Night of the Ghouls (1959)
What if I told you that everyone's favorite director of bad films, Edward D. Wood, Jr. directed a semi-decent film? Blasphemy, you say? Well, my brothers and sister in the Cult of Wood...read on about the Great Trashmeister's one odd film out.
A sequel to both Plan 9 from Outer Space (by virtue of the character Kelton the Cop, played again by Wood cohort Paul Marco) and Bride of the Monster (because of Kelton again, and a couple other things I'll get to later), Night of the Ghouls is superior to both. Against all odds, Wood had actually discovered some skills and honed them, resulting in a film that nearly approaches the quality of 40s B-grade haunted house flicks. He creates good atmosphere, some rather nice chilling moments, and even manages to keep night and day in their proper places. As usual, though, the acting positively reeks, and with Bela Lugosi dead, there's nobody to bring that aspect up a notch.
Kelton the Cop and Lt. Dan Bradford (Duke Moore, who spends the entire film in a tuxedo) are sent to investigate a mysterious ghost seen by "that house by Willow Lake." Yeah, you know the house. The one with "that mad scientist and his monsters that were destroyed by lightning." There's one of your other references to Bride of the Monster. Most of the action of the film takes place in or around Bela's hangout from that film, despite the fact that this new set has no resemblance to anything Wood's ever created. This is an atmospheric set of long corridors and odd passages...Bela had a quaint little living room and typical laboratory.
Anyway, in their investigations of the incident, Kelton and Bradford come upon phony psychic Dr. Acula (*choke*), played by Kenne Duncan. Duncan has been extracting large sums of money from rich people who want to see their dead beloved ones, with assistance from Sheila, who dresses as the White Ghost that the two cops are investigating, and Lobo (Tor Johnson), who survived Bride of the Monster, albeit with massive facial scars (some impressive makeup work).
The plot's pretty good, the directing adequate, the atmosphere nice...what's the one thing we could do to screw up this film? Oh, yes. Add one Criswell, who narrates the film in his own pompous manner, and stir in the fact that he also acts! He plays the Lord of the Dead (a role he would reprise for the Wood-written pile of doodoo Orgy of the Dead), and plays it as if he were narrating the scene. Every last bit of his voiceover throughout the film is unnecessary, and intrudes on the truly decent work that Wood is actually doing for once.
All things considered, this is Wood's finest effort, in strictly technical terms (that isn't saying much, though). That also makes it one of his least entertaining of his movies (again, not saying much). Rent it, if only to see how a bad director can go good, or at least okay.