Universal Terror: Karloff – Review

universal terror karloff film review bluray

By Sarah Morgan

Expect skullduggery, dark shadows and nastiness aplenty – yes, it’s time for a Boris Karloff boxset.

The iconic horror star was nothing if not prolific – the IMDb lists 205 acting credits – so those putting together such releases have plenty of titles to choose from.

universal terror karloff film review coverHe made his name at Universal Studios in the 1930s thanks to starring roles in the likes of Frankenstein and The Mummy, and Eureka’s latest collection returns there for a trio of terrors.

“Terror and panic”

Actually, the first film in the set is more of a crime thriller – and Karloff plays a good guy. Night Key was originally released in 1937 and features Karloff as David Mallory, a boffin who has invented a fiendishly clever burglar alarm which he hopes to sell to a former friend. Unfortunately, the ex-pal rips him off, so Mallory joins forces with a petty thief to make him see the error of his ways, little realising his plan will open up a whole new can of worms.

It’s a decent little potboiler let down by a slightly pathetic romantic subplot involving Mallory’s daughter and a cop. The ending is a little soppy too, but it’s intriguing to see a young Ward Bond – later to become better known for his Western roles – in a small, villainous part.

Next up it’s 1944’s The Climax, a Technicolor spooky melodrama originally designed to be a sequel to the previous year’s remake of Phantom of the Opera. That film’s female lead, Susannah Foster, also stars here as talented singer Angela Klatt. Unfortunately, her voice reminds Dr Friedrich Hohner (Karloff) of his former lover, whom he murdered when she spurned him.

Hohner tries to hypnotise Angela to prevent her from performing for anyone but him so, of course, terror and panic ensue.

It’s entertaining enough, and Karloff didn’t need to stretch himself to play the villain of the piece – by this time, he could probably play such dark and devious characters in his sleep.

universal terror karloff film review

“Ambiguous nature”

The best entry is saved until last. The Black Castle was originally released in 1952 and stars Richard Greene – later to enjoy success on TV as Robin Hood – as a British aristocrat who travels to Germany to find evidence of his friends’ murder at the hands of a dastardly count. On his arrival, he falls in love with the count’s wife; Karloff only appears fleetingly as a physician whose motives are initially unclear – does he want to truly help the young lovers, or is he planning to trap them to curry favour with his lord and master?

Again, it’s a role that doesn’t push the by-then veteran star out of his comfort zone, but the ambiguous nature of the character makes it more interesting for viewers.

It’s a decent collection that will appeal to the star’s fans, while a number of audio commentaries included on the discs help shed more light on the productions.

‘Universal Terror’ is released on Blu-ray by Eureka, £29.99


Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.