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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Karloff!

The Village Voice prints a very nice feature on Boris Karloff since his works are featured at the Film Forum in New York City.

Boris Karloff and Gloria Stuart, two of my all-time favorites, in James Whale's 1932 classic The Old Dark House. The black sheep of a staid English family, Karloff immigrated to Canada, entered films in 1916, and got his first big break in Howard Hawks's prison drama The Criminal Code (1931). He steals the film as the taciturn plug-ugly convict turned killer. Karloff caught the eye of director James Whale, who was casting Frankenstein at Universal; he soon became the best-paid monster in Hollywood. Much of the film's power derives from his dignified performance, great gift for mime, and emotional depth—he plays Frankenstein's creation as a lonely child whose parents have rejected him, at once terrifying and pathetic. (He may have been drawing on personal resources—there is some evidence that his birth was the result of an affair his mother had with an Egyptian friend during a visit to the Suez Canal. It appears that the family, further shamed by his passion for acting, exiled him to Canada.) Whale's The Old Dark House (1932), the wittiest and most elegant film in the series, casts him as a wild-eyed, whiskered, and lecherous brute of a butler in a spooky mansion lost in the Welsh mountains. One of the most disturbing exercises in Grand Guignol followed: Edgar Ulmer's The Black Cat (1934), the first of several pairings of Karloff with Bela Lugosi, both at the top of their forms. As Poelzig, necromancer and necrophiliac (based on the notorious Aleister Crowley), Karloff, his hairline pointed down to the center of his forehead to make him look like the devil himself, conducts the first group satanic ritual in American cinema.
Entire article well worth the click.

2 Comments:

Blogger HP said...

Thanks for the link; I'll read it in full when I get home tonight.

Over the holidays I watched Val Lewton's Bedlam!, in which Karloff plays the "Pharmacist General" of Bethlehem Hospital, and runs afoul of a crusading Puritan and a beautiful dilletante. I always enjoy Karloff on-screen (heck, I love The Ape), but he apparently loved his part in Bedlam and put a lot of extra effort into it. Pick up the Lewton box set if you don't have it -- Karloff is also brilliant in The Body Snatcher.

One of the great shames/disappointments of film is that Karloff was not available for the film version of Arsenic and Old Lace to play the part he'd created on stage.

BTW, Thump Thump is open for business,if you wanna give a shout-out. Tonight I plan to post some audio from a haunted linen mill in Belfast, Ireland. This is no lame-o EVP stuff, but high-quality digital audio reputed to be of an actual auditory apparition. I've no idea how legit it is, but it's plenty scary.

2/02/2006 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger HP said...

Oops. Ghost sounds a definitive fake. I'll post something else.

2/02/2006 08:22:00 PM  

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