November 27, 2009

The Boris Karloff Blogathon : Day Five

It may have taken a gazillion volts to kaboom The Monster to life, but all it took to keep him going was a cup of tea.

It’s Day Five of the Boris Karloff Love Fest, and here are your links for today… Enjoy!

From Filo Loco, à Paris, a Frankenstein stamp created by Sardon.

Kate, the Merciless Mistress of the Tenebrous Empire, navigates the troubled rapids of transgressive cinema with the sure hand of a devotee, the critical astuteness of an unimpeachable connoisseuse, and that most precious talent of all, humor. Kate’s blog is a personal favorite of mine, an indispensable daily stop, and I urge you to discover its dangerous delights (as in “nunsploitation”, among other disreputable genres).

I’m delighted with Kate’s very personal and highly original contribution to the Blogathon, a visual survey of Karloff’s Career, as Told Through Tiny Paintings. On Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire.

Bill, of Radiation-Scarred Reviews, loves his Mummy. Beautifully written and enormously satisfying, Bill’s review of the 1932 Karloff classic not only singles out Boris’s restrained performance and his unique ability “to project a quiet menace and instill a scene with a real sense of dread¨, but also pays much deserved homage to director Karl Freund.

The Brides of Boris… Brittney-Jade Colangelo writes, “I figured I'd give Ol' William Henry Pratt some recognition as far as how he wooed us women.” Meet The Uncanny Women of Boris Karloff on Day of the Woman.

OK, now listen up…

Is there’s anybody out there who doesn’t get it?

Is there’s anybody who can’t understand what compelled over one hundred bloggers to congregate here this week and celebrate the life and the career of Boris Karloff? Is there anyone who can’t make sense of our affection for this actor, our love for this man?

May I simply point you to Richard Harland Smith’s essay and last but not least, thanks for Boris Karloff.

Read it, and you’ll understand.

In Black Sabbath, the film that gave the metal band its name, Boris Karloff played his first and only vampire role, The Wurdalak, bathed in the near fluorescent colors favored by director Mario Bava. Shonen King posts a collection of startling screen caps, on Black Sun.

When Roger Corman shot his version of The Raven (1963) as a comedy, he knew he could count on the joyful complicity of its principals — veteran actors and friends —Karloff, Vincent Price and the irrepressible Peter Lorre. Paul Castiglia, horror-comedy specialist, rates the film as “a first-class romp” in which “Karloff’s beautifully understated performance… is nothing short of brilliant”.

Paul’s comprehensive review is posted on Scared Silly.

In the US, the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday, and wouldn’t you know it, that was the inspiration for The Lightning Bug’s review of, well, Black Friday, a snappy little gangster film with a brain swap angle, courtesy of Dr. Boris. Bela Lugosi puts in n appearance “as a mobster with a Hungarian accent. It’s up on The Lightning Bug’s Lair.

Rob Kelly dips into the vault for his final illustrated contribution, a Frankenstein banner done for a long lost blog. On Rob Kelly Illustration.

Before audiobooks, we had Spoken Word records, and Boris owned the vinyl horror franchise. Here’s Volume Two of Tales of the Frightened. Six short tales, including The Vampire Sleeps, Never Kick a Black Cat and Nightmare! Listen, on The Captain’s Ramblings.

And before Spoken Word records, we had Radio Drama. And Karloff mastered that form as well. Orange and Black looks back on Boris’ short association as host and star of Creeps by Night, with audio of one of its few surviving episodes, The Final Reckoning, originally broadcast on May 2nd, 1944.

I’ve got some images sampled from various Blogathon contributions up on my picture blog, Monster Crazy.

Artist David Kirwan continues his series of Karloff caricatures, cross-posted on his blog and his Kirdoodle tumbler. Today's offering: Ardath Bey!

A sinister, silent Karloff, captured in a collage by J. Mendez, on The Ladies and Gents Auxiliary.

Boris Karloff’s performance as the Frankenstein Monster was instantly iconic and has permeated pop culture ever since. In the early Forties, artist Dick Briefer used Karloff’s silhouette and manners as the template for his comic book Monster. Briefer’s extraordinary Frankenstein series would switch back and forth, at various stages of its evolution, between humorous kiddie-oriented adventures (one episode guest-starring that Hollywood horror actor, “Boris Karload”), and a gruesome, dead serious horror comic version.

In an indirect but unmistakable homage to Karloff, my friend Karsell, over at The Horrors of It All, has posted two outstanding episodes from the Briefer horror era: The grisly Rebirth of the Monster, and Voyage of Death, originally published in 1952.

Halloween’s come and gone, Thanksgiving is over, now we prepare for winter. The Frankenstein Monster plans to enjoy the upcoming season, according to cartoonist and illustrator TS Rogers. On Teaessare.

