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Night of the Ghouls

For those who wish to experience Ed Wood's filmmaking genius (ahem) first-hand, the best place to start would either be Plan Nine from Outer Space (1958) or Bride of the Monster (1956), as both have the requisite bad acting, bad directing, and the bad stock footage (forcing many scenes to go from day to night without any real explanation) that has cemented Wood's reputation as the worst director ever. But for those willing to delve further into Wood esoterica, 1959's Night of the Ghouls should be the last stop before bothering with the smut films he wrote towards the end of his life (stuff like 1965's Orgy of the Dead and 1971's Necromania are nigh unwatchable). The later films just don't have as many quaint charms his early black-and-white period does, whereas Ghouls is from the "classic Wood" period and was the sequel to Monster. Picking up at the same location (the Old Willow farm) it only has loose connections, and the only returning cast members/characters are Tor Johnson's Lobo (now covered in scars and the only aspect of the film that fits the opening description of "monsters to be pitied, monsters to be despised") and Paul Marco's Kelton the cop. Filmed in 1959 but unreleased until 1985 (because Ed couldn't pay the lab bills), Ghouls is awash in the things that make Ed Wood's films so special, but never connects like his best/worst efforts do. Duke Moore stars as Lt. Dan Bradford, the police officer called in to investigate the house on Willow Lake after a couple drive by it and see ghosts, though he is reluctant because he has opera tickets. Bradford, the station's supernatural expert, goes with wussy Patrolman Kelton and finds that Dr. Acula (Kenne Duncan) is holding seances there. Acula's act is a scam though, with people pretending to be ghosts and with a trumpet hanging in the air "magically" (magically = on the plainly visible string), but with the assistance of Lobo, Dr. Acula is going to keep Bradford from telling anyone his secret. However, it turns out that there is more going on outside the house besides the doctor's fake spirits. If you appreciate Ed Wood's brand of filmmaking, Night of the Ghouls shouldn't disappoint. It may be a little lacking in hideously garbled speeches of his best efforts (it's just not as quotable), it's reasonably short at 69 minutes, and with faux psychic Criswell narrating and appearing as the leader of the dead, it's got the camp appeal necessary for bad movie party viewing. Image Entertainment's DVD presents the film in full-frame and mono, with trailers for other Image films, but none for the Ghouls itself (since it was never theatrically released).

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