In "The Ghoul" (1933), Boris Karloff plays Professor Morlant, an Egyptologist who believes that being buried with a gem called "The Eternal Light" will help him persuade the god Anubis to grant him immortality. Unfortunately for him, this gem is pursued by thieves with varying motives, none of which include honoring the dearly departed's final wishes.
The title of this film is particularly apt given Morlant's pathological grip on life: the word "ghoul" comes from the Arabic ghul, a derivative of the word for "to seize". Ghilan (plural for ghul), are undead creatures who haunt graveyards, grab (and kill) passersby, and snack on corpses. They're mentioned in literature as early as the Thousand and One Nights, in "The Story of Seyf-el-Muluk and Bedi‘-el-Jemal" (nights 756-778) and they started to haunt English literature with the rise of Gothic novels such as William Beckford's Vathek, the Arabian Tale (a.k.a. The History of Caliph Vathek), which was translated into English from the original French in the late 1800s. Twenty-first Century speculative fiction owes much to the Gothic novel: motifs such as gloomy castles, brooding skies and monsters (real or fake) remain as popular with audiences as ever.
Fans of Boris Karloff cheered when a nearly pristine original reel of "The Ghoul" was discovered in a film vault three decades after fans despaired of ever again seeing a complete version. Boris Karloff was the stage name for actor William Henry Pratt, who is best known for his iconic portrayal of Frankenstein's monster in the 1931 James Whale film.
David HessDavid Hess, director of the Mortuary Science program at Salt Lake Community College, discusses The Ghoul and the wide range of knowledge and skills that are required in today's funeral industry.
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