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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (1959) -- movie review by Squashpants


Tonight's movie is


Until some time in the 1990s this was considered a lost film. However, the print was found at the laboratory whose bill director Edward J. Wood, Jr. could not pay. The enterprising Wade Williams paid that bill and took possession of the print. Soon, the title was released on VHS and available to an anxious public. And the rest is history.

This is one of Ed's black and white "Kelton the Cop" movies that he produced in the 50s. The other two films in the set are BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and the infamous PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. There is hardly a person living that doesn't register the latter title thanks to Tim Burton's homage to the World's Worst Director, a title bestowed by the Medved Brothers in their publication "The Golden Turkey Awards."

If you have seen ED WOOD, you know the backstory on P9FOS, and you know why Eddie Wood is so fondly regarded by bad movie fans like myself. His films are bad, incompetently made, that is, in many ways, but they are also entertaining as hell. It is the mistakes that Eddie made that make for his hilariously goofy film products.

NIGHT OF THE GHOULS is thought to be a lesser Woodian creation, but I think it holds its own against his BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, possibly surpasses it. The story is one of phony mediums and their comeuppance by real spirits. It stars folks from the Wood stable, and some new faces we haven't seen before.

Duke Moore, who we saw in PLAN 9 is back as police Lt. Bradford, as is Paul Marco playing prissy Officer Kelton. Kenne Duncan (THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER) plays phony medium Dr. Acula (get it? Oh, brother) and a fresh face, Valda Hansen (hubba hubba), as his assistant-in-crime. She plays the White Ghost in a spectacular gothic dress and looks very nice indeed. Also along for the ride is Tor Johnson as Lobo. Yes, the same Lobo from BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, this time with one hell of a scar makeup job. As a matter of fact, this movie is kind of a sequel to BRIDE. And we also have the attractive Jeannie Stevens as the real Black Ghost, and John Carpenter (no, not THAT John Carpenter) as the police captain.

And so it goes, Lt. Bradford is diverted from an evening at the opera to investigate spooks at the old house on Willow's Lake. It seems that an old couple saw the White Ghost ("those FINGernails" wails Martha) at the house when they got lost. Margaret Mason and Harvey B. Dunn hilariously overact as the old couple. So Captain Robbins orders Bradford to investigate, with the help(!) of Officer Kelton who complains of all the weird shit he has to deal with, while giving his butt a good wiggle or two.

As the police are arriving at the house, Dr. Acula (I love Kenne Duncan in this role) and his crew are getting ready for a seance. The con man catches Bradford nosing about and the lieutenant makes as if he was looking to use whatever services Acula was about giving. So he gets to sit in on the seance, and this part of the film is laugh out loud ridiculous. You have to see it to believe how funny it is.

After the seance, Bradford slips away and we see footage from a TV pilot that Ed Wood had produced a few years before, and that, of course, went nowhere. Since it involved Duke Moore exploring a spooky house in opera formal attire, it is pretty well seamless. And there is a rather effectively creepy scene with the Black Ghost in a closet of props(!).

The cute cute cute Valda Hansen complains to her boss of what she thinks are real ghosts on the grounds. Dr. Acula tells her she's losing it. He tells her to do her job and after that night they will take the particularly large check from one of their pigeons and leave town. Bradford finds Kelton and they plan to bust the racket. They end up putting a half dozen slugs into Lobo's chest at close range and it fails to kill the brute right off, but it does throw him off.

The cavalry is on the way, and they are closing in on Dr. Acula, but the old fraud has a shock waiting for him. Some of the corpses he has had lying around(!) have come back to life temporarily and grab the doctor and inter him in a handy coffin Then they shamble off bearing his pall. The cops arrive and find no Dr. Acula. Just a floor littered with skeletons and loose bones.

This movie, I think is a treat for Ed Wood fans. It has people we have come to love in other Wood films (no Bela, though) and it even has a clip filmed years before with Ed himself in a fight (to illustrate the problems that police have to deal with). All the awkward dialog and amateur acting that we expect from Eddie are here in spades.

I loved it. I give this picture a Weirdo Rating of 3 1/4 out of 4 stars.

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