Buzzing Thru the Pylon: Halloween Free-For-All, Pt. 3: Karloff

The Boris Karloff Collection: The Franchise Collection
Night Key (1937)
Director: Lloyd Corrigan

Tower of London (1939)
Director: Rowland V. Lee
Cinema 4 Rating: 6

The Climax (1944)
Director: George Waggner

The Strange Door (1951)
Director: Joseph Pevney

The Black Castle (1952)
Director: Nathan Juran

Icons of Horror Collection: Boris Karloff
The Black Room (1935)
Director: Roy William Neill
Cinema 4 Rating: 7

The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)
Director: Nick Grinde
Cinema 4 Rating: 6

Before I Hang (1940)
Director: Nick Grinde
Cinema 4 Rating: 6

The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942)
Director: Lew Landers
Cinema 4 Rating: 6

Sometimes you have to jump on these things before they're gone.

Trying to play catch-up with DVD releases already out of print has left me a little short-winded -- which would prove a surprise for anyone who knows me personally -- and so I decided to take another tack for once. With my interest drawn in other areas, I have been putting off, for quite some time now, the purchase of a couple of sets -- one released by Universal, one by Columbia -- featuring decent handfuls of old Boris Karloff flicks. Not the latter day, mostly-miss efforts in his catalog from his dotage, but films that largely comprised his constantly working but constantly typecast days of the late 30s and early 40s. With the exception of two films from the early 50s, these films all stem from that era.

Naturally, one would assume that I'd have jumped on these sets from the day of their release a couple years back, but as I said, I get distracted. And I only have so much money to spend at one time. That said, with the recent release of a couple more entries in the "Icons of..." series (but all Hammer films this time), I figured it might be only so much longer before what appears to be an excellent slice of Karloff ends up in the hands of evil speculators, and not true fans. As for the Franchise Collection above, I cannot explain why I didn't leap at it since it contains four out of five films (I have seen Tower of London numerous times) that have remained stubbornly out of my reach for double-four years.

And now I have them. To be sure, not even having seen those four films, I can still say with relative assurance that the gem out of these nine flicks is going to be The Black Room, a most entertaining Roy William Neill (director of a majority of the Rathbone/Green Holmes mysteries) venture with Karloff in dazzling form as twins at odds whilst encased in power struggles and murder in a tiny European country. The Icons of Horror Karloff set replaces this film in my VHS collection, as it also does for the other films in the set, which represent three of the so-called "Mad Doctor" series Karloff churned out while under contract with Columbia. The Mad Doctor films might seem like more of the same for good Boris on the surface (and he may have felt that way at the time), but they all good fun, and Nick Grinde, director of the two Hang features, keeps things moving along quite briskly, and may have had something of a rapport with his famous star, judging from how lovingly the films frame Karloff throughout. Somehow, despite their lower origins, they come out oddly engaging to this day.

I wish I could speak with any comfort on the rest of the films, not having seen them, but that is precisely why one dives in to buy sets like this. And, of course, the purpose of getting them in the month of October is to add to the Halloween spirit. So, I don't know what you are going to be watching as the spirits accumulate throughout the month -- hopefully not Saw V -- but I'm going use my spare time to catch up with an old friend. Having four unseen Karloffs ahead of me, I can't think of a better time, no matter the quality.


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