It has just occurred to me that I have never written a biographical piece on English-India born character actor William Henry Pratt, aka Boris Karloff. Never. Not once. Sure, I’ve had other writers on here talking about some of the movies he has been in, namely Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein and even The Mummy, but never, not once have I stepped up to plate. That ends here. For those who are betrothed to the dark and unusual of filmage, that this, horror movies, the name Boris Karloff is not unfamiliar, it is, in fact, legendary. And for good reason. Even tempered natured folks who do not ordinarily dabble in nightmare landscapes know, rudimentary, who Boris is, that is, the Monster, that Frankenstein monster that is. And they wouldn’t be wrong. That’s his role, after all, no skirting the issue or sipping from your craft beer or wine, dressed in some flannel button up with a shaggy beard, pretending as if he never endured the makeup. Just because you saw him in The Black Cat (1934) or Targets (1968) doesn’t negate his crowning achievement. He was the Monster. Don’t walk through the past with blinders on. He will always be the Monster. And here and now, I’d like to correct my above-mentioned misstep and celebrate his career (his work), as it is, highlighting briefly my top 5 favorite Boris Karloff movies.
5. House of Frankenstein (1944). I’m not entirely sold on House of Frank, particularly concerning the Dracula character and how easily he was dispatched; however, I cannot negate Boris’s role as Dr. Niemann, a mad scientist who has supposedly discovered Frankenstein’s secret to immortality and the creation of a new human race of perfectly made people. His role here, obviously, is not the Creature. And as a tip of the hat, I would say he was very dark in this movie, uncaring of dispatching anyone who got in his way.
4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). Say what you will, but I would feel horrible if I did not mention this classic film. Especially now that we’re shuffling towards the holiday season and Turkey Day tomorrow, I would be amiss to ignore one of my favorite Christmas movies. Even at the tender age of 79, Boris’s voice, his deep growls, and slight lisp is uncanny. His performance as the narrator is actually what draws me to the cartoon. If it had been anyone else, I’m not sure I’d enjoy it as much.
3. Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Seems like a total cop-out, but no, back to my above argument, we cannot ignore his masterpiece of horror cinematography. The Frankenstein monster was a role that was limited in dialogue, and so he had to manipulate audience reactions and emotions through gesture and skewed hardened facial expressions. Bride of Frankenstein showcases the evolution of the creature, from mute stumbler to an array of humanistic-like qualia. He was driven, not by fear, but by necessity, the most basic human desire, companionship, a mate.
2. The Black Cat (1934). One of my favorite Edgar Allan Poe adaptations in a string of Poe-inspired films, among such as The Raven (both 1935 and 1963), House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, etc etc, The Black Cat wins the prize, for me at least. The story is adapted for the 1930s era and is based just after The Great War, which ended in 1918. Dr. Vitus Werdegast is on a quest for revenge against the man who took his beloved wife and daughter, an old friend and comrade in arms, Hjalmar Poelzig. Poelzig is harboring a few dark secrets, most of which he shares openly, all but for his insidious religion. Caught in the middle is a young American couple on their honeymoon. The Black Cat is not action oriented, but rather, filled with an overwhelming sense of dread and some of the best dialogue I’ve heard in a long time. If you’ve been holding out, you need to see this movie. This 82-year-old movie may shock you.
1. The Mummy (1932). Without a shadow of a doubt, unashamedly, The Mummy is my all time favorite movie starring Boris Karloff. Why? Sure, we know and love and celebrate him for his role as Frankenstein’s monster, however, for me, his total sum of charisma and stage performance is defined in his role as Ardath Bey, aka Imhotep, priest of Pharaoh Amenophis, mummified for attempting to resurrect his forbidden lover, the princess Ankh-es-en-amon. regarding the other Mummy movies, though Lon Chaney Jr. did his best with what he had to work with, they did not, however, capture the tragedy that is Imhotep. Is he the villain? Perhaps. He certainly has his own agenda in mind. But there’s more. He’s a romantic. Deeply so. All he wants is his beloved princess. Not power or gold or influence, nothing political. He manipulates those he must. And strikes down those who get in his way. Love is not all puppy dogs and rainbows, it’s brutal at its core. Violent even. A man desperate enough to do whatever he must so he can attain that which he desires the most. True love. And Karloff, he plays the role wonderfully.
And there you have it folks, my top 5 Boris Karloff movies. I’m sure you’ve got a few in mind. What are some of your favorite Boris Karloff movies? Comment below in the comment box to enter for your chance to win a signed copy of my latest book, Conceiving (Subdue Book 3), scheduled to release next week on November 29, 2016. Now available for preorder on Amazon (wink wink), you can get your copy here. And if you are curious about my other books, you can find them on the altar of Amazon by following this link here. As always, you can stay connected with me on Facebook, where I post reviews, new book info, and other horror related topics. Thanks for reading everyone!
