaps a wanted poster. It is, of course, a picture of Ed Wood. An elderly couple (the man is Harvey B. Dunn, an inspector in Bride, and inexplicably busted to civilian here), who wail "Oh, it was a nightmare of horror!" Seems they saw a ghost out by THAT house. But we know that it was a different ghost, a WHITE ghost (Valda Hansen).

Enter Lt. Bradford ("Duke" Moore) a tuxedo-wearing police detective who magically handled the "mad doctor" case in the last movie ('magically' because we've never seen him before). He heads out to the house, followed by none other than Kelton (Paul Marco), the unfunniest comic relief cop in the universe. (Some refer to this movie, Plan 9 and Bride as the Kelton Trilogy. Yeah. Whatever.) Bradford finds that a turban-wearing medium named Dr.Acula (*wheeze*) (played by Kenne "Horsecock" Duncan) has taken up residence, and is working a fake seance racket to bilk the bereaved of their money. The White Ghost is an assistant whose job is to frighten off the unwary.

r to l: Wood, Tor, HorsecockDiscovering that Bradford is a cop, Acula sics none other than Lobo (Tor Johnson) on him. Lobo has somehow survived the fire at the end of Bride, though he is badly scarred. After Kelton somehow scrounges up the cajones to also bust in, Acula decides to split... a little too late, as it turns out he was a real medium after all and the dead have returned to take him with them... supposedly so they can finally get some damn sleep. Tor gets shot to pieces by the cops, and the White Ghost blunders into the waiting arms of the Black Ghost.

All in all, for an Ed Wood movie, this isn't bad.... it just isn't good, either. Wood's trademark mind- bendingly convoluted sentences are almost entirely absent, replaced by merely tedious and useless dialogue. Were it not for some truly lame acting in the minor roles, this movie could have been almost respectable. God help me for saying this, but Ed actually manages a couple of creepy moments: once when Bradford thinks he's examining a wax dummy which then smiles at him, and the moment when Acula awakes just as the dead are closing the coffin on him....

Ah, but two moments do not a classic make, and Ghouls remains pretty dreadful throughout - it's not up - or down - to Woods usual laughable standards, so it remains somewhat boring throughout. The seance, though, is all you could ask for: a flying trumpet, somebody walking through in a sheet and blowing a slide whistle, and the Spirit Guide, Mambo (or Mumbo), represented by the lit-from- below face of a black man, mugging madly out-of-sync with Mambo's voice. Ooooh. Scary.

Scary seance! OOoooooOOO!For the full entertaining effect of the experience that is Ed Wood, one should seek out the classics, like Plan 9, Bride of the Monster, Glen or Glenda, or even Orgy of the Dead. Night of the Ghouls, like some others ....Necromania fairly pounces to mind... is recommended to Wood completists only, or Kelton fans.

Is there such a thing? Now that's scary.


There's better Wood out there.

- January 11, 1998