If you are a normal person (what are you doing here?), you are probably wondering why you have not heard much about Night of the Ghouls. 'I've heard about Glen & Glenda, Plan 9 From Outer Space and even Bride of the Monster, albeit because of the film Ed Wood.' The answer is simple: it was not released until the mid-80s. You see, Mr. Wood made the film, but lacked the funds to pay the man at the film lab to process it. As such, it went unreleased until long after his death. The problem with this movie is that it is worst kind of Ed Wood film- which is saying a lot. The plot is bare-bones, the effects are laughable and the acting is just as bad. The problem is that it lacks some of the truly great laughs of Plan 9 and the rare touches of decent writing that showed up in Bride. On the plus side, the introduction to Ed Wood is taken from this movie. To be fair, I'll let you know about the movie and decide for yourself. This is...
Night of the Ghouls
The film begins with Criswell- I miss you, buddy- sitting up in a coffin and telling the tale of a conman who will eventually get what is coming to him. If you have never had the chance to hear this false psychic (talk about irony) deliver a monologue, it is a must-see. The man also warns that the tale might 'make you faint' and that it could take place in 'any town...your town!' Of course, this is a direct sequel to Bride of the Monster, so it is obviously that town. The story proper begins with an old couple showing up the police station and reporting a tale of a monster. The man is played by the same actor who was the police captain with the tiny bird in Bride. The reason for his demotion becomes clear later. Listening to their tale is Officer Kelton (Paul Marco) and a new inspector in the form of Lt. Bradford. He talks about how he worked on the case involving the mad doctor's atomic experiments. Fun fact: his character was never in Bride of the Monster. Never letting logic get in the way of a good time, Wood gives Kelton a line talking about how exciting the town is with 'that mad doctor, those aliens and now this!' This single line of dialogue is what makes this 'The Kelton Trilogy.' Thanks, Ed. God forbid you have an actor appear in a similar role and NOT be the same person.
To keep Wood's theme of odd character quirks that serve no purpose, our new lead spends the whole movie in a tuxedo. Why? He was going to go on a date and got called in. What does this add? Jack shit. They go to the house previously owned by Bela in Bride, only to discover a new owner: a man who talks to the dead...and charges big time. The man's name, by the way, is Dr. Acula. No, really. His house is full of people trying to communicate with their dead relatives, haunted by a 'ghost' in white and inhabited by the not-dead Lobo (Tor Johnson). In a rare moment of decent work, Lobo's scar make-up is actually pretty convincing. Mind you, he is still played by Tor Johnson, so he has all of the range of an over-cooked steak. Another fun fact for you: Wood was not satisfied with the female actor playing the white ghost's performance, so he subbed in for her on a couple of scenes. The high-point of the film is the seance scene, which features all the classic Wood cliches like cheap skeletons and objects flying on strings. Much like the Invincibility Star in Super Mario Bros, it does not last long enough and makes you feel let-down.
If you can stick with the movie, you are treated to a finale that is a bit 'eh' for my taste. When the police get too close, Lobo is sicked on them. Why he works for Acula is actually never explained, but what's new in an Ed Wood film? The big man proves to be better at tossing around Bela Lugosi's stunt double than he is at taking out armed cops & he is killed by the gun-wielding authorities. As Acula tries to get away, he is surrounded by the ghosts that he pretended to communicate with. One of them is played by Criswell, which makes the introductory monologue a bit more confusing. Is he the same character or was Wood just out of actors? These are questions that come to mind when a movie is this dull. The End.
This movie is quite a chore to get through, although you can see a good film in the cracks. The idea has promise, even if nothing about it is all that engaging. The acting is tepid at best and from Paul Marco at worst. Fortunately, Ed learned a lesson from Plan 9 and did not give Tor dialogue. He continued to give Marco lots of lines, something that he never seemed to learn. The movie is bereft of Wood's angora fetish, although it is also bereft of his funny dialogue. You get nothing on par with 'future events such as these will affect you in the future' this time around. Maybe it was not that bad of an idea to lock this film up in a vault for 26 years! This was Wood's last real shot at making his own movie as far as it regards to both writing and directing. After this movie's failure, he was reduced to doing semi-porn films and, ultimately, actual porn films. We still have three more stops on the Wood failure train, since I am leaving out his porn films like Lady Godiva Rides and others.
*Next up, we visit another foray into the Cannibal/Jungle Peril genre. What does this one have to help it stand out? Two words: Ursula Andress. Stay tuned...