Ever since Thomas Edison’s silent film, Frankenstein, debuted back in 1910, horror movies have resided in the imaginations of those disturbed enough to actually enjoy them. According to the documentary, Nightmares in the Red, White, and Blue, between 2003 and 2008, horror movies grossed over a hundred billion dollars at the box office. Sure, one Nolan or Jackson movie could top that margin with just one film, but we’re talking horror and horror movies are typically done on a lower budget with lesser known actors. Understandably, horror is big business. Horror sales and because horror can be done on any kind of budget, we end up with a rather large pool of productions to choice from, some good and some…well…you know. The horror movies that end up flopping, not only in the box office but with fans (because lets face it, box office rating matter little when it comes to horror), sometimes carry a glimmer of hope to ever being re-imagined into something better.
These remakes/reboots can be, though rarely, actually better than the original film. Some may disagree, but the original Omen (1976) was a real snoozer, while the remake was freaking amazing. Then, there are those reboots that should never have happened because there is no reason to touch the original, or, it simply cannot be done. This kind of film would include John Carpenters The Fog (1980). Carpenter’s vision was so much better developed than Rupert Wainwright’s piss poor attempt; my first (and only) viewing of the 2005 disaster made me want to vomit, and not in the “good God, gore” kind of way. And finally, there are horror movies so horrible that they should never, never — ever, be remade, because they were bad enough the first time around. This is not a challenge for Hollywood. Please, heed my warnings and never remake the following movies– ever — for real — no joke.
5. Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996)
First up, Pinocchio’s Revenge, released back in the good (laugh) old 90’s. Defense attorney, Jennifer Garrick, (somehow) acquires a Pinocchio puppet from a condemned serial killer (opps, I think we’ve seen this before)…and then suddenly bad things start happening. Yikes, how did producers think this was ever a good idea? Pinocchio’s Revenge sounds like a cheap attempt at riding the coattail success of the Child’s Play franchise and that alone really makes me want to hate this movie.
4. Thankskilling (2008)
You know those movies that are intended to be horrible movies from the start? Kind of like B-rated flicks so horrible their actually good. Well, sometimes these already intended atrocities end up just being plain old rotten. In Thankskilling (2009) a, you guessed it, turkey rampages through a small town, killing off college kids (this is what our generation has to offer?)… the end. Oh wait, and the turkey talks because it is possessed by the spirit of a ticked off Indian warrior who was murdered some time during the good old pilgrim days. I know this movie was intended to be a horror-comedy, but if your name isn’t Stuart Gordon, Sam Raimi, or Edgar Wright, your already working uphill.
3. Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
This 1980’s blockbuster (insert sarcastic remark here) has all the trimmings for a xenophobic movie of the year award. There could have been a story here, but where the bus left the station was with the subtext. Sea creatures coming to the surface to mate with women and kill off the men…I’m just going to leave that where it is. The story could be salvaged because it already has a little Lovecraftian “Dagon” ring to it. However, even the late, great man himself was as culturally competent as Kristen Stewart is at acting (oh snap!). But really, xenophobic themed movies just seem too disconnected nowadays. If this was ever to be remade, it should only include the idea of creatures from the deep wreaking havoc on those living on the surface…hmm…sounds familiar, right? Now, if we can only find giant robots to fight them off…
2. Hobgoblins (1988)
Do I really need to explain this one? Lets just say, back in the 80’s, while Gremlins was enjoying their blockbuster success, a few other lesser known producers thought…”hmm, maybe we can do the same thing,” and thus, Hobgoblins was born. Unfortunately, but predictably, they could not do the same as director Joe Dante did, or ever will. Watching the trailer, I can’t even understand what the movie is even about. Goblins making you do stuff…and then what? Lower budget movies usually means you have to work harder in developing the story, but apparently these guys didn’t get the memo.
1. Leprechaun (1993)
Finally, we arrive with Leprechaun. If you have been keeping a mental list of horror movies you know that should never be remade because they were so dang horrible the first time around, and Leprechaun so happened to be on your list, then you, sir or madam, have excellent taste in horror. For some odd reason, unknown to myself, the 90’s was one of the worse decades for horror films. Sure, some did mange not being tarnished; movies such as, Candyman or even Scream (don’t judge me) were actually really good. But when we see films like Leprechaun…well, it makes me want to file away the entire decade. The plot surrounds an “evil” leprechaun who goes on a murder spree, after his stolen bag of coins doesn’t really feel like a sound story plot. Don’t get me wrong, you can use mythological creatures as the antagonist and still be good, but you need a solid script to back it up. Check out the movie, Wishmaster, for one of the better examples I could give of using a mythos, combined with a descent story.
Well, there you have it folks. My top five movies that should never, ever be remade because they were bad enough the first time around. Trust me, the world doesn’t need more wooden, magic little monsters; we’ve hopefully outgrown the cheap 90’s wave of horror. If you have your own suggestions, please leave them in the comment box, God knows, there are plenty of them out there!