A London museum's warehouse burns down, leaving undamaged a statue that the museum curator, Mr. Grove, identifies as "Mid-European Primitive". Grove is mysteriously killed while inspecting the artifact when his assistant, Arthur Pimm, is sent to fetch a flashlight for him. This begins a series of unexplained deaths and calamities connected with the statue, which is later positively identified as the Golem of Judah Loew of the 16th century. An inscription in Hebrew heightens the suspense and horror of the plot:
Arthur Pimm, a Norman Bates-like character, who keeps his mother's corpse in his apartment and borrows museum jewelry exhibits to adorn it, brings the Golem to life by placing a small scroll containing the Hebrew word "emeth" ("truth") into its mouth, which he finds in a compartment located at the top of the Golem's right foot. The Golem then becomes Pimm's accomplice in murder and mayhem, contrary to its original purpose to defend its community. When the Golem is suspected of bringing about the catastrophic destruction of Hammersmith Bridge, Pimm tries to destroy it. This is impossible, as the inscription predicts: "for neither by fire, nor water, nor force, nor anything by man created" can it be destroyed. This is borne out in the final scenes of the film by the detonation of a small nuclear warhead in an attempt to stop it.
Caught up in all of this is Ellen Grove, the daughter of the first deceased curator whom Pimm is in love with, but she falls in love with Jim Perkins of the New York Museum, who identifies the Golem and seeks to acquire it for his museum. Perkins exposes Pimm to the police, and Pimm is committed to an insane asylum. He breaks out of the asylum and kidnaps Ellen with the help of the Golem. Pimm holes up in the museum's annex in the country known as "the Cloisters". Perkins dramatically saves Ellen from the aforementioned nuclear explosion that vaporizes both Pimm and "the Cloisters", but not the Golem which, for unknown reasons, retreats into the sea.
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