Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cushing shines in "Night of the Ghoul"

Night of the Ghoul (aka "The Ghoul" and "The Thing in the Attic") (1975)
Starring: Peter Cushing, Veronica Carlson, John Hurt, Alexandra Bastedo, Ian McCulloch, Gwen Watford, and Don Henderson
Director: Freddie Francis
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

A group of drunken young people out for a drive (Carlson, Bastedo, McCulloch) get lost on country back roads. Ignoring the warning of a crazy country bumpkin (Hurt), they seek refuge in the isolated mansion of Dr. Lawrence (Cushing). When the visitors start dying messily, the secret of the mansion is revealed in all its horror.

"Night of the Ghoul" is a great-looking film burdened a meandering, unoriginal script full of badly written dialogue, which in turn leads to weak performances by most of the featured actors. The one standout performance is delivered by Peter Cushing. It's not unusual that he is the only decent thing about a movie he appears in, but his performance as the tortured Dr. Lawerence is one of his very best and most moving screen appearances. This may be because Cushing reached into himself and used the real pain he still felt from the death of his wife--who had been the center of his world in every way--in one of two tributes he gave to their love on screen. (The other appears in the 1972 anthology film "Tales from the Crypt".)

Aside from Cushing, there's nothing else particularly noteworthy here... and nothing that you haven't seen done better in other movies. Even the Big Secret of Dr.Lawrence's creepy old mansion, while pretty horrendous, is presented in such a feeble fashion that what was supposed to be shocking feels more like a "how terrible... and they were such nice people, too" moment.

"Night of the Ghoul" is a film that admirers of the great talent that was Peter Cushing should seek out. Everyone else won't be missing much if they pass on this film.

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