Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Boris Karloff Blogathon November 23-29

In celebration of Boris Karloff's 122nd birthday, a wonderful site named Frankensteinia: The Frankenstein Blog has decided to host a "Boris Karloff Blogathon" and are encouraging fellow film buffs, horror fans and/or admirers of the actor to participate in honoring the horror legend this week. If you have a movie blog, happen to stumble upon this and would like to contribute something, please make a trip to the link above, send them an email and sign up. Unfortunately, I probably won't be able to do a ton of reviews this particular week (got family coming in from out of town), and much of Karloff's work falls outside the years this particular blog covers (1950 to 1990), but I'm aiming to see at least three Karloff films I've yet to see. The blogathon ends November 29th, so the more Boris shout-outs, the better. I'm going to start my dedication with a brief bio and filmography and go from there.
.
Born William Henry Pratt on November 23, 1887 in Camberwell, London, England, Boris Karloff would go on to become one of the most respected, admired and acclaimed actors of all time; arguably the best to appear with regularity in horror films. Sadly, he himself never realized his importance or influence as a performer during his own lifetime, having a self-deprecating sense of humor about it all (he's been quoted as saying "My wife has good taste. She has seen very few of my movies!") After a spell at London University, Karloff emigrated to Canada in 1909, spent around ten years with a touring company and eventually settled in Hollywood, where he worked as a truck driver and sidelines player in silent features. He appeared in such films as THE BELLS (1926; his very first horror feature) and THE UNHOLY NIGHT (1929) before being offered a contract with Universal Studios. After the death of Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi's refusal to play the role after his success in DRACULA, Karloff was offered the role of the monster creation in James Whale's timeless classic FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and delivered a multi-layered performance that shocked both critics and audiences; giving the hulking mass of strewn together body parts an unexpectedly disarming child-like quality. Whale used him again as a sinister butler in his great black comedy THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932) and he was the first actor to portray THE MUMMY in a talkie that same year in Karl Freund's atmospheric film of the same name. Karloff would return to England to play another Mummy-like role as an Egyptologist back from the dead in THE GHOUL (1933) and make his first of many subsequent films with fellow horror star Lugosi in 1934's THE BLACK CAT, which allowed him the chance to play one of his most despicable characters; sadistic devil-worshipper Hjalmar Poelzig.

Karloff would go on to reprise the role that made him famous several more times, most notably in Whale's outstanding follow-up, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), where he gave a brilliant, touching and relatable turn as an unloved, misunderstood and outcast member of a shallow and judgemental society. After the genre went into decline after Bride, he made spotty appearances in a few decent horror films and thrillers (most notably doing an outstanding job portraying good/bad twin brothers in 1935's underrated period horror-drama THE BLACK ROOM) and was in great form again playing a club-footed torturer to Basil Rathbone's Richard III in TOWER OF LONDON (1939). In THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG (1939), his wronged scientist avenged his death at the gallows by luring judge and jury to his home and then murdering them off one-by-one. The late 30s also saw him playing Chinese master-sleuth James Lee Wong in a series of five films, beginning with MR. WONG, DETECTIVE.

The 1940s saw a brief resurgence in horror (which died out again by 1946), but Boris managed to headline three excellent Val Lewton-produced chillers, where he gave notable villainous turns in ISLE OF THE DEAD (1945; playing a Greek general), THE BODY SNATCHER (1945; as a murderous grave-robber in one of his very best roles) and BEDLAM (1946; as Master Sims, sadistic asylum master). The 50s saw lots of TV work, two Abbott and Costello horror comedies and more turns as evil-doers, mass murderers and mad doctors. In THE STRANGE DOOR he was more or less wasted playing a manservant torn between doing the bidding of his evil master and helping out a young couple. In 1952's THE BLACK CASTLE he portrayed a similar conflicted supporting role as a murderous doctor. Other horror roles this decade include playing a skeptical scientist in VOODOO ISLAND (1957), a Jekyll and Hyde-like figure in THE HAUNTED STRANGLER (1958), the titular mad doctor in FRANKENSTEIN - 1970 (1958) and a well-intentioned but drug-addicted surgeon who makes an unholy pact with grave robbers in CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958).

In the 60s, Karloff was cast as a sorcerer in Roger Corman's horror spoof THE RAVEN (1963), appeared in Mario Bava's seminal horror anthology BLACK SABBATH (1963) in the chilling "The Wurdulak" segment (his only vampire role; he also hosted the American release version of the film), played Nahum Witley in DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (1965), one of the very first films based on an H.P. Lovecraft story and provided the voice of Boris von Frankenstein in the animated kiddy film MAD MONSTER PARTY in 1967. Toward the end of his career and in ill health, Boris gave an affecting and very knowing performance as aged horror star Byron Orlok, a character patterned more or less after himself and believes fictional horrors are no competition for real-life ones, in Peter Bogdanovich's impressive debut film, TARGETS (1968). Mr. Karloff wrapped up his long and distinguished career with four pretty awful U.S./Mexican genre films, where he shot his footage in California to be incorporated into footage shot south-of-the-border.

Having appeared in around 70 horror features, Karloff cemented his reputation by appearing on and/or hosting numerous horror/mystery television shows, including Boris Karloff Mystery Playhouse, Out of This World, Suspense, Tales of Tomorrow, Thriller and The Veil. In addition to his screen highlights, Karloff received acclaim for his stage performances in Arsenic and Old Lace and The Lark (receiving a Tony nomination the latter) and was one of the founding members of the Screen Actor's Guild.

Karloff Horrorography [1950-1968]

THE STRANGE DOOR (1951), THE BLACK CASTLE (1952), ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1953), THE MONSTER OF THE ISLAND (1954), SABAKA (1954), VOODOO ISLAND (1957), CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958), DESTINATION NIGHTMARE (1958), FRANKENSTEIN - 1970 (1958), THE HAUNTED STRANGLER (1958), JACK THE RIPPER (1958), THE VEIL (1958), THE PREDICTION (1960), THE GRIM REAPER (1961), MASQUERADE (1961), THE PREMATURE BURIAL (1961), TERROR IN TEAKWOOD (1961), THE INCREDIBLE DOKTOR MARKESAN (1962), THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963), THE RAVEN (1963), THE TERROR (1963), DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (1965), THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI (1966), CAULDRON OF BLOOD (1967), MAD MONSTER PARTY? (1967), THE SORCERERS (1967), ALIEN TERROR (1968), THE CRIMSON CULT (1968), DANCE OF DEATH (1968), THE FEAR CHAMBER (1968), SNAKE PEOPLE (1968), TARGETS (1968)

I've seen Jack the Ripper, The Veil, Die, Monster Die! and Targets but haven't gotten around to doing the reviews for them just yet. Some of the titles listed are from the shows Thriller and The Veil, but were released in the U.S. as features on video so I'm including them here.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...