Maniacal Mayhem: Three Films Starring Boris Karloff Review

maniacal mayhem film review karloff

By Sarah Morgan

Karloff the Uncanny is back in another boxset featuring three classics from his Universal days.

maniacal mayhem film review coverThe studio made him a star via the first Frankenstein movie, and he continued to work there on and off for decades – the trio of films featured here span a range of 15 years.

“Luminescent murderer”

The first two feature Boris’s old sparring partner Bela Lugosi, whose film career had also been launched by Universal via the 1931 version of Dracula. In fact, he turned down the role of the Monster in Frankenstein, allowing Karloff to create such an iconic performance.

In The Invisible Ray (1936), both actors are in mad scientist mode. Karloff plays Dr Janos Rukh who, while experimenting with a mysterious element he hopes will bring good to the world, is turned into a luminescent murderer intent on bumping off anybody he sees as a rival – including Lugosi’s slightly less crazy boffin.

Black Friday (1940) – which has absolutely nothing to do with bargain-buys – sees Karloff once again getting up to scientific mischief, this time of the medical kind. He plays brain surgeon Dr Sovac, who transplants part of a dying gangster’s brain into that of his friend, a mild-mannered professor, creating a bizarre Jekyll-and-Hyde figure.

The villainous side is determined to kill all those who crossed him, including an associate played by Lugosi, whose role is somewhat disappointingly small.

Finally, it’s Karloff who takes a backseat in 1951’s The Strange Door. Scarborough’s finest thespian, Charles Laughton, is undoubtedly the star of the show here, playing Maletroit, an evil French aristocrat in an adaptation of a Robert Louis Stephenson story.

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“Sadistic clutch”

Karloff and Laughton’s paths had crossed before when they both appeared in an adaptation of Bradford-born writer JB Priestley’s The Old Dark House. They work well again here, with Karloff offering memorable support as Maletroit’s manservant, who is determined to help his master’s niece and the man she loves escape from her uncle’s sadistic clutch.

All three films are very short, so never outstay they welcome. They’re eminently watchable too, with The Strange Door easily being the superior of the three, not least because Laughton is so hugely entertaining.

Special features include informative and amusing commentaries by genre experts Kim Newman, Stephen Jones on The Invisible Ray, and Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons on Black Friday.

● Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase
● 1080p presentation of all three films across two Blu-ray discs
● All films presented from 2K scans of the original film elements
● Optional English SDH
● Brand new audio commentary tracks on The Invisible Ray and The Strange Door with author Stephen Jones and author / critic Kim Newman
● Brand new audio commentary track on Black Friday with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
● “The Sire de Maletroit’s Door” radio adaptations
● Stills Galleries
● Trailers
Maniacal Mayhem is released on Blu-ray by Eureka, £29.99


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