James, at Behind the Couch, has a wonderful week’s worth of posts up. I’ll be stepping through and peppering you with links all evening (or you can go and see the whole thing in one shot!).

First up, a nice Birthday message, followed by Brides and Broads, a survey of Karloff’s most memorable leading ladies, all accompanied by superb photos.

I’ll jump back Behind the Couch later on.

Here’s an interesting change of pace. Claire Napier looks at the 1999-2001 reboot of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, with references to the original Karloff movie of 1932. On Illustrator Claire.

There’s a fine collection of audio clips from Inner Sanctum, on Peeping Tom’s tumbler, and an essay about Karloff’s literary tastes, with Karloff quotes in English, on Lost Eyeways.

Friends, you’ve got some serious reading to do tonight, with some truly outstanding contributions coming in.

James Gracey offers up Dark Dignitaries, a chronicle of the remarkable collaboration between Boris Karloff and RKO producer Val Lewton. It’s an in-depth, detailed account, and a pitch perfect evaluation of three very unconventional horror films — and films that Karloff was very proud of — that still fascinate today.

Dark Dignitaries is a first-class, thought-provoking read, offered in three parts: Isle of the Dead, The Body Snatcher, and Bedlam. On Behind the Couch.

Even as a young actor, Karloff was usually cast as the villain of the piece, his gaunt looks no doubt influencing the casting. After he played The Monster, his career went stratospheric and he was forever typecast as Hollywood’s premiere boogieman. When he came to Broadway, in Arsenic and Old Lace, it was to play a murderer, and his screen name was a punch line.

Boris had the chops, amply demonstrated even when saddled with just another superficial mad doctor part, but there were very few opportunities for him to play non-villainous roles. One such occasion came in 1955, when he was invited to join the cast of The Lark, to play Bishop Cauchon opposite Julie Harris as Joan of Arc. The part would earn him a Tony nomination and remain his personal favorite among the hundreds he had played.

Steven Senski reports, in great, revelatory details, on the making of The Lark. It’s a superlative contribution, and a reference piece for anyone interested in Karloff’s career.

Read The Bishop on Broadway, on Heart in a Jar.

Hammer Films expert Holger Hasse reveals a passion for Old Time Radio, offering a detailed overview of OTR collecting and an appreciation of Boris Karloff’s incredibly prolific radio career. The article is accompanied by a monumental checklist of Karloff’s radio appearances, with links whenever a recording is available online. It’s a wonderful resource, worth bookmarking, found on Hammer and Beyond.

Rounding up James Gracey’s contributions for today, via Behind the Couch, here’s a very nice collection of Candid Karloff photos, and a Creepy Karloff Moment, examining the very brief and utterly unforgettable scene when Karloff comes to dusty life, at the expense of a young archeologist’s sanity, in the opening sequence to The Mummy (1932).

When the Karloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller, appeared on NBC, in 1960, it’s 60-minute format was a an opulent departure from usual brisk, half hour episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Alfred Hitchcock Presents. A sometimes awkward mix of horror and suspense dramas, the series was short-lived, but some of its episodes, like The Cheaters and The Incredible Dr. Markesan are fondly remembered as startlingly scary television fare.

Ivan G. Shreve Jr. has a look back at how Thriller came together, and discusses the suspect circumstances of its demise. Read As sure as my name is Boris Karloff, on Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

Frankenstein-inspired art and a link to a website devoted to it, on Wouldn’t You Like to See Something Strange?

There’s a nice collection of Karloff video clips up on Poe Forward’s Poe Blog. My favorite, which I hadn’t seen yet, is a knockout clip from Smart Money, one of 16 films Boris made in the Frankenstein year of 1931. Watch as he plays a loose-limbed, toothpick-chewing, two-bit gangster rubbing shoulders with Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney. Great stuff!


rob! said...


My final post for the the BKB is a "From The Vault" piece, featuring an old banner I did starring two different Frankensteins!

Doc Atomic said...

I'm constantly struck by how delicate Karloff's fingers were. They lend the otherwise hulking monster a strange sort of humanity. For me, anyway, it's part of why I find Karloff's monster so compelling -- the depth of the character is reflected in those physical quirks.

Bill said...

Thank you for the kind words!

Peeping Tom said...

New links from Peeping Tom!

Added five precious audio files:
Boris Karloff at Inner Sanctum Mysteries (NBC Radio):
"The Tell-Tale Heart" (8/3/1941)
"Corridor of Doom" (10/23/1945)
"The Wailing Wall" (11/6/1945)
"Birdsong for a Murderer" (6/22/1952)
"Death for Sale" (7/13/1952)

on Peeping Tom Tumblelog :


A little essay about the literary work of Boris Karloff who was for several times editor of short tales collection.
Karloff's comments about literary works, could help to describe and analyze his portrayals of the Monster, Ardath Bey andh other characters.
On Peeping Tom:

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