Exciting news from our Ancient Hollywood Satellite Office in Burbank! Archeologists have unearthed the world’s earliest known M. Night Shyamalan film. The discovery calls into question previously accepted notions about filmmaker and noted twist-ending enthusiast Shyamalan. Experts originally accepted as fact that Shyamalan burst onto the motion picture scene with 1999′s Sixth Sense. Recent evidence suggests otherwise.
The evidence in question is 1933′s The Ghoul, starring Boris Karloff. Skeptics point out that The Ghoulwas made four decades prior to Shyamalan’s birth. But neither Shyamalan nor the state of Hawaii have been able to produce a birth certificate. Now, why do archeologist’s and Jesse Ventura now argue that the Ghoul is the handiwork of Mr. Shyamalan?
Let us examine the motion picture and see if we can find the proof:
Karloff plays a dying Egyptologist named Prof. Henry Morlant. I never thought Egyptology paid handsomely, but Morlant is curiously wealthy, wealthier than any fictional character other than Scrooge McDuck. If archeologists were the richest citizens 80 years ago, and now we heap wealth on the Justin Biebers and Snookis of the world, this certainly reflects the downward spiral of Western Civilization.
Anyhoo, Morlant lives in a mansion with a loyal, platonic butler named Laing (Ernest Thesiger). Morlant traded much of his fortune to acquire a mystic jewel that many believe will grant eternal life.
On his deathbed, Morlant insists that his butler Laing bandage the jewel in his hand, as it must be there after he dies for him to enter the afterlife, or re-enter the trendy, Egyptian nightclubs, or some such nonsense. Morlant tells Laing the jewel better stay in his hand, or he’ll return from the grave to retrieve it.
Morlant passes away, and is buried in an elaborate Egyptian style tomb, the key left inside per the deceased’s instructions. This presents incredible forward thinking for a zombie, and I must applaud Morlant. One has to wonder how many of the undead never got their unholy rampages started because of locked tombs and sturdy coffins.
When asked to explain his master’s dying wishes, Laing — ever the loyal butler — opts not to say that his boss was bat&$#% crazy and instead quaintly declares that Morlant “had many a queer fancy.” Insert your own joke here; I’m moving forward without comment.
Greedy, stupid, and/or evil forces are afoot, with their sights set on acquiring the precious jewel. Not the least of which is the scheming lawyer Broughton (Cedric Hardwicke), who unwraps the bandage to fetch the jewel, only to find it gone. Broughton suspects Laing, and rightly so.
Laing, nobly motivated by giving Morlant’s heirs their proper inheritance, has taken and hidden the gem inside the mansion.
Laing attempts to reach Morlant’s heirs, cousins, Ralph (Anthony Bushell) and Betty (Dorothy Hyson). Betty and Ralph are currently feuding. Why? Ralph explains: “Well, our two families are not on speaking terms. . . As far as I can make out, it was started by my late uncle as a Christmas joke.”
They were such simple times, then. That would make for the lamest episode of the Jerry Springer Show EVER. “You see, Jerry, what had happened was that my cousin asked me to pull his finger. When I did, he unleashed a hellish fart the likes of which could make Kaiser Wilhelm blush. From there things escalated until one day I rang the doorbell and was met with a flaming bag. I decided it was best to stamp the bag out, and when I did . . . “ well, you get the idea. We now return to our movie review, already in progress.
Before long, everyone has converged on Morlant Manor in search of the jewel. Other than the cousins, the lawyer, and the butler — there’s a priest, a thief, a sultan who seeks the powerful gem for its supernatural abilities, and Betty’s annoying friend. Pretty soon they’re all skulking around the house like a chase scene from Scooby Doo filmed at 1/100 speed.
Oh, and I’d better not forget that Professor Morlant himself rises from the dead to join in the fun. Like most Karloff characters, Morlant just won’t stay dead.
True to his word, he ghoulishly rises from the grave and goes on a killing spree using inhuman strength of the undead in an effort to reclaim his precious rock! Or . . . does he?
Here’s where the M. Night Shyamalan theory gains credence: It turns out Morlant never died! He was prematurely diagnosed as deceased when he in fact suffered from a condition that, while does ultimately kills you, allows you a few brief hours to run amok before finally succumbing to a more permanent death shortly thereafter.
As a wise man once asked, Der hey?
Other than the laughable twist ending, The Ghoul is actually charming in its own way. The lawyer is scheming and the butler did it. Those were the days!
Most the classic “horror” films from this era (The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, etc.) have a charming vibe that I enjoy from time to time. Worth checking out if you’re in the mood for old school, bloodless, Karloff horror.
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