It wouldn’t be the Halloween season without at least one Peter Cushing film. There are countless to choose from, whether it is The Curse of Frankenstein or Brides of Dracula. However, in going with the general theme this month of movies that I haven’t seen yet, I chose to take a look at The Ghoul (1975). Released by Tyburn Film Productions, the movie has quite the Hammer feel to it. Besides having Peter Cushing in the cast, there is also Veronica Carlson (Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) as well as director Freddie Francis (Hysteria, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave) and writer Anthony Hinds (The Curse of the Werewolf, Frankenstein Created Woman).
Peter Cushing stars as a former priest living in a mansion in the desolate English countryside. With him are his Indian servant Ayah (Gwen Watford) and groundskeeper Tom (a young John Hurt, Alien). It’s the 1920s and four people leave a party to engage in a cross-country automobile race. They become separated and the first vehicle runs out of gas in the foggy moor. Angela (Alexandra Bastedo) leaves the car and is soon kidnapped by Tom. She eventually escapes and runs to the mansion where Doctor Lawrence (Peter Cushing) lives. It seems Doctor Lawrence is hiding a dark secret. A strange individual lives in a locked room at the top of the stairs and the doctor seems tortured by his past in India. As the story unfolds, there is murder, strange Hindu ceremonies and cannibalism, making for a very eerie tale.
The Ghoul hasn’t received much love amongst the horror community. Few have seen it due to its limited availability. Those who have managed to find a copy seemed mixed as some believe it is a story told too often. I’ll disagree in that while the topic of strange Hindu mysticism and cannibalism is not entirely original, I thought the story was claustrophobic and well-told. Cushing delivers a great performance as always. The climax may be a little underwhelming once the reveal is made, but the journey getting there more than makes up for it. Recommended but it will be a little difficult to find a copy. It’s never seen an official DVD release in America but older VHS tapes can be found, which is what my personal DVD copy is from. Not the best print but it is a fun watch for a rainy Saturday afternoon.