During the 1930’s and 40’s the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) was very much opposed to Hollywood style horror and actively discouraged British film makers from producing such films. The Gaumont-British Picture Corporation ignored the warning and produced The Ghoul (1933), a British haunted-house thriller which features Boris Karloff as an 'undead' creature stalking a house full of heirs to his fortune. The film also starred Sir Cedric Webster Hardwicke, Dorothy Hyson, and Anthony Bushell, Kathleen Harrison and Ernest Thesiger who is best remembered for his performance as Dr. Pretorius in James Whale's film Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
The Ghoul (1933) was directed by T. Hayes Hunter who directed many films in the 1910's and 20’s, before moving to Britain in 1927. Written by Rupert Downing, Leonard Hines, Roland Pertwee and John Hastings Turner the screenplay was very loosely based on the 1928 novel and play by Frank King of the same name.
Filmed March 13-late April 1933, it was Karloff's first British feature. When Karloff traveled to England to shoot The Ghoul (1933), it was the first time in nearly 25 years that he returned to his home country and reunited with the surviving members of his family. It has been reported that Karloff was somewhat apprehensive about the possibility of his family disapproving of his acting career. But much to his surprise, not only did his family support him, they were thrilled to have a famous movie star in the family.
The Ghoul (1933) was the first British horror film of the sound era and the first British film to be labeled "horrific" or rated “H” by the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC). This rating was applied to any film that the BBFC deemed likely to be frightening or horrifying to children under the age of 16. Despite its “H” rating the film was popular in the UK but performed poorly in the US.
For years The Ghoul (1933) was regarded as a "lost film" until a nitrate release print was discovered in the Czech National Archives in Prague In 1969, by film historian and collector William K. Everson . This print was a subtitled edited version that was in poor condition and contained numerous splices.
Years later, a print of the uncut British version was finally discovered in a film vault at Shepperton Studios. The film vault which had been blocked by a stack of wood was discovered when the wood was removed. Inside the vault was a nitrate camera negative of the film in perfect condition.
The failure of Gaumont-British to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second or third-generation copies of the